Are Luigi Benacchio figures valuable?

06/27/2014 12:00 AM

06/28/2014 5:41 PM

Q: We have 18 Luigi Benacchio figures and would like to know if there is any value left in them. We are thinking of downsizing to a smaller home and would like to sell them. Enclosed are photographs of five of them. Any information you can give us (such as value and where we could possibly sell them) would be appreciated.

R. & L. M

A: We strongly suspect that R. & L. M. already know the monetary value of their porcelain figures has dropped significantly since they were purchased. The aesthetic value is still there but the question is how much have these figures dropped in price over the past few years and can they be sold at all?

It is difficult for many of us who have been interested in 18th and 19th century objects to understand that the proverbial bottom of that market has fallen out — at least to a great extent. Many Victorian (and earlier) objects go begging in the current market because they are judged by current buyers to be too fussy for their lifestyles.

What the early 21st century market seems to delight in is objects with a more modernist look. Mid-century modern is “in” as are many objects that fit with the clean lines and uncluttered aesthetic of the 20th century. Quite often, we hear people turn up their proverbial noses at things that are too “grandmotherly” (in their view) and declare them unsuitable to be lived with on a daily basis.

Curiously, many younger collectors, who disdain the taste of the 19th century (and other, more modern things that are in a 19th century style), are eager to know how much they can sell a 18th or 19th century piece for because it is, “really, really old,” and therefore, must be quite valuable. They are surprised when we tell them that in many cases, the answer is, “Not all that much.”

Turning to R. & L. M.’s specific pieces, let us begin by saying that they were designed by Liugi Giorgio Benacchio and then manufactured by Triade. Triade (now called “Porcellane Nuova Triade di Basso Sergio Antonio”) is located in Bassano Del Grappa, which is in the Veneto (Venice) region of Northern Italy.

The company was founded in 1953 by three friends — Giorgio Basso, Luigi Giorgio Benacchio and a gentleman named Perdomello whose first name we cannot find). The name they chose, Triade, was based on the three elements necessary to make porcelain — earth, fire, and water.

Benacchio and Perdomello dropped out for health reasons in 1986, but the Basso family continues to run the enterprise. We have seen Triade’s work associated with Capo-di-Monte, which was a firm founded in 1740 in Naples. The company went out of business in 1821 after a rather convoluted history. Capo-di-Monte’s molds went to the famous Ginori factory in Doccia, and as far as we call tell, the name “Capo-di-Monte” should not be associated with Triade or its products.

Luigi Giorgio Benacchio designed a rather large number of romantic figure groups — some featuring children, others lovers (We rather like the image of an old man sitting on a bench). Right now, many figure groups designed by Benacchio are bringing anywhere from $35 to $50 — but a few are fetching closer to the $150 to $200 range. William J. Jenack Auctioneers in Chester, New York seems to sell quite a few while Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, Illinois have also sold some.

Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email treasures@knology.net. If you'd like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.

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