Founded by Nicola Giustiniani circa 1760, the eponymous pottery firm's most successful period was in the early 19th century under the direction of Nicola's grandson, Biagio. In 1834, he entered into an association with Cherinto del Vecchio in order to obtain a licence to produce 'opague porcelain'. A variety of wares were produced in both bodies. But the core of the firm's business was its pottery production and extant examples in porcelain such as the present set of cups and saucers is rare. Designs were based on copies of Antique vases and the use of antique forms and decoration based on both Greek and Egyptian sources were the high point of its production. The firm closed shortly after 1885.
Giustiniani based its shapes and decoration on Antique prototypes, readily available since the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum in the mid 18th century. The publication in two volumes later in the century of the Greek vase collection formed by Sir William Hamilton, representative of George II of England to the court at Naples and an avid antiquarian, served to spread knowledge of these wares and to enflame the vogue for all things Antique. Josiah Wedgwood based many of his encaustic-decorated Antique copies on examples from Hamilton's collection. Giustiniani seems to have also freely borrowed from this source. Egyptian influences were equally popular, encouraged by the 'Egyptomania' sweeping Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century, attributable in part to the success of the Napoleonic campaigns.
See Christie's, New York, 29 September 1999, lots 342-347 for a variety of Giustiniani Greek revival tea, coffee and dessert wares painted in black on a red clay body, the shapes based on Greek and Egyptian sources. A Giustiniani porcelain part tea and coffee service comprising a teapot and cover, hot-milk jug and cover and a sugar-bowl and cover, each form adaped from an Egyptian prototype, was sold anonymously, Sotheby's, London, 25 June 1983, lot 145. It is not impossible for the present cups and saucers to have originally formed part of a service with similar serving pieces.
See Ian Jenkins and Kim Sloan, Vases & Volcanoes, Sir William Hamilton and his Collection, British Museum, London, 1996 for a detailed discussion of the formation of William Hamilton's collection and its effect on the art of the period. Also Angela Caròla-Perrotti, La Porcellane napoletane dell'Ottocento 1807-1860, pp. 147-149 for a discussion of the porcelain produced by Giustiniani.