Blue-and-white porcelain from China was so prized in the Renaissance that a number of princes attempted to discover the secrets of producing this rare, exotic, and expensive material. Only in Florence, under the patronage of Grand Duke Francesco I de' Medici, himself an experimental chemist, did alchemists succeed in developing an "artificial" or soft-paste porcelain. Because the Medici factory was continually experimenting with its ceramic recipe and glaze, its wares were thicker than true hard-paste porcelain from Asia and covered with a rather cloudy, bubble-pitted glaze.
Medici potters assimilated a variety of sources into a single form. Medici wares show motifs drawn from contemporary Turkish pottery and Italian maiolica and from earlier Chinese porcelain. The majority of the porcelains are marked underneath with the dome of the cathedral of Florence above the letter F.
The porcelain enterprise seems to have lapsed following the death of Francesco. Although the factory was open for twelve years, only sixty-four pieces of Medici porcelain are known today.