Q: My husband received this item from an aunt, and we would like to have any information that you can provide. The only marking is the one in the picture and it reads, “5325 Italy, Ardalt, Capodimonte Marino.”
A: The “5325” is a style number that refers to this particular box, or “casket.” We do not know the size so we cannot be sure of the purpose for which this box was designed, but we will speculate that it is a small jewelry box.
“Capodimonte” should actually be spelled “Capo-di-Monte,” or “top of the mountain,” but most modern spellings of this place name do leave out the dashes and capital letter and make it into one word.
The story begins with King Charles III of Naples, who established a porcelain factory in 1743 at his palace just outside of Naples known as Capo-di-Monte. But when he became King of Spain in 1759, he moved his best workmen, models and clay to a new factory near Madrid called El Bueno Retiro.
Capo-di-Monte was idle until 1771, when King Ferdinand of Naples revived the factory and moved it into Naples proper, where it produced both soft-paste (artificial) and hard-paste (true Chinese-style) porcelain until 1821. Later, the molds were reportedly sent to the famous Ginori factory at Doccia, Italy.
Capo-di-Monte’s most famous mark — a crowned “N” — has been used by a rather large number of companies over the years, including E. Bohne of Rudolstadt, Germany, and Carl Theme of Potschappel, Saxony, Germany, but the presence of the word “Italy” means the piece was made in that country.
The most important part of the mark is probably “Ardalt,” which tells when this piece was made. Ardalt is an American importing company that had its offices on Madison Avenue in New York. It started its importing in 1945 after the end of World War II. Most of its wares came from Japan, but some did originate in Germany, France and Italy.
The “AA” paper label is often found on porcelain giftwares of the low to middle range, and the particular piece belonging to C. P. was probably made in the 1950s or ‘60s. Ardalt reportedly went out of business in the 1980s.
Finally, the word “Marino” seems to refer to the style of this piece with its design of sensual lovers and flying cupids.
The products imported by Ardalt are considered by most collectors to be relatively modern, moderately priced giftwares, but the Capo-di-Monte name does help a bit. Still, the insurance value of this piece at this time is probably less than $50, unless it is a large size.
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