Ceramiche Giancappetti, maiolica, artigianato ceramico, riggiola, ceramica, maioliche, riggiole, ceramiche.
La Repubblica
la repubblica
Friday, August 26, 2004

Giancappetti, the last master ceramic with colors of sea

Giancappetti is 76, originally Giovanni Cappetti, the gentleman of ceramics. He has devotedly and passionately been decoratine and designing ceramics for forty years. Today, as then, without a computer or machines. Proud and solitary, except for his daughter, Maria Grazia who, for these last few years has worked beside him in his great shed at the Gates of Pontecagnano. Knowing him is an experience, meeting him a privilege. Giancappetti is a master craftsman of another era, a bit gruff at first, not inclined to ostentation or self publicity. “ Work tells me the hour of day, it’s all here, I know when I begin but not when I’ll finish”. He says nothing else, he certainly doesn’t speak about his tiles which adorn the most important and beautiful houses in the world, from Hollywood to Yokoama and Quatar. He doesn’t say much about the Arab sheik who ordered the pavement of his swimming pool from him, nor about the Californian villa whose bathrooms are decorated with eighteenth century Neapolitan scenes, or the chalet in the Aosta Valley where the owners- he from Piemonte, she from Liguria, - wanted to bring the sun and sea of Amalfi. “Commissions arrive from all over the world”, his young daughter reveals,”especially for majolica, to decorate villas and gardens inspired by the colours and decorations of Naples and Vietri”. This is the world of Giancappetti, eighteenth century Naples, and the Amalfitan coast where he was born and grew up. His tiles show the masterworks of the great majolica tradition of seventeenth and eighteenth century Naples, above all the cloisters of St. Chiara, which he has repeated several times, even for a ballroom on a Dutch cruise ship Rotterdam IV destined for the voyages of American millionaires. Floral, geometrical motifs, horns flowing with fruit, racemes and flower garlands, tritons and dolphins, medals with human and animal forms compose his rich repertoire which also reflects art history, but also the sun and seascape of the Amalfitan coast, in those moments when, discarding his craftsman’s clothes, Giancappetti at last dedicates himself to his unique pieces. Small tiles for himself or a friend, where he paints his private world: the lighthouse of Capo d’Orso, the fjord at Furore, the fishing boats of Cetara, fishermen, the old centres of Erchie and Positano with its majolica dome. Miniature works of art which reveal the simple, poetic universe of Giancappetti, where the signs are almost elementary, the forms ingenious and touching, (as in his Madonas with azure eyes), the palette, colourful and vivacious. “My father,” he says,”was the keeper of the lighthouse at Capo d’Orso, I grew up there as a child, on the beach of Erchie, between fishermen’s boats, and sunsets at sea”. Until 1981 Giancappetti worked at Molina, Vietri, “After the second earthquake in 1981 I was forced to leave because the town planning in Vietri could not authorize craft laboratories exceeding 500 square metres, so I moved to the hinterland at my own expense, without financial backing, except for a beggarly sum of little more than a hundred million lire, after ten years.” He needs lots of room for his work,(his shed covers over a thousand square metres), where he can lay out his floors, compositions, checking his tiles one by one, old methods, of which Giancappetti is proud. It is precisely this which distinguishes him from the industrial production of many ceramicists, making him today one of the last few authentic tile makers. His factory is a fascinating place with disorderly piles of tiles of every shade and colour, some put aside, others bound for who knows which villa or hotel. In the centre there is the old glazing machine of 1970,still working, in one corner a kiln which fires at 900°. On one side a collection of old Neapolitan tiles, neatly arranged on a metal shelf, a patrimony wrongly considered ‘minor’, recovered over the years, here and there, going through abandoned building sites and buildings, old junk shops and outdoor markets. “And to think that a few years ago they were thrown away, now they’re all the fashion in Neapolitan houses and architects come here to choose this or that, ordering precise copies for their clients”. Hand made copies, one by one, on an artisan type bisque, nothing to do with these industrial remakes which fill up the catalogues”. Today, we said, Giancappetti is 76: he’s working on “mysteries of the rosary”, twelve votive shrines for the pontifical seminary of Pontecagnano, but he confesses a secret dream, “I’d love to do a big panel on the Amalfitan coast, my interpretation of its light and colour, and then, after all those refusals, perhaps decide to accept the proposal of an exhibition in Naples”.


Donatella Bernabò Silorata