Masterpieces from Italian collections

31 OCTOBER 2018

Masterpieces from Italian collections

Auction, 0272

FLORENCE
Palazzo Ramirez-Montalvo
Borgo degli Albizi, 26


6.00 p.m.
Viewing

FLORENCE
26th-30th October 2018
10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Palazzo Ramirez-Montalvo
Borgo degli Albizi, 26
info@pandolfini.it

 
 
 
Estimate   10000 € - 500000 €

All categories

1 - 14  of 14
1

‘Trofeo’ workshop, Venice; second quarter, 18th century. Silversmith: probably Andrea Fulici, assayer: Zuanne Cottini

A PAIR OF KRATER VASES

Height 41.5 cm; Diameter 27 cm; combined weight 5830 g (2)

 

In both cases, the fluted foot of the krater rests on a square base, the fluting on the rather long foot terminates in a band with baccellato decoration and the fillet is decorated with chased leaves and interlinked elements. Each piece has two external handles, the lower extremities of which are in the form of satyrs crowned with ivy and the tops adorned with leaves. The bodies are decorated with embossed representations of Dionysian processions.

On the first vase, the meeting of Ariadne and Dionysus at Naxos is depicted underneath a vine shoot running under the lip. The god is portrayed in the midst of his retinue with Maenads, satyrs, panthers, armed figures and a female figure playing a lyre (the Muse Terpsichore?).

On the second vase, again under a grapevine, is another representation of a Dionysian procession with satyrs, Maenads, and panthers associated with other mythological figures; in particular, an armed Athena and an Artemis who restrains a little goat with one hand and, exceptionally, holds a bowl of fruit in the other. There follow three female figures, two of which could be identified as Demeter and Persephone. The latter raises a corner of her veil with one hand. Like the first-mentioned piece, this vase also portrays a female figure playing the lyre (the Muse Terpsichore?).

The lips of both vases are outlined by ‘necklaces’ of ovoid and baccellato elements.

Besides the 18th-century Venetian hallmark, both vases display the Dutch import mark applied to works in silver of foreign manufacture in use from 1814 until 1953.

The form and decoration of the two works are modelled after the marble kraters of the Neo-Attic period. The most majestic reference as concerns the form is doubtless the Medici Vase, although another important reference is surely the Borghese Vase, of which our pair copies both the krater form and the decoration with its frieze of Maenads, mythological figures and panthers dancing in a Dionysian procession.

The two magnificent marble vases mentioned above are examples of the Neo-Attic style in sculpture in favour with the well-to-do Roman art clientele from the 2nd cent. BCE to the 2nd cent. CE.

Today, these vases are at the Galleria degli Uffizi and the Musée du Louvre, respectively.

The Medici Vase, found in a thousand pieces on Rome’s Esquiline hill in the 1500s, was purchased by the Medicis at the end of the century for their Roman villa; it came to the Uffizi in 1780. The frieze decorating this elegant vase narrates a mythological scene, probably the council of the Achaeans in Delphi on the eve of the Trojan War.

The admiration aroused by this work was such that, over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, a dialogue with the ancient world took form in myriad copies in the most disparate materials, from marble to bronze. The vase was also reproduced in many prints and drawings that circulated through Europe and provided models to be imitated in accordance with the prevailing taste for the golden age of the Roman Empire. Mention must be made, in this connection, of Stefano della Bella’s etching Il Vaso Medici con Cosimo III, from 1656 (FIG. 1).

The Borghese Vase was, in turn, a significant model for the silversmiths who crafted the two kraters up for auction today. The krater form and the decorative subjects emulate the vase now at the Louvre: from the vine shoot under which the satyrs and the sinuously elegant Maenads dance in the retinue of the powerful mythological figures, to the fluted and baccellato foot and to the ivy-crowned satyrs supporting the handles, everything in the two vases speaks of a taste that looks to the great culture of ancient Rome. Like in the case of the Medici Vase, numerous reproductions of the Borghese Vase were created after the 1500s, in various materials, according to the same logic of continuity that was seen as linking ancient to modern culture.

We may thus say that the pair of silver kraters proposed by the Capolavori da Collezioni Italiane auction is one example of the many manifestations of the taste common to all parts of the Europe of their time, for the ancient and for a type of art symbolic of an age of great cultural and political splendour.

 

Provenance

Private collection

 

Comparative Bibliography:

P. Pazzi, I punzoni dell'argenteria veneta, Tomo I, Venezia e Dogado (Venice, 1992), p. 138, no. 420; p. 145, no. 452.

A. Coliva; M. L. Fabréga-Dubert; J. L. Martinez; M. Minozzi, I Borghese e l'antico. Catalogue of the exhibition: Rome, Galleria Borghese, 7 December 2011 - 9 April 2012 (Milan, 2011).

 

Estimate    30.000 / 40.000
2

AN ASSORTMENT OF PLATES FROM THE ‘VEDUTE DEL REGNO’ (VIEWS OF THE KINGDOM) PRESENTATION SERVICE, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE ‘SERVIZIO DELL’OCA’. NAPLES, REAL FABBRICA FERDINANDEA, 1793-1795

a serving plate decorated with a Veduta delle Coste di Pozzuoli (View of the Pozzuoli Coasts). On the reverse, the title painted in red over the glaze and the crowned ‘N’ mark under the glaze. Diameter: 42 cm.

Two serving plates, one decorated with a view of the Monistero de Certosini e Castello di S. Elmo (Carthusian Monastery and Castel Sant’Elmo); the other with a Veduta della Villa Reale (View of Villa Reale). Both carry, on the reverse, the title painted in red over the glaze and the crowned ‘N’ mark under the glaze. Diameter: 30.2 cm.

Four dinner plates with views of: Golfo di Mesina (Gulf of Messina) titled in red over the glaze, without mark; Strada che conduce a Ponti – Rossi, (Road to Ponti-Rossi) titled in red over the glaze and marked with the crowned ‘N’ and a cross etched in the paste under the glaze; Tempio di Pesto (Temple of Paestum) titled in red over the glaze and marked with the crowned ‘N’ under the glaze; Veduta della Costa di Posillipo (View of the Posillipo Coast) titled in red over the glaze and marked with the crowned ‘N’ under the glaze on the reverse. Diameter: cm 24.

The decorations of this assortment of porcelain plates includes panoramic views enclosed within a central medallion and surrounded, on the lip, by flowered garlands and blue and red fillet borders extending to the rim. The porcelain is soft-paste and shows some imperfections and signs of wear: crackling, chipping and hairline cracks. The gold is not always in a perfect state of conservation on all the pieces, although the clarity of the views at the centres of the compositions is unaltered. Of note certain details visible in the secondary decoration, introduced during manufacture, such as the lack of several berries in the garland on the Veduta del Golfo di Messina (View of the Gulf of Messina) plate, on which, additionally, the principal view is out of alignment with respect to the titling on the reverse. 

The Servizio delle Vedute del Regno is considered the maximum expression of the veduta genre of late 18th-century Bourbon court production. The service was erroneously assigned the title of Servizio dell’Oca (Goose Service); the denomination derives from the form of the handles of the covers of several soup tureens which show a child strangling a goose (see fig. 1). The image with the Fanciullo che scherza con un cigno (Child Playing with a Swan) is, in actuality, accompanied on other covers by the Allegoria del Tempo (Allegory of Time) showing a child covering his face with his hands and an image of Silenus. Both these figurines are inspired by Roman copies of Hellenistic statues today in the Musei Capitolini in Rome.

Each piece is decorated with a different view of the Kingdom of Naples: the monuments, the archaeological sites and the natural beauties of its territory, from Abruzzo to Sicily, are painted with exceptional pictorial and miniaturistic expertise. The intention is clearly propagandistic; that is, to lay out all the magnificence of the Kingdom before the eyes of guests of the court.

The single pieces making up the table service, when marked, carry a crowned letter ‘N’ in blue.

The majority of the pieces in the service is today conserved at the Museo di Capodimonte (see fig. 2), while only a very few of its pieces remain in private hands (1).

In a systematic study of court documentation, Angela Caròla Perrotti (2) reconstructs the history of this order as it emerges from the extensive correspondence that passed between the ‘Vedore del Reale Ramaglietto’, Luigi Perschie, on behalf of Ferdinand I of Bourbon (as Ferdinando IV of Naples) (1751-1825), King of the Two Sicilies and later of Spain, and the Chief House Steward, Prince of Belmonte Antonio Pignatelli. From their exchanges, we gather that as late as 1792, on occasion of banquets, the court requested loans of plates from the Real Fabbrica to replace the existing table service, which by that time was compromised, with missing and damaged pieces (‘. . . Che avanzi dei piatti netti espari e in mal ordine’ ), recalling that for at least four years the king had been demanding that the manufactory supply the court with ‘un servigio completo da servirlo allorchè S.M. pranza in pubblico’ (‘a complete table service for use when His Majesty dines in public’). The letter constitutes an important terminus post quem, setting for the service an initial date of 1793 ca.; the use of the crowned ‘N’ mark in any case denotes a production dating to after the technique of manufacturing soft-paste porcelain wares was perfected (3).

We know of orders placed earlier by the king for several table services in neoclassical style for use as gifts: of particular note, the Servizio Etrusco (Etruscan Service) (1785-87) for King George III, still conserved at Windsor, and the ‘Herculaneum’ service (1782) for Charles III of Bourbon.

The table service now requested of the manufactory differed in style from the prior orders: the neoclassical style, often based on forms and objects of classical antiquity, decidedly goes beyond the rococo of past production; the work that emerged is fine and sophisticated and is clear in its intent to celebrate the splendour of the Kingdom under Ferdinando IV by comparing the riches of his court to those of antiquity. This stance was in full accord with the directives and the artistic imprint which Marchese Domenico Venuti had given to the manufactory and had maintained since his appointment as director in 1779 (4).

The ‘obligatory views’ service (5) designed by Venuti is decorated with detailed views of Naples and the outlying areas of the kingdom, as well as with images of famous archaeological sites such as Herculaneum (1738) and Pompeii (1740), discovered during the reign of Charles III of Bourbon. It takes its cue from several prototypes already prepared for the ‘Farnese Service’ in 1785, even though in that case the views were all inspired by the coeval work of the Abbé de Saint-Non (6).

Most of the miniatures painted on the new service were drawn from etchings by Cardon, by Hamilton and by the Abbé de Saint-Non; others from drawings by Antonio Joli and Philipp Hackert. The painter of most of the miniatures was Giacomo Milani, director of the manufactory’s painting workshop between 1790 and 1797; besides reproducing the landscapes from the cited source materials, he was the author of several original views (7). Beyond these well-known images, there are also many scenes painted from life by the painters Berotti and Santucci during their time working for the Servizio delle Vestiture del Regno.

Also of great importance is the study, again by Angela Caròla-Perrotti, of the extraordinary dessert centrepiece by modeller Filippo Tagliolini, comprising a total of 114 bisque pieces complementing the miniature painting on porcelain. Its layout was highly complex and called for a close-knit dialogue between the beauties shown in the views on the plates and faithful reproductions of ancient statues of philosophers, muses, Olympian deities. However, Angela Caròla-Perrotti argues that it was not conceived specifically for use with the Servizio delle Vedute del Regno but rather for a service ordered earlier as a copy of the ‘Herculaneum Service’ and then cancelled in favour of the new project; she further argues that earlier models were enlarged upon by Tagliolini with new images – thanks in part to the work of the school he had established at the manufactory. Training for the most talented artists included sending them to copy archaeological works even outside of the kingdom; this explains the inclusion of models whose inspiration does not reflect anything in the Bourbon collections, such as the two images of young women applied to soup tureen covers.

 

Reference Bibliography

A. Caròla Perrotti, La porcellana della Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea. Naples, 1978, pp. 158-160, nos. 135-139.

A. Caròla Perrotti, La porcellana dei Borbone di Napoli. Capodimonte e Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea 1743-1806. Naples, 1986, pp. 440-450, nos. 371-378;

Vedute di Napoli e della Campania nel ‘Servizio dell’Oca’ del Museo di Capodimonte. Naples, 1995.

N. Spinosa (ed.), Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte. Ceramiche. Naples, 2006, pp. 67-70.

A. Caròla-Perrotti, L’arte di imbandire la tavola e ‘il dessert per 60 coverti’ dei Borbone di Napoli. Naples, 2010, p. 97.

 

1) The bulk of the presentation service is currently preserved at the Museo di Capodimonte under 411 inventory numbers. A soup tureen, a certain number of plates and several large bowl-shaped cups were subtracted from this nucleus and donated to the Museo Artistico Industriale when it was being established. Other items from the service are today at Villa Cagnola in Gazzada Schianno (VA) (L. Melegatti in La collezione Cagnola. Le arti decorative. Varese 1999, p. 308, no. 374. Cited in M.A. Mottola Molfino, L’arte della porcellana in Italia. Vol. II, Busto Arsizio 1977, fig. 280). Several plates recently made their way into the market (Bonhams, London, 6 July 2010, lots 72-75; Bonhams, London, 7 December 2017, lot 90: two plates).

2) A. Caròla Perrotti, La porcellana della Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea. Naples 1978, p. 158.

3) A. Caròla-Perrotti, L’arte di imbandire la tavola e “il dessert per 60 coverti” dei Borbone di Napoli. Naples, 2010, p. 97, note 37.

4) For further information, refer to Vittore Cocchi, Domenico Venuti e le porcellane di Capodimonte, Florence 1982. It must be noted that Domenico Venuti, son of that Marcello Venuti who initiated the excavations at Pompeii during the reign of Charles III of Bourbon, was at the same time director-general of excavations in the kingdom.

5) Defined thus by the manufactory. A. Caròla Perrotti in Nicola Spinosa (ed.), Museo e Gallerie di Capodimonte. Naples 2006, p. 70

6) Abbé de Saint-Non, Le Voyage Pittoresque, 1881-1885 

7) A. Caròla Perrotti in Nicola Spinosa (ed.), Museo e Gallerie di Capodimonte, Napoli 2006 p. 70.

Estimate    10.000 / 15.000
Price realized  Registration
3

A DISH  URBINO, WORKSHOP OF GUIDO DURANTINO, SIGNED WITH THE MONOGRAM AM, F.S., FORMERLY THE WORKSHOP OF FRANCESCO DE SILVANO (?), 1542 

Hgt. 6,2 cm; Ø 27 cm; Ø foot 13,8 cm

Majolica with polychrome decoration: yellow, yellow-orange, blue, dark blue, green, manganese brown and white.

Inscriptions:

On the front, beneath the lion’s paw: the monogram AM surmounted by an asterisk with the initials F.S.

On the back, in the center of the foot “1542 / Come San.ierronimo Cava. La / spina dalla zampa. al lione / Urbino” painted in blue. 

Labels: on the back, printed label “Galleria Pesaro Milano/ 237”; stamped label  “Ufficio Esportazione” with the number 10 written in black ink.

 

Provenance 

Turin, collection of Marchese D’Azeglio;

Milan, collection of A. Chiesa;

Milan, Agosti e Mendoza Collection (Galleria Pesaro sale, 1936, lot 237);

Milan, collection of A. Rivolta;

Milan, Palazzo Ferrajoli (Sotheby’s sale, 4 December 1996, lot 721);

Milan, private collection

 

References  

W. Chaffers, The Collector's Hand Book of Marks and Monograms on Pottery & Porcelain of the Renaissance and Modern Periods, London 1909 (second edition), p. 66;

L. De Mauri, L'amatore di maioliche e porcellane, Milan 1924 (third edition), p. 729;

G. Botta, Le collezioni Agosti e Mendoza, Galleria Pesaro, Milan December 1936, pl. XCIV, cat. 237;

A. Minghetti, Enciclopedia Biografica e Bibliografica Italiana. Ceramisti - Artisti, Botteghe, Simboli dal Medioevo al Novecento, 1939, pp. 386-387

 

A deep bowl with raised, straight rim, rounded and bordered in yellow, low ring-foot with slightly outward curved base and rounded edge. The decoration covering the entire surface is painted on a gray-white glaze with many inclusions, using bright colors and subtle retouches done with the tip of the paintbrush to emphasize the features and contours of the figures. The abundant use of dark colors emphasizes the shadows and some of the landscape details such as Saint  Jerome’s cave, while facial features and musculature are highlighted with tin white which is also used in the same way on the landscape that is dominated by cold colors as opposed to the warm tones of the figures.

The scene refers to a legendary episode from the life of Saint Jerome as told by Jacopo da Varazze in the Golden Legend (Legenda Aurea) (1), but depicted here according to another version. On the plate, the lion comes to Jerome in his cave and it is the saint himself, who removes the thorn from the animal’s paw and treats the wound; the miracle is accompanied by the apparition of a cherub surrounded by five stars  in the sky. Near Saint Jerome’s feet is a cardinal’s hat, and in the foreground, to his left, are the frightened brothers who are fleeing the scene. They are depicted according to the iconographic traditions we see in famous Renaissance paintings such as the Scenes from the Life of Saint Jerome by Vittore Carpaccio (2) or  Benozzo Gozzoli’s 1452 frescoes of the Crucifixion with Saints and Scenes from the Life of Saint Jerome in the chapel of Saint Jerome in the church of San Francesco at Montefalco (3). The iconography of Saint Jerome in the center of the scene is more common and can be seen in other period works such as the woodcut of Saint Jerome Extracting a Thorn from the Lion’s Paw by Giovanni Battista Palumba (c. 1500-1516) (4). In the background, a city with towers and two more episodes from the legend: the lion guarding the donkey, and the lion’s punishment working as a pack animal.

The back is not decorated, merely inscribed: “1542 / Come San.ierronimo Cava. La / spina dalla zampa. Al lione / Urbino. 

This iconography of Saint Jerome (5) fits in with the most popular view of the saint. However, in reality he is linked to the spread of Origen’s exegeses in the West, the increased number of men turning to the ascetic life during the second half of the fourth century and the first twenty years of the fifth, and his Latin translation of the Bible which is known as the Vulgate version.

The plate shown here has a complex history. The earliest information we have found dates to 1893 (6): a description related to the monogram F and S surmounted by an asterisk, beneath the lion’s paw. The monogram is attributed to pottery from Urbino and the plate is described as having belonged to the collection of Marchese D’Azeglio in Turin. A few years later, the same monogram was described in De Mauri’s compendium (7), where it was shown with a similar symbol, with a dating beneath, and both were ascribed to antique majolica wares from Urbino. The plate turned up in the Agosti e Mendoza collections, and was sold at the Galleria Pesaro in Milan in 1936 (8). The Galleria Pesaro sale catalogue gave the provenance as the collection of A. Chiesa,  with an attribution to Francesco Xanto Avelli on the basis of the monogram that was related to the large plate depicting the Attack on the City of Goletta by the Fleet of Charles V, which the artist from Rovigo dated 1541 and signed “X”, with the inscription “In Urbino nella botteg. di Francesco de Silvano” (9). Aurelio Minghetti published the plate three years later (10), describing it as “majolica plate [by] Francesco Silvano )?) Urbino 1542” (piatto di maiolica Francesco Silvano (?) Urbino 1542) in the collection of A. Rivolta in Milan. The author hypothesized that the initials stood for Francesco Silvano, and associated it with the above-mentioned plate portraying the Attack on the City of Goletta. Nearly sixty years later, the plate was once again on the market, this time in the 1996 Sotheby’s (Milan) sale of the Palazzo Ferrajoli collections (11) and with an attribution to Guido Fontana.

Timothy Wilson had advanced the hypothesis (12) that some of the unsigned pieces dated 1542 were the fruit of cooperation between Francesco Xanto Avelli and other painters at the twilight of the famous ceramicist’s career. Wilson suggested that Francesco di Silvano may have been Francesco Durantino, who was still active in 1542 either in Guido Durantino’s or his own workshop, to then move to Guido da Merlino’s studio the following year. Therefore, could the Francesco Durantino have been the potter Francesco de Berardino Silvano with whom Xanto worked in 1541? (13) Francesco’s father was Bernardino (14), and the “Berardino di Battista Gnagni di S. San Donato” in the 1514 registry in Casteldurante could be the same person. The first document mentioning Francesco was written in Guido’s Urbino workshop on 18 December 1537 (15).

Stylistic comparisons with pieces from Durantino’s workshop in Urbino – such as the dimensions of the plate, the landscape with its subtly defined grasses, the twisted trees, and a northern-type city, as well as the carefully depicted figures and the palette do not rule out the possibility of cooperation on the part of a painter who was trying to make a name for himself by adding his own initials – a highly uncommon practice at the time, and seen only in some rare cases.

There is similarity between our plate and others with high decorative value, such as the one with Noli me tangere, formerly in the Otto Beit collection, that was recently published by Paola Sani. In both items we can see the same expressive power in the figures, similar colors, especially the green grasses, the details of the background landscape, the depiction of scenes on more than one plane, as well as the fence in the foreground along with other defining features that could suggest an attribution to the young Orazio Fontana who was still active in his father’s workshop.

 

1) Jacopo da Varazze, also called Jacopo da Varagine, recounted the lives of saints in the Legenda Aurea, that he worked on from 1260 to his death in 1296. In chapter 146 dedicated to the life of Saint Jerome, he narrates the episode in which a lion limped to the monastery where he lived. As his brothers fled in fright, Jerome approached the wounded animal and ordered his brothers to wash its paws and care for him. Once he had healed, the lion stayed at the monastery and the brothers ordered him to guard their donkey. One day, the lion fell asleep while the donkey was grazing, and it was stolen by some passing merchants. When the lion returned to the monastery alone, he was accused of having eaten the donkey and as punishment was made to do the donkey’s work. One day the lion encountered the merchant caravan and recognized the donkey. After having frightened off the merchants, he led the donkey and the camels laden with goods back to the monastery. When the merchants arrived at the monastery to reclaim their goods, Saint Jerome forgave them and acknowledged that the lion was innocent.

2) Carpaccio’s Scenes from the Life of Saint Jerome are in the Scuola Dalmata di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni in Venice.

3) The Montefalco frescoes, that are datable to 1452, were his first works as a master. They were probably commissioned by the local nobleman Girolamo di Ser Giovanni Battista de Filippis. Unfortunately most of the frescoes with the Scenes from the Life of Saint Jerome have been lost; however it is likely that they were reproduced in one or more, as yet unidentified, contemporary engravings.

4) The Illustrated Bartsch, XIII, p. 249 n. 1. This print is considered the masterpiece woodcut by the engraver identified as G.B. Palumba.

5) Saint Jerome is portrayed in three distinct ways: as a penitent clothed in skins or rags, kneeling before a crucifix and holding a stone to beat his breast, with an hourglass and skull nearby symbolizing passing of time that leads to death; as a man of learning, sitting in his study, either writing or reading, with books, pen and other tools of knowledge; as a Doctor of the Church, standing, wearing cardinal’s robes even though the office of cardinal did not exist at the time, but, the symbols are probably in recognition of the fact that he worked for the pope.

6) W. Chaffers, The Collector's Hand Book of Marks and Monograms on Pottery & Porcelain of the Renaissance and Modern Periods, London 1893

7) L. De Mauri, L'amatore di maioliche e porcellane, Milan 1899

8) G. Botta, Le collezioni Agosti e Mendoza, Galleria Pesaro, Milan December 1936, pl. XCIV, cat. 237

9) See J.V.G. Mallet, “La biografia di Francesco Xanto Avelli alla luce dei suoi sonetti”, in Faenza  70, and J.V.G. Mallet, with contributions by G. Hendel and E.P. Sani, Xanto. Pottery-painter, Poet, Man of the Italian Renaissance, exh. catalogue,  Wallace Collection, London 2007

10) A. Minghetti ,Enciclopedia Biografica e Bibliografica Italiana" il volume "Ceramisti - Artisti, Botteghe, Simboli dal Medioevo al Novecento" 1939, pp. 386-387

11) Sotheby’s, Importanti Mobili, Dipinti, Ceramiche, Argenti e Sculture, Collezioni d’arte da Palazzo Ferrajoli, Milan December 1996, lot 721

12) T. Wilson, Italian Maiolica of the Renaissance, Milan 1996, n. 93

13) T. Wilson, Italian Maiolica of the Renaissance, Milano 1996, n. 110 note 4, revised after 1998, when the attribution hypothesis seems to have fallen out of favor.

14) S. Balzani, M. Regni, Vasai e pittori a Casteldurante nei primi due decenni del secolo XVI, Urbino 2004, p. 68

15) T. Wilson, “The Maiolica-Painter Francesco Durantino: Mobility and Collaboration in Urbino “istoriato” in S. Glaser, Italienische Fayencen der Renaissance. Ihre Spurenininternationalen Museumssammlungen, Nuremberg 2004, pp. 111-144

Estimate    40.000 / 60.000
Price realized  Registration
4

Gerrit van Honthorst, also known as Gherardo delle Notti
(Utrecht 1590 – 1656)
A BOY BLOWING ON A BURNING COAL
oil on canvas, cm 97x71


An export license is available for this lot.

This painting was first attributed to Gerrit van Honthorst by Giuliano Briganti and by Erich Schleier in private letters to the owner, and was the object of more specific research by Gianni Papi when shown in international exhibitions, which allowed viewing by collectors and connoisseurs worldwide. Moreover, the monographic exhibition held in Florence in 2015 gave full opportunity for comparison with the artist’s documented and undisputed work.

According to Papi’s note in the exhibition catalogue, our Boy blowing on a burning coal is the very first version of a subject which, in a short time, would prove highly successful among the Utrecht Caravaggisti. It is also one of the first night scenes in artificial light which became so typical of Honthorst’s work to justify his nickname “Gherardo delle Notti” (Gerrit of Night-pieces) by which he was widely known in his own time and up to the present day.

While this subject cannot be found in Caravaggio’s work, it probably had its model in a famous and celebrated painting by Domenico Theotokopoulos, El Greco (coming in its turn from a work by Jacopo and/or Francesco Bassano), the Boy lighting a candle by blowing on a coal now in the Capodimonte museum in Naples, from the Farnese collection. As proven by a signed autograph replica and several contemporary copies, this highly sophisticated work, which in its turn referred to antique paintings described by Plinius the Elder, was quite famous at the time. It is also worth mentioning that in early nineteenth century inventories the Capodimonte painting by El Greco was in fact catalogued as “Gherardo delle Notti”.

The Greco painting is quite possibly the visual source for another work by Honthorst, currently homeless, showing a boy in a feathered hat lighting a candle from a blazing coal; the latter, in its turn, was the model for a painting by Hendrick Ter Bruggen now in Eger, Hungary (Dobò Istvàn Varmuzeum), A boy lighting his pipe on a candle, dated 1623, as well as for many similar works from the Utrecht Caravaggesque School, by artists such as Jan Lievens and Mathias Stomer.

 

 

Papi suggests an early date for our painting, around 1615-16, thus mid-way in Honthorst’s Roman period, supposedly going from 1610-11 to the summer of 1620.

In his view, our painting should be compared to well-known works by the Dutch artist, probably painted for important patrons in Rome; among them, the three-figure Concert now in the National Gallery in Dublin, possibly from Cardinal Del Monte collection, and St. Peter’s liberation (Berlin, Staatliche Museen), whose provenance from the Giustiniani collection is fully documented.

 

Biographic notes:

Gerrit van Honthorst was born in Utrecht in 1692. According to contemporary sources he was educated in Abraham Bloemaert’s workshop. The date of his journey to Rome, undocumented, is supposed to be around 1610-11. A drawing after St. Peter’s martyrdom by Caravaggio in the Cerasi chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, bearing the date 1616 confirms early study from Caravaggio’s models. His first public work, an altarpiece showing St. Paul’s assumption now in Santa Maria della Vittoria, was painted in 1617 for the Carmelite church of San Paolo a Termini. More works for the Capuchin friars in Albano and for Santa Maria della Scala in Rome, as well as religious and secular subjects for private patrons, among them Vincenzo Giustiniani, were painted in the next few years. Between the autumn 1619 and the spring of 1620 he painted a Nativity for the main altar of Santa Felicita in Florence, the first of many Florentine works. It was commissioned by the Guicciardini family and is now in the Uffizi, although irreparably damaged due to bombing in 1993.

Van Honthorst was back in Utrecht in 1620. He had a very successful career, including work for Charles I of England, and progressively abandoned his early themes and Caravaggesque manner. He died in Utrecht in 1656.

 

 

 

 

Estimate    300.000 / 500.000
Price realized  Registration
5

Gaspar van Wittel (Gaspare Vanvitelli)
(Amersfoort (Utrecht) 1652/53 – Rome 1736)
A VIEW OF THE TIBER WITH CASTEL SANT’ANGELO AND THE VATICAN
oil on canvas, cm 49x98,5

An export license is available for this lot.

Provenance

H.R.H the Princess Royal Louise, Duchess of Fife (1867-1931); Christie’s, London, 18 December 1931; in the collection of the present owner since 1960s.

 

Literature

“Catalogue of Ancient and Modern Pictures the property of H.R.H. the late Princess Royal removed from 15, Portman Square, W1. Now sold by direction of Lady Maud Carnegie”. Christie’s, London, 18 December 1931, p. 23, n. 134: “a view of Rome from the Tiber”; G. Briganti, “Gaspar van Wittel”. A new edition edited by Laura Laureati and Ludovica Trezzani, Milan 1996, p. 181, n. 133.

 

As an iconic image of the Eternal City created by Gaspar van Wittel for his Grand Tour clientèle, this magnificent view of Rome shows some of the most important historical buildings from the classic past of the city and its Christian present, as well as everyday scenes occurring on the Tiber banks among its present-time dwellers.

The view was taken from a vantage point close to Tor di Nona on the left side of the river; its dominant feature is the circular volume of the Castel Sant’Angelo, the papal fortress having as its core emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum, around which towers and bastions were built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the background, the Vatican basilica and palace may be seen; in the centre, ponte Sant’Angelo, recently decorated with sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his school (1669-1671) spans the river in lieu of the antique pons Aelius built in Hadrian’s time.

Minor buildings on both sides of the river are equally interesting to the modern eye, as a testament to a partly destroyed cityscape due to the construction of the so-called Lungotevere, the modern embankment from the end of XIX century. On the left bank we can thus recognize palazzo Altoviti, no longer extant, its sixteenth century façade opening on the square facing the bridge. In the middle distance, on the right bank, is the hospital of Santo Spirito in Saxia and the church in the same name with its distinctive hexagonal bell-tower. Further right, minor buildings of the so-called Borghi may be seen; they were destroyed in the 1930s when via della Conciliazione leading to the Vatican was opened up.

Although appearing in the preparatory study to this view (see infra) and in all painted versions, the terrace in the foreground seems a phantasy feature created by Gaspar van Wittel as a perspective and compositional device, as the building portrayed appears too sophisticated for the popular district of Tor di Nona.

On the small beach close to the so-called arco di Parma on the left, and at the “prati di Castello” on the opposite side, the river banks are crowded with fishers and bathers, and people watching the small craft on the river. On the left, two women lean from the terrace out of curiosity for everyday happenings.

This view of the Tiber was certainly the most successful among the many river subjects by Gaspar van Wittel; it was especially sought after by his Italian patrons as well as by Grand Tourists travelling to Rome and wishing to buy a highly symbolic souvenir of the city, at the time the most visited in Europe. Eleven autograph versions of this view, including the present painting, are currently known (see “Gaspar van Wittel”. New edition curated by Laura Laureati and Ludovica Trezzani, Milan 1996, pp. 178-181, nn. 126-136), and two more are still unpublished.

They were painted through the artist’s entire career, and bear dates from 1682 to 1722. The first version is the tempera painting in the Capitoline Museum, Rome, from the collection of Marchese Sacchetti, who was Van Wittel’s first patron in the early 1680s. A tempera in Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome, comes next, from a set of four in Livio Odescalchi collection, as documented by his 1713 inventory. The whole series bears on the verso autograph inscriptions in Dutch, the language Van Wittel used consistently for his working notes. A tempera version from 1689 probably comes from the Colonna collection, where another tempera from 1722 remains to this day.

During the 1690s and in the first two decades of the XVIII century Van Wittel painted this subject in oils over increasingly wide canvases, the largest now in Rouen, Musée des Beaux Arts. They all match each other in the main features, the only difference being a wider section of the Prati di Castello on the right of the veduta (see the catalogue of the exhibition “Gaspare Vanvitelli e le origini del vedutismo”, Roma 2002, pp. 128-131, nn. 28 e 29). Our painting, probably from the early XVIII century, belongs to the latter group.

All painted versions were made after the large preparatory drawing (mm 237x480) now in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emanuele, Rome (Disegni 3, III, 18), one of the very important group of preparatory studies by Van Wittel relating to views of Rome, Florence, Naples and Venice.

Having been used for so many paintings in oils and tempera, its condition is unfortunately poor, if compared to drawings related to less successful subjects and therefore seldom used, possibly for only one painting. Among them, the view of the Tiber between the Castle’s bastions, or the enchanting view with the church of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini, quite close to our location.

Gaspar van Wittel was the first veduta painting in Italy, and the first artist painting this subject, which was repeated in etching and in oils throughout the XVIII and XIX centuries. Among Van Wittel’s early followers, Giuseppe Vasi and Antonio Joli should at least be mentioned.

Coming from the collection of the Princess Royal Louise, daughter to King Edward VII, our painting was auctioned by Christie’s in 1931 as a work by Gaspare Vanvitelli. The attribution was confirmed by Professor Giuliano Briganti to the family of the current owner; it was included in Van Wittel’s general catalogue curated by Laura Laureati and Ludovica Trezzani in 1996.

 

 

Biography

Gaspar van Wittel trained as a topographer in the workshop of Matthias Withoos. He left his homeland for Italy in 1674, and is first documented in Rome in January 1675, having probably stopped in Venice in his south-bound trip from Holland.

Having worked as a topography draughtsman for the Dutch engineer Cornelis Meyer, in 1680 he painted his first views of Rome, small temperas portraying Piazza del Popolo. In the next few years he drew most of his Roman subjects, showing the modern layout of the city as well as its ancient ruins, its more recent secular and ecclesiastical buildings in newly-designed piazzas, and the winding course of the Tiber within busy or solitary banks. He soon graduated from tempera to oil painting and to ever-increasing formats, always working from the preparatory drawings now in Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emanuele, Rome.

In 1690 Van Wittel took his first trip North, documented by a view of the Borromee Islands on Lago Maggiore; in 1694-95 a longer trip took him to Venice, by way of Florence (where he stopped for a few months working for the Medici court) and Bologna. In 1699 he moved to Naples at the invitation of the Spanish Vice-Roy, the Duke of Medinaceli, formerly the Spanish ambassador in Rome and brother in law of Prince Filippo II Colonna, Van Wittel’s major patron. He was back in Rome in 1702, having painted for Duke Medinaceli his first and most celebrated views of Naples, among them the Darsena, a favourite subject among his clients, both Roman and foreign.

Van Wittel’s Italian views and his fantasy landscapes in the manner of Claude Lorrain were much sought-after by distinguished foreign visitors, mostly British and French, coming to Italy for their education. Among the artist’s early patrons, Thomas Coke (1697-1759), later Earl of Leicester, and Richard Boyle (1694-1753), Lord Burlington, should be mentioned, the former acquiring on his Grand Tour and later no less than fifteen works by Van Wittel in oil, tempera and wash, some of them directly from the artist in 1716-17, the latter buying in 1714 twelve ink and wash drawings, with oil paintings entering his collection in the 1720s through the painter and dealer Andrew Hay, whose sales helped disseminate Vanvitelli’s work in Great Britain.

Working for Grand-Tourists and foreign collectors helped Van Wittel define the range of his subjects. He concentrated in fact on the more iconic views of Rome ancient and modern, of Naples and Venice, and left aside views of less well- known and scarcely visited places, which were hardly on demand. A few of them are in fact extremely modern in their outlook of minor aspects of 18th century Italy, and therefore quite appealing to the modern eye.

 

 

 

 

Estimate    500.000 / 800.000
6

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta
(Venice 1682-1754)
VIRGIN AND CHILD
oil on canvas, cm 77x61


An export license is available for this lot.


Provenance
(Lodovico Campo, Rovigo?)
Mario Viezzoli, Genua; private collection, Italy

 

Literature

(F. Bartoli, “Le Pitture Sculture ed Architetture della Città di Rovigo: con Indici ed Illustrazioni”, Venezia 1793, p. 101); R. Longhi, “Viatico per cinque secoli di pittura veneziana” (1946). 3rd edition, Firenze 1985, fig. 159 e p. 238; R. Pallucchini, “Piazzetta”, Milano 1956, p. 39 e fig. 93; R. Pallucchini, “Miscellanea piazzettesca”, in Arte Veneta XXII, 1968, p. 123; U. Ruggeri, “Francesco Capella detto Daggiù; dipinti e disegni”, Bergamo 1977, p. 174; L. Jones, “The Paintings of Giovan Battista Piazzetta”. Ph. D. Diss., New York University, 1981, II, p. 74, n. 21; III, fig. 106; R. Pallucchini, “L’opera completa del Piazzetta”. Apparati critici e filologici di A. Mariuz, Milano, Rizzoli, 1982, 140.

 

Hidden from view in an Italian private collection for more than half a century, this exceptionally fine painting was first published by Roberto Longhi in his celebrated review to the exhibition “Cinque secoli di pittura veneziana” (Five centuries of Painting in Venice) organized by Rodolfo Pallucchini and held in Venice soon after World War II.

Longhi’s essay referred to paintings shown in the exhibition, and was further illustrated through a selection of important works by the same artists, many of them previously unpublished.

Our painting, at the time in a private collection in Genua, was described by Longhi as coming from the Campo collection in Rovigo, where the18th century historian and connoisseur Francesco Bartoli had seen and recorded it in his guide of the city, printed in1793.

 

In the Campo palace near the church of the Trinità in Rovigo Bartoli describes in fact a painting by Piazzetta made for the nobleman Lodovico Campo and exactly matching ours: it depicted the Virgin with the Child lying in a simple crib (“Maria Vergine col suo Bambino sopra un povero letticello riposto”). A very famous painting, according to Bartoli, which had been copied by the nobleman Giovanni Campanari “for his own pleasure” (“per il suo proprio piacere”), the copy still hanging in the latter’s palace in the writer’s time.

As recorded in unpublished documents referred to by Franca Zava Boccazzi (“Pittoni. L’opera completa”, Venezia 1979, p. 158) a Madonna by Piazzetta is in fact specifically mentioned in the last will and testament of Lodovico Campo drawn up in 1766. During the 1740s Campo commissioned to Piazzetta a celebratory portrait of his ancestor, Count Gaspare Campo, the founder of the Accademia dei Concordi in Rovigo, as a gift to the Academy itself, which indirectly confirms a date around 1743 for our painting, as suggested by Rodolfo Pallucchini upon stylistic grounds.

Since publication by Pallucchini in 1956, our painting has been mentioned and reproduced in art-historical literature referring to Piazzetta. It was also mistakenly identified with a replica version which was in London with Sotheby’s in 1976 (8th December, lot 93) as the work of Francesco Capella, which suggested it was actually by Piazzetta’s workshop.

A third version known to us through a photograph with the Fondazione Cini, Venice, is certainly by the artist’s workshop. Its main difference from our painting and from the version formerly with Sotheby’s is an inventory number, 86, painted in oil, lower right; it doesn’t match any identified collection inventory, thus far.

 

Our painting was described by Pallucchini as marking the beginning of a new, classical phase in Piazzetta’s development in the early 1740s, with firmly outlined figures and  stronger chiaroscuro contributing to balanced, somewhat academic compositions. It may be compared to other religious subjects painted for private patrons, such as St Anthony adoring the Christ Child (Zagreb, National Gallery) (see Pallucchini, 1956, fig. 92), and the Holy Family in a private collection (ibidem, fig. 94) from the same period.

 

 

Biographical notes

Giovan Battista Piazzetta was born in Venice in 1682, the son of a wood carver. He was first educated in his father’s workshop and in the workshop of little-known Silvestro Mainago. In 1697 he became a pupil of Antonio Molinari. He went to Bologna, where he studied the work of Giuseppe Crespi, and was back in Venice by 1711 when he enrolled in the “Fraglia” (professional guild) of painters.

Among his early public works, an altarpiece for the “Scuola dell’Angelo Custode” (Confraternity of the Guardian Angel) painted in 1717-18 should be mentioned, as well as “St. James’ Capture” for the church of San Stae, actually his youthful masterpiece, and “St. Dominic’s glory” for the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo.

In 1727 he was offered membership of Accademia Clementina in Bologna, which proved his reputation was well established outside his native city. Piazzetta’s secular works were also famous and much sought after by private patrons, which prompted a very efficient workshop organization from the 1740s onwards.

Piazzetta also was a very fine and prolific draughtsman, as shown by his corpus of drawings and prints, many of them made as book illustrations from 1724 onwards.

Among his patrons, Marshal Matthias von Schulenburgh should be mentioned, a celebrated connoisseur to whom Giovan Battista Piazzetta was the artistic advisor from 1738 to 1745. He also painted for him thirteen works in oils and nineteen drawings.

In 1750 Piazzetta became the director of the “Scuola di Nudo” (School of Design after nude models) of the Venice painting Academy. He died in Venice in 1754.

 

 

 

 

Estimate    80.000 / 120.000
7

Florentine manufacture, early 17th century
A TABLETOP
in polychrome stone commesso work, cm. 101 x 120.5


An export licence in available for this lot.

The tabletop decoration is composed of a tondo within a cartouche in the centre square, surrounded by a framing band marked out by alternating octagons and rhombi. The vivid polychromy of the whole is obtained exclusively through use of marbles and stones of archaeological provenance, exception made for the black ‘marble’ from Flanders used for the background of the centre portion and the outlines of the framing strip.

The centre tondo and the rhombi in the frame are in verde antico, a Greek marble in wide use in the Roman era and much valued from the Renaissance onward. In ancient times the stone was quarried in several localities in Thessaly; the different markings and tonalities that the green may assume depend on provenance. This is evident in our tabletop, in the differences we see between the four rhombi and the centre tondo, which may well have originated as a section of a column. The tondo is outlined with a strip of giallo antico marble from Numidia, while the cartouche enclosing it is largely formed of sections of Spanish broccatello, a stone which owes its notable decorative impact to the golden and purplish veins which give it the appearance of a brocade and which was in wide use in the Imperial era. The four exterior volutes of the cartouche are in a rare type of alabaster, originally from what is now Algeria, known as alabastro a pecorella, edged with rosso antico marble from the Tenaro promontory in Greece. The four internal volutes are in breccia from Egypt, whose quarries were heavily exploited by the Romans. The surrounding band is in alabastro fiorito, also of Egyptian provenance, while the four corner octagons are in breccia d’Aleppo, from the Greek island of Chios, a stone that was greatly sought-after by re-users of archaeological marbles (1)
In the past, the tabletop was divided into halves (a quite common operation, also seen, for example, in the tabletop shown in Figure 5) to obtain two console table tops from a single original slab.

 

The technique used for the tabletop is known as commesso: the various stone shapes composing the design, precision-cut in advance to the outlines called for by the design and then filed along their whole depth to guarantee a perfect fit, were assembled on a 5-cm ca. support slab of white marble. The stone ‘cutouts’ were then glued onto the support using an adhesive composed of wax and colophony (rosin). This technique, also known as ‘Florentine mosaic’ since it was in Florence that it was perfected and raised to extraordinarily virtuoso levels, descends from the opus sectile technique developed in ancient Rome, where from early geometric essays the artists went on to create more complex figurative compositions. The evolution of the technique in the Florence of the Medici grand dukes proceeded in an analogous manner; here, the first commesso works were aniconic but over the course of the 1600s they developed into the sophisticated ‘paintings in stone’ on naturalistic or narrative subjects created at the exclusive Galleria dei Lavori established by Ferdinando I in 1588 (2).

Initially, from the latter decades of the 1500s to the early years of the following century, the Florentine works drew their inspiration from models that had been in vogue in Rome since the mid-1500s, both for polychrome stone architectural cladding, introduced to Florence by Giovanni Antonio Dosio (1533-1611) beginning in the 1570s, and for tabletops, at length the form of interior stone furnishing most in demand. It is not always easy to identify the Florentine origin of a table with absolute certainty; with their Roman counterparts, they share employ of archaeological marbles and a taste for aniconic compositions not dissimilar to architectural stone tarsias. It is not by chance that among the earliest authors of models for tables of this type, in both Rome and Florence, we note architects such as Vignola and Dosio, several of whose designs for tabletops are conserved in the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe of the Uffizi.

 

In the case of our tabletop, numerous elements suggest that it is a Florentine work, beginning with the technique, which excludes inlay in favour of commesso. Inlay, prevalent in Rome, is another ancient technique which involves chiselling the white marble backing slab to create cavities, or casse; the sections of polychrome marble are fitted into the casse and remain outlined by the strips (cigli) of the white marble of the backing left in view (Fig. 1). he presence of black marble from Flanders in the top also suggests Florence, as the city showed a precocious partiality to this material: it was chosen as the centre rectangle of one of the oldest tables in Palazzo Pitti (Fig. 2), which with our tabletop shares the inspiration offered by the architectural tarsias.

 The model for the Pitti table would seem to be the geometrising rigour of Dosio’s polychrome mural works, while our tabletop denotes a more advanced taste in the elaborate centre cartouche, which echoes those by Giovanni Caccini (1556-1613) on the pillars and the arches of the ciborium in the church of Santo Spirito in Florence (Fig. 3), begun in 1599 and completed in 1608 (3). Sculptor and architect, Caccini was Dosio’s disciple and in turn contributed to spreading the taste for polychrome surfaces in Florentine architecture. The theme of the cartouche enclosed in rectangular frames returns in decoration of the Pucci chapel in the church of Santissima Annunziata (Fig. 4), begun by Caccini in 1605, as it does in the two aediculae with Saints Peter and Paul in the tribune of the same basilica, created by Caccini in the first decade of the century. Caccini was also active as a sculptor and restorer of ancient statuary, and in this role he was in close contact with Niccolò Gaddi, one of Florence’s first and most refined collectors of tables ‘of beautiful stone’ (4).

Another element that points to Florence as the origin of our tabletop is the outline band, with its distanced, symmetric geometric figures, which is structurally analogous to that of a top in pietre dure (Fig. 5), known to be Florentine, in a private collection, and that of a later top that clearly reflects the new taste for naturalistic patterns (Fig. 6), in the museum of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure.

 

Annamaria Giusti

 

 

Florence, 21 April 2018

 

 

 

1) On the origins and characteristic of breccia d’Aleppo see L. Lazzarini, ‘La scoperta dell’origine chiota della breccia d’Aleppo’ in A. Giusti (ed.), Eternità e nobiltà di materia. Itinerario artistico fra le pietre policrome (Florence, 1988), pp. 139-168. On archaeological marble in general, refer to R. Gnoli, Marmora romana (Rome, 1988); R. Borghini (ed.), Marmi antichi (Rome, 1989); C. Napoleone, Delle pietre antiche. Il trattato sui marmi romani di Faustino Corsi (Rome, 2001).

2) For the history of the grand-ducal manufactory, see A. Giusti, L’arte delle pietre dure da Firenze all’ Europa. (Florence, 2005) with bibliography of earlier literature.

3) For the altar/ciborium complex in Santo Spirito, which echoes the illustrious model of that for the Chapel of the Princes, under construction in the same years at Ferdinando I’s manufactory, see A. Giusti, Tesori di pietre dure a Firenze (Milan, 1989), pp. 51-54.

4) Agostino del Riccio writes of his contemporary Gaddi and the latter’s passion for polychrome works in stone in his Istoria delle pietre, written in Florence in 1596 and dedicated to those who delighted in ‘beautiful and useful stones’. See the edition edited by R. Gnoli (Turin, 1996).

 

 

 

 

Estimate    60.000 / 90.000
Price realized  Registration
8

A PAIR OF MID-EIGHTEENTH CENTURY COMMODES, PAPAL STATE - ROME
poplar carcase, with elm and walnut burl veneers, padauk and satinwood inlays, wood and gilded bronze mounts, 88 x137.5 x 58 cm

The rhythmically alternating concave and convex shapes, highlighted by the light and dark wood inlays, firmly place this pair of commodes in the artistic climate of the mid-eighteenth century. During that period, throughout Italy, from north to south, the lavish and even ostentatious Baroque style was making way for the more graceful Rococo that transposed society’s natural evolution towards a more relaxed manner  into art.

Almost as if to counteract the love of symmetry that had characterized the seventeenth century with furniture that often recalled architecture, in the Age of the Enlightenment lines became quick and quite frequently daring, in a continuous play of “full and empty”, and  light and dark often enhanced by different colors and species of wood. There was no room for straight lines unless they were used to contrast curves, and this can be seen on the tops of the commodes shown here. The gently curving line is brusquely interrupted in the chamfered  corners, creating an effect that is strengthened by the chromatic contrasts of the two types of burl with a lighter wood contour, and then it is all enclosed by gilded wood carved in a motif of concave ovals alternating with diagonal lines that recalls bronze trims.

However, it is not so much the top as the front and sides that prove that this pair dates from the period of Louis XV. The shape, that first arches boldly inward immediately below the top, suddenly bursts into bombé on the front and sides, to descend to the apron with its gentle concave curves. The front edges that resemble pilaster strips, albeit without classic geometric stiffness, also continue the effect, opening into a wide outward curve, and then descending in the opposite direction down to the legs which also repeat the sinuous lines as they flare slightly.

The shape of the commodes, with sides that widen at the back permit a frontal view, highlight the sinuous contours of the sides, enhancing the rhythmically fluent lines, in a play of curves that continues from the front to the sides.

It is as much because of the shape as the gilded, plant-motif mounts that enhance the escutcheons, the pulls and the top parts of the edges, that these commodes are significantly comparable to other mid-eighteenth century pieces made for important clients in Rome. The lavish gilded bronze and wood mounts, along with different types of woods are similar to the Boncompagni-Ludovisi  commodes (see fig. 1). The shape of the tops, which in our pieces are burl rather than marble, with the oval-motif trim, along with the curvilinear shape that creates “full and empty” spaces as it moves along the corners from the front, and the contoured drawers that follow and emphasize the overall pattern of the body, make our pieces similar to the one in the F. Tuena Collection (see fig. 2).

 

Comparative Bibliography

G. Lizzani, Il mobile romano, Milan 1970, pp. 119-120;

A. González Palacios (ed.), Fasto romano - dipinti, sculture, arredi dai palazzi di Roma, Rome exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Sacchetti, 15 May - 30 June 1991, Rome 1991

 

 

 

Estimate    40.000 / 60.000
Price realized  Registration
9

A PAIR OF MONUMENTAL TORCHÈRES, LONDON, 1830 CA.

in gilded bronze. With a shaped triangular platform on which rest three winged ferine paws supporting the tripod stand, decorated at the corners with leonine masks with long ram’s horns and carved along the sides with recessed bands of repeating plant motifs, on which the base rests. The base is in the form of large acanthus leaves flaring open in a downward direction and caught at the top by a ring with baccellatura decoration; the grooved stem, tapering upward, which departs from this point, is sculpted at the bottom with repeats of long, upward-pointing leaves, followed by a band chiselled with repeats of small, overlapping lanceolate leaves and culminating in a capital with long lanceolate leaves; the narrow neck over the capital supports a disk, engraved with baccellature, which in turn supports a cup of flaring acanthus leaves from which there rise fourteen arms in the form of volutes, decorated with ramages of foliage on two orders and framing a central arm. Size: 250 x 62 x 62 cm.

 

This pair of monumental torchères finds numerous comparison pieces in the production of the English Regency era, when many exemplars from antiquity were rediscovered and were often taken as models and as sources of inspiration for the manufacturing of the time. In particular, while in France the merit for kindling interest in the forms adopted in ancient Rome goes to architects Charles Percier and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine and their Recueil de Décorations Intérieures (1801), in England, in 1814, Moses published the repertoire entitled Vases, Altars, Paterae, Tripods, Candelabra, Sarcophagi, a collection of studies and illustrations of ancient models, in many cases marbles displayed at the Louvre. And this was the point of departure for a fruitful and highly successful production that is witnessed today by several of the exemplars which have come down to us and which are comparable with the torchères we are proposing here. In detail, our torchère shows many similarities with works attributed to William Collins, both in the overall design and in choice of decorative motifs. Collins was active in London between 1808 and 1852; among his most important patrons and main clients was the third Duke of Northumberland to whom, from 1822 to 1839, Collins supplied the entirety of his lighting fixtures in both gilded and patinated bronze, including the ‘5 Altar Pedestals with 5 Lamps for Grand Staircase’ cited in an invoice dated 23 March 1823 (C. Sykes, Private Palaces: Life in the Great London Houses. New York 1986, p. 239), which share many features with our torchères. Production of this model continued even through the decades following the Regency era, during which time some small variations were introduced, such as – and our piece offers an example – the addition of arms at the upper extremities. 

 

Francesco Larderel (see photo 1) was born François Jacques Larderel in Vienne, France, in 1789. During the Napoleonic era he moved to Livorno, where he was described in the 1814 almanacs as a ‘fancy-goods merchant’. But in the following fifteen years, he exploited the geothermic resources of the Volterra area to promote and develop the boric acid industry – and accumulated a considerable fortune. He started his boric acid venture in 1818, with Ana Gurliè and Francesco Prat and one extraction plant. French interests, centred in the Franco-Livornese communities, above all in his native region, and later on in Paris, capital of the French financial world, and English interests in Tuscany, joined Larderel and the expanding Tuscan company. Larderel’s 1830 purchase of two lots on what was then Via dei Condotti Nuovi to construct a four-storey residential palazzo (see photo 2), completed in 1832 at the cost of 70,000 Tuscan lire, marked the start of his social climb; the doors of the city nobility opened to him and his home became a centre of social and society life in the city. Embellished with exquisite furnishings and a collection of ancient and modern art, the palazzo carved for Larderel a place among the city’s art patrons and benefactors. In this connection, on 15 June 1858, having received news of Francesco de Larderel’s death, his fellow citizens of Livorno wrote that ‘in a city where commerce is everything, like Livorno, it is good to see the precious de Larderel gallery with its paintings and statues of our most illustrious ancestors’ and ‘if everyone perceived our country as did this Meritorious Citizen of Livorno, who of his own accord supported young engineers in studies of the “beautiful” in Florence and in Rome, who collected in such a brief time a rich and precious gallery with the intention of opening it to the public, the arts would have flowered more handsomely’. The de Larderel collection in the Livorno palazzo was soon one of the city attractions and was even touted to visitors: the 19th- and 20th-century tourist guides referred to it as one of the most worthwhile destinations on a tour of the city. Identification of the collection with the city was an established fact by 1874, when Riccardo Marzocchini published four photographs of the ‘Salotti e Gallerie’ of Palazzo de Larderel (see photo 3) in the volume entitled Album di vedute antiche e moderne di Livorno e dei suoi contorni. The palazzo and its collection reflect Francesco Larderel’s society career: by 1837 royal decree he was permitted to adopt the title of Count of Montecerboli, the locality in which he had ‘erected the grandiose borax plants’; not by chance, the de Larderel coat-of-arms carries the images of the fumaroles and the production plants (see photo 4). Besides with this title, which was later recognised as hereditary, de Larderel was named Cavaliere di San Giuseppe and also honoured with membership in the Casino di Nobili of Florence and the appointment of his son Enrico to the post of Royal Chamberlain (1851). De Larderel thus gained admittance to the grand ducal court and consequently, the chance for his heirs to marry into families of great prestige and ancient nobility, such as the Rucellais and the Salviatis, and finally the House of Savoy: in 1872, Francesco’s granddaughter Bianca married the morganatic son of the king of Italy, Emanuele Alberto, Count of Mirafiori.

 

Comparative literature

L. Frattarelli Fischer, M.T. Lazzarini (eds.), Palazzo de Larderel a Livorno. La rappresentazione di un’ascesa sociale nella Toscana dell’Ottocento. Milano 1992.

Estimate    30.000 / 50.000
Price realized  Registration
10

Osvaldo Borsani

(Varedo 1911 – Milan 1985)

Lucio Fontana

(Rosario de Santa Fè 1899 – Varese 1968)

A CONSOLE, 1950

Manufactured by Arredamenti Borsani Varedo

top in black slate with sculptural support element in sculpted, lacquered and gilded wood

92 x 250 x 49 cm

Project no. 7234/2 of 1950 for Arredamenti Borsani Varedo

Certificate of authenticity from the Archivio Osvaldo Borsani, no. 47/2018, dated 25 July 2018


An export licence is available for this lot.

Provenance

Rome, private collection

 

Literature

I. De Gutry - M.P. Maino, Il mobile italiano degli anni 40 e 50, Roma 2010, p. 112, n. 14;

G. Bosoni, Tecno. L’eleganza discreta della tecnica, Milano 2011, p. 24;

G. Bosoni, Osvaldo Borsani. Architetto, designer, imprenditore, Milano 2018, pp. 360-361, p. 566 n. 1950.7234

 

Comparative literature

G Gramigna - F. Irace, Osvaldo Borsani, Roma 1992, pp. 194-195;

N. Foster, T. Fantoni (ed.), Osvaldo Borsani, exh. cat. Triennale di Milano (16 May – 16 September 2018), Milano 2018, p. 75 n. 093, p. 94

 

Osvaldo Borsani, born in Varedo in 1911, was the son of Gaetano, a furniture builder at the famed Atelier di Varedo. He took his diploma in fine arts at the Accademia di Belle Arti before going on to the Politecnico di Milano, where he earned his degree in architecture in 1937. A precocious talent, while he was still a student he presented his ‘Casa Minima’, a rationalist project applied to everyday living space. At the V Milan Triennale; in 1941 he designed Villa Pesenti in Forte dei Marmi; Villa Borsani of Varedo, on which project he invited such young artists as Adriano Spilimbergo, Fausto Melotti and Lucio Fontana to collaborate, dates instead to 1943. His work with these artists developed into dozens of projects commissioned by Milan’s bourgeoisie; in particular, he worked intensively with Lucio Fontana, a friend since his Accademia days. One still extant sign of this association is the 1956 metal balustrade of the facade of Via Monte Napoleone 27, the building designed by Borsani as family residence and headquarters of the Tecno company.

Borsani’s earliest work was at the Atelier di Varedo – renamed Arredamenti Borsani Varedo (ABV) in the 1920s – whose products were prevalently ‘furniture in neo-Renaissance style’ typical of the Brianza tradition, even though the works presented by the Atelier at the 1925 and 1927 editions of the Monza Biennale began to feature more essential, more geometric lines. Borsani made his official debut in the early Thirties at the IV Monza Triennale; when he showed at the V Milan Triennale for the first time in 1933, the 21-year-old student already demonstrated a stylistic maturity and an orientation toward the rationalist codes. In those years, the Atelier received important orders which were filled by a new manufactory and presented at the shop/design studio opened in 1932 in Milan’s Via Monte Napoleone 6. Throughout the Thirties and Forties, Borsani was occupied principally with design of interiors for prestigious homes; during these years, he initiated and consolidated collaborative relationships with such artists as Agenore Fabbri, Lucio Fontana, Aligi Sassu, Roberto Crippa, Fausto Melotti and Arnaldo Pomodoro. Borsani requested the artists to contribute to design of ceilings, handles, shelving, doorframes, fireplaces and numerous other furnishing elements. His success, both artistic and commercial, was resounding; production continued even during the war years, after which Borsani channelled his energies into his project for passing from traditional artisan to industrial production. 

Artist Lucio Fontana was an indispensable ‘co-star’ of this important redefinition of interiors. His unique and original, fluctuating Spatialist sign, with its Baroque overtones, permeates and shapes the ceilings, the walls and at times even the furniture of the homes decorated under Osvaldo Borsanì’s skilful direction.

The early post-war years were very fertile and rewarding for the Varedo atelier as its occasions to design for important private and public clients increased. Its collaborative efforts with the interesting circle of artists mentioned above also intensified and became a hallmark that set its work apart. Beginning with the Gulinello home in Milan (1947-1950), a large part of the original furnishings of which Pandolfini Casa d’Aste rediscovered and put up for sale between 2014 and 2015, the atelier’s work is clearly marked by this collaboration; it is also readily apparent just how the artists’ contributions, in this case Lucio Fontana’s, are integrated with the furnishings produced by the atelier. It was not a simple question of making use of designs and sculptures; the art was an intrinsic part of the furnishing elements, and vice-versa; examples include bar cabinets, coffee tables, wall-mounted consoles. 

 

Osvaldo Borsani and Lucio Fontana

Lucio Fontana was frequently there. Osvaldo often asked him to execute works, especially for sculptural decoration in ceramic: chimney-pieces, ceilings, doorways… At that time in Milan artists and architects in the excellent company of poets such as Leonardo Sinisgalli, philosophers such as Enzo Paci, critics and art historians such as Gillo Dorfles and Guido Ballo. And Osvaldo continued to play a key role in this culturally vital milieu. In this period, Fontana was the great artist who inspired a whole generation of younger painters and sculptors, some of whom were seeking work. The generosity of Osvaldo Borsani was shared by Fontana. Ideas were born of this common sentiment, ways in which the artist could intervene at the design stage. For this reason, Fontana was not merely someone who sometimes worked for the firm; for Osvaldo he was a friend whose professional services he could call on for more personal ends. Thus was born the idea of getting him to execute sculptural portraits of the closest members of his family, such as his Fontana’s exceptional capacity to model materials transformed a person’s physiognomy into an unforgettable work of art. Fontana often dropped into the shop in Via Montenapoleone, chatted to the architect, arranged to meet other artists and joked with Osvaldo’s daughters, Donatella and Valeria. At that time he was the most avant-garde artist in Milan, and he was especially generous especially with regard to young talent: often a word was enough, but frequently his generosity went much further. Osvaldo Borsani and Lucio Fontana were two outstanding figures in Milan in the sixties. Exhibitions of artists, both Italian and foreign, were often held at the shop. The relationship between art and industry had become a normal state of affairs. Fontana designed supports and ornamentation for tables and balconies; he made objects and decorative elements in ceramic; Fausto Melotti created ornamentation for bathrooms; Adriano di Spilimbergo designed panels for doors and tiles; Arnaldo Pomodoro, decoration and headboards for beds.

It was practically a Renaissance workshop...

 

A. Colonetti (ed.), Frammenti e ricordi di un percorso progettuale, Milano 1996, p. 43

 

Estimate    60.000 / 90.000
Price realized  Registration
11

Gio Ponti

(Milan. 1891-1972)

A PAIR OF CORNER CABINETS FOR THE CONTINI BONACOSSI RESIDENCE, VILLA VITTORIA, FLORENCE, 1932

walnut, brass, glass

Manufactured by Quarti cabinet-makers of Milan

height: 256 cm, depth: 55 cm

Appraisal delivered by the Gio Ponti Archives, no. 18145/000, on 10 September 2018


An export licence is available for this lot.


Provenance

Residenza Contini Bonacossi, Villa Vittoria, Florence;

Private collection by descent from the above, Florence

 

Literature

Alcuni mobili di Tomaso Buzzi e di Gio Ponti nella dimora dei Conti C. in Firenze, “Domus”, n. 71, November 1933, pp. 578-579;

U. La Pietra (ed.), Gio Ponti, Milano 1995, p. 50 fig. 116;

E. Colle, A. Lazzeri, Villa Vittoria. Da residenza signorile a Palazzo dei Congressi di Firenze, Firenze 1995, p. 75;

I. de Guttry, M.P. Maino, Il mobile déco italiano. 1920-1940, Bari 2006, p. 214 fig. 16


VILLA VITTORIA. GLI AMBIENTI ED IL LORO ARREDO

Enrico Colle

Alessandro Contini Bonacossi was born in Ancona in 1878. With his wife Vittoria Galli, he commenced his activity as a collector and dealer in paintings and sculptures, primarily works by artists of the Italian schools, during his stay in Spain, which lasted until 1918 when he moved to Rome with his family.  During those years, Contini travelled many times to the United States, where he met numerous fellow collectors with whom – besides closing advantageous deals which permitted him to considerably augment his collection – he forged lasting friendships. Thanks to their frequentation of the homes of New York’s magnates and to their relationship with Piemontese industrialist and collector Riccardo Gualino, an attentive admirer of the trends in the art and architecture of his time, the Continis developed a refined taste in furniture and furnishings as well.

When they moved to Florence, Alessandro and Vittoria Contini Bonacossi’s appreciation of the solemn and at the same time functional villa built by Marchese Massimiliano Strozzi in that area of the city which at the time was still known as Valfonda was immediate; they saw the building – of recent construction but of noble origins – as the ideal venue to which to transfer their collection. The spacious rooms, with their austere neo-16th-century decoration, were well suited to showcasing the masterpieces of Italian Renaissance and Baroque painting and sculpture which the Continis had purchased, along with objets d’art and furniture, from the very early years of the 20th century onward; and the top floor of the villa lent itself admirably to rational reconstruction for conversion into a comfortable, elegant living space. The villa was purchased in 1931, renamed Villa Vittoria in honour of Contini’s wife, and soon refurbished according to precise museum layout criteria: the ground and first floors became home to the old masters collection, while the second floor, where the owners also lived, hosted works by contemporary artists.

During the years the family was in Florence, the best-known private collections were those of Frederick Stibbert, Herbert Horne, Stefano Bardini and Elia Volpi. A common denominator linked all these collections, amassed between the late 1800’s and the early years of the 20th century: imaginative, original arrangements of the pieces in rooms filled to capacity with objects and artworks. The only non-adherent to this style was Bernard Berenson, who in his villa I Tatti arranged his paintings and objets-d’art along the walls at a correct distance to keep them from ‘interacting’ with one another. The Continis took Berenson’s home as their model and placed their period pieces in sober, suggestive surroundings that strongly favoured rarefaction over accumulation. Then again, over the course of the Twenties Italian architects and interior designers tended more and more to exclude profuse displays of objects in rooms, preferring a style of furnishing that was more functional but in which even the work of ancient art had its precise place.

Complementing their celebrated collection of ancient art, the Continis had also begun to purchase works by contemporary artists, which they arranged on the top floor of the villa where the family habitually resided; a special layout was created, with furnishings designed by then-emerging architects Gio Ponti and Tommaso Buzzi of Milan and Giulio Rosso of Rome. The apartment, completed in 1932 or at the latest in the winter of the following year, was the subject of an article published in the November 1933 issue of Domus magazine: alongside numerous images of the rooms, the article pointed up how the architects had succeeded in harmoniously introducing the Continis’ works of contemporary art and their own modern furniture into a ‘purely classical Florentine ambience’. The challenge here was, in fact, to create furnishings that could serve the owners’ everyday living needs and at the same time valorise the family’s superb collection of paintings and sculptures by modern Italian artists. The choices of the two architects of the neoclassical Milanese school, which looked to the Lombard artisan tradition of which Albertolli and Maggiolini were the foremost exponents, seconded that univocal stance against the eclecticism reminiscent of D’Annunzio and Umberto I promoted by the Contini Bonacossi family. In the furniture designed for the ‘Vittoria’s Bedchamber’ and the ‘Modern Painting Gallery’, Buzzi and Ponti reprised several ideas from the designs for interiors presented at a contest called in 1926 by Rivista illustrata del popolo d'ltalia magazine, the theme of which was the furnishing of an Italian embassy. On that occasion, as later on in the furniture for the Continis, Ponti and Buzzi united the wall decorations with the furnishings with ‘delicate art and sure instinct’, drawing on ‘the late 18th-, early 19th-century Italian tradition’ without slavishly serving it. The two architects, as we read in the pages of Architettura e Arti Decorative magazine, succeeded in avoiding ‘the dual danger of excessive adherence to the forms of the ancient styles and of a facile orientation toward forms that are undoubtedly noble and modern, but not Italian’.

 

 

OMAGGIO A GIO PONTI, CATALOGO DELLA MOSTRA AL PALAZZO DELLA PERMANENTE, MILANO 1980

Rossana Bossaglia

 

Between 1930 and 1931, as the dates on the preparatory drawings for the project tell us, Gio Ponti began designing a set of items of furniture for the palazzo of the Contini Bonacossi family in Florence, beginning with those for the picture gallery: benches, chairs, a low table, consolles. The work continued with furnishing of various other spaces in the home . . . Ponti designed various other pieces of furniture, and in particular a grouping for the large lounge/sitting room . . .

The sequence of furniture we owe to Ponti lends itself admirably to a simplification of the passage from the Deco style – of which Ponti was a star in the first post-war decade – to the Novecento style . . .

Furnishing of the Contini home was a golden opportunity to design a suite which was luxurious but not simply for show; one which did not forgo any criterion of habitability, especially in the case of the pieces designed for the comfortable sitting room, designed to project a easygoing tone and a soft-pedalled opulence . . .

In his passage to the furnishings of the sitting room, irony falls by the wayside; Ponti again finds his inspiration in presumptive Roman furnishings. Lithe outlines, with their evident linear tensions, are replaced by full, solemn and at the same time placid forms which not only better correspond to the ‘warmer’ concept of an ambience given over to conversation and passing the time but also to a concept of sustained decorum. The intellectual game has bowed to an ideal exhumation: well-being is underlined by the peaceful middle-class appearance of the whole, while the expressive salvo and stressing of the room’s importance are left to archaeological inspiration.

In regard of these furnishings, produced by a highly elaborate technique by a quality manufactory, that of Mario Quarti, we may speak of an ‘aulic Novecento’; that is, a style which interprets the rationalist lesson in the sense that it rejects a brash predominance of decoration but, as it re-proposes symbolic ancient models, aligns itself more with neoclassical than with functional architecture.

That even at this point on his inventive parabola Ponti, underneath it all, flashes a sly smile is also true: the artist is never totally ‘serious’ or staid; his talent lies in gracefulness. The idea of an refined, exclusive ambience that in a modern key mock-mimics classical antiquity is an idea, it has been said, that is not ironic – but certainly brilliant. It is the response of a just man to the strutting archaeological academicism of the 1930s.

 

 

 

VILLA VITTORIA DA RESIDENZA SIGNORILE A PALAZZO DEI CONGRESSI IN FIRENZE, FIRENZE 1995, P. 9

Federico Zeri

 

Widely known for its collections of ‘ancient’ art, Villa Vittoria was also (on its second floor, where the owners resided) a masterpiece of Italian 20th-century interior furnishing. I can’t imagine where, today, one could find furniture and the other furnishings designed by Tommaso Buzzi and by Gio Ponti and manufactured by such masterful cabinet-makers and bronze-workers . . .

Those desks, those chairs, those doors, those bookcases opened my eyes to the exceptional quality of the inventiveness, the ‘style’, and the workmanship that characterised Italian architecture and artisan production from the late 1920s through the following decade.

 

GIO PONTI

Milan 1891-1972

Gio Ponti was a key figure in the history of Italian design, the most authoritative artificer of renewal in the Italian decorative arts in the Twenties and Thirties. Appearing on the design scene during a period of great stylistic uncertainty, he responded to the call for a ‘return to order’ that wound through the European art world at the time, identifying recovery of classicism as the road to overcoming the confusion and poor taste of the prevailing neo-eclecticism. He was blessed with inexhaustible creative exuberance and approached architecture and design of objects and furnishings with equal commitment; whenever the occasion arose, with his words, writings, exhibitions, works, he fought to circulate his conceptions of aesthetics and culture.

Chiefly as concerned furnishings, and furniture design in particular, Ponti’s ‘well-mannered’ yet ironic neoclassical taste, ideally derived from early 19th-century Lombard style, was so original and incisive as to gain a premier place for itself and stand as a model for other designers. In the second half of the Twenties, a real, although non-institutionalised, ‘Milanese School’ coalesced around Ponti and the architects most closely-associated with him – Buzzi, Lancia and Marelli. Ponti’s items of furniture, with their unadorned, graceful profiles and exquisite artisan workmanship, in precious woods finished with metal trim – in gilded, silvered, green-patinated bronze – are one-of-a-kind luxury pieces intended for a wealthy upper middle class clientele.

 

 

LA CASA ALL'ITALIANA

La casa all’italiana non è il rifugio, imbottito e guarnito, degli abitatori contro le durezze del clima, come è delle abitazioni d’oltralpe ove la vita cerca, per lunghi mesi, riparo dalla natura inclemente: la casa all’italiana è come il luogo scelto da noi per godere in vita nostra, con lieta possessione, le bellezze che le nostre terre e i nostri cieli ci regalano in lunghe stagioni…

La casa all’italiana è di fuori e di dentro senza complicazioni, accoglie suppellettili e belle opere d’arte e vuole ordine e spazio fra di esse e non folla o miscuglio. Giunge ad esser ricca con i modi della grandezza, non con quelli soli della preziosità.

Il suo disegno non discende dalle sole esigenze materiali del vivere, essa non è soltanto una “machine à habiter”. Il cosiddetto “comfort” non è nella casa all’italiana solo nella rispondenza delle cose alle necessità, ai bisogni, ai comodi della nostra vita ed alla organizzazione dei servizi.

Codesto suo “comfort” è in qualcosa di superiore, esso è nel darci con l’architettura una misura per i nostri stessi pensieri, nel darci con la sua semplicità una salute per i nostri costumi, nel darci con la sua larga accoglienza il senso di una vita confidente e numerosa, ed è infine, per quel suo facile, lieto e ornato aprirsi fuori e comunicare con la natura, nell’invito che la casa all’italiana offre al nostro spirito di ricrearsi in riposanti visioni di pace, nel che consiste, nel pieno senso della bella parola italiana, il conforto.

 

Gio Ponti, in Domus, Gennaio 1928

 

 

MODERNO O NON MODERNO

Si disente e fervorosamente su questi termini. Vi son pochi argomenti anzi che più di questo facciano inferocire gli spiriti. Io vedo spesso brave, calme, educate persone congestionarsi perdere le staffe, perder lo stile appena pronunciano queste fatali parole: moderno, novecento. Non voglio certo attaccare polemiche: questa pianta fiorisce già da se nei giardini artistico-letterari d’Italia. Lasciamo andare anche le designazioni particolari che ha l’appellativo di novecento riferito a gruppi d’artisti, e badiamo invece al fenomeno. Lasciamo andare polemiche, definizioni, uomini, parti e fazioni e guardiamoci attorno considerando cose moderne o novecento quelle che sono del millenovecento.

Gio Ponti, in Domus, Novembre 1933

 

Estimate    90.000 / 120.000
Price realized  Registration
12

Gio Ponti

(Milan. 1891-1972)

A COFFEE TABLE FOR THE CONTINI BONACOSSI RESIDENCE, VILLA VITTORIA, FLORENCE, 1932

walnut, gilded brass

height: 56 cm, diameter: 79.4 cm

Bronze nameplate reading ‘Gio Ponti’ on one leg

Appraisal delivered by the Gio Ponti Archives, no. 18144/000, on 10 September 2018 


An export licence is available for this lot.

Provenance

Residenza Contini Bonacossi, Villa Vittoria, Florence;

Private collection by descent from the above, Florence

 

VILLA VITTORIA. GLI AMBIENTI ED IL LORO ARREDO

Enrico Colle

 

Alessandro Contini Bonacossi was born in Ancona in 1878. With his wife Vittoria Galli, he commenced his activity as a collector and dealer in paintings and sculptures, primarily works by artists of the Italian schools, during his stay in Spain, which lasted until 1918 when he moved to Rome with his family.  During those years, Contini travelled many times to the United States, where he met numerous fellow collectors with whom – besides closing advantageous deals which permitted him to considerably augment his collection – he forged lasting friendships. Thanks to their frequentation of the homes of New York’s magnates and to their relationship with Piemontese industrialist and collector Riccardo Gualino, an attentive admirer of the trends in the art and architecture of his time, the Continis developed a refined taste in furniture and furnishings as well.

When they moved to Florence, Alessandro and Vittoria Contini Bonacossi’s appreciation of the solemn and at the same time functional villa built by Marchese Massimiliano Strozzi in that area of the city which at the time was still known as Valfonda was immediate; they saw the building – of recent construction but of noble origins – as the ideal venue to which to transfer their collection. The spacious rooms, with their austere neo-16th-century decoration, were well suited to showcasing the masterpieces of Italian Renaissance and Baroque painting and sculpture which the Continis had purchased, along with objets d’art and furniture, from the very early years of the 20th century onward; and the top floor of the villa lent itself admirably to rational reconstruction for conversion into a comfortable, elegant living space. The villa was purchased in 1931, renamed Villa Vittoria in honour of Contini’s wife, and soon refurbished according to precise museum layout criteria: the ground and first floors became home to the old masters collection, while the second floor, where the owners also lived, hosted works by contemporary artists.

During the years the family was in Florence, the best-known private collections were those of Frederick Stibbert, Herbert Horne, Stefano Bardini and Elia Volpi. A common denominator linked all these collections, amassed between the late 1800’s and the early years of the 20th century: imaginative, original arrangements of the pieces in rooms filled to capacity with objects and artworks. The only non-adherent to this style was Bernard Berenson, who in his villa I Tatti arranged his paintings and objets-d’art along the walls at a correct distance to keep them from ‘interacting’ with one another. The Continis took Berenson’s home as their model and placed their period pieces in sober, suggestive surroundings that strongly favoured rarefaction over accumulation. Then again, over the course of the Twenties Italian architects and interior designers tended more and more to exclude profuse displays of objects in rooms, preferring a style of furnishing that was more functional but in which even the work of ancient art had its precise place.

Complementing their celebrated collection of ancient art, the Continis had also begun to purchase works by contemporary artists, which they arranged on the top floor of the villa where the family habitually resided; a special layout was created, with furnishings designed by then-emerging architects Gio Ponti and Tommaso Buzzi of Milan and Giulio Rosso of Rome. The apartment, completed in 1932 or at the latest in the winter of the following year, was the subject of an article published in the November 1933 issue of Domus magazine: alongside numerous images of the rooms, the article pointed up how the architects had succeeded in harmoniously introducing the Continis’ works of contemporary art and their own modern furniture into a ‘purely classical Florentine ambience’. The challenge here was, in fact, to create furnishings that could serve the owners’ everyday living needs and at the same time valorise the family’s superb collection of paintings and sculptures by modern Italian artists. The choices of the two architects of the neoclassical Milanese school, which looked to the Lombard artisan tradition of which Albertolli and Maggiolini were the foremost exponents, seconded that univocal stance against the eclecticism reminiscent of D’Annunzio and Umberto I promoted by the Contini Bonacossi family. In the furniture designed for the ‘Vittoria’s Bedchamber’ and the ‘Modern Painting Gallery’, Buzzi and Ponti reprised several ideas from the designs for interiors presented at a contest called in 1926 by Rivista illustrata del popolo d'ltalia magazine, the theme of which was the furnishing of an Italian embassy. On that occasion, as later on in the furniture for the Continis, Ponti and Buzzi united the wall decorations with the furnishings with ‘delicate art and sure instinct’, drawing on ‘the late 18th-, early 19th-century Italian tradition’ without slavishly serving it. The two architects, as we read in the pages of Architettura e Arti Decorative magazine, succeeded in avoiding ‘the dual danger of excessive adherence to the forms of the ancient styles and of a facile orientation toward forms that are undoubtedly noble and modern, but not Italian’.

 

 

OMAGGIO A GIO PONTI, CATALOGO DELLA MOSTRA AL PALAZZO DELLA PERMANENTE, MILANO 1980

Rossana Bossaglia

 

Between 1930 and 1931, as the dates on the preparatory drawings for the project tell us, Gio Ponti began designing a set of items of furniture for the palazzo of the Contini Bonacossi family in Florence, beginning with those for the picture gallery: benches, chairs, a low table, consolles. The work continued with furnishing of various other spaces in the home . . . Ponti designed various other pieces of furniture, and in particular a grouping for the large lounge/sitting room . . .

The sequence of furniture we owe to Ponti lends itself admirably to a simplification of the passage from the Deco style – of which Ponti was a star in the first post-war decade – to the Novecento style . . .

Furnishing of the Contini home was a golden opportunity to design a suite which was luxurious but not simply for show; one which did not forgo any criterion of habitability, especially in the case of the pieces designed for the comfortable sitting room, designed to project a easygoing tone and a soft-pedalled opulence . . .

In his passage to the furnishings of the sitting room, irony falls by the wayside; Ponti again finds his inspiration in presumptive Roman furnishings. Lithe outlines, with their evident linear tensions, are replaced by full, solemn and at the same time placid forms which not only better correspond to the ‘warmer’ concept of an ambience given over to conversation and passing the time but also to a concept of sustained decorum. The intellectual game has bowed to an ideal exhumation: well-being is underlined by the peaceful middle-class appearance of the whole, while the expressive salvo and stressing of the room’s importance are left to archaeological inspiration.

In regard of these furnishings, produced by a highly elaborate technique by a quality manufactory, that of Mario Quarti, we may speak of an ‘aulic Novecento’; that is, a style which interprets the rationalist lesson in the sense that it rejects a brash predominance of decoration but, as it re-proposes symbolic ancient models, aligns itself more with neoclassical than with functional architecture.

That even at this point on his inventive parabola Ponti, underneath it all, flashes a sly smile is also true: the artist is never totally ‘serious’ or staid; his talent lies in gracefulness. The idea of an refined, exclusive ambience that in a modern key mock-mimics classical antiquity is an idea, it has been said, that is not ironic – but certainly brilliant. It is the response of a just man to the strutting archaeological academicism of the 1930s.

 

 

 

VILLA VITTORIA DA RESIDENZA SIGNORILE A PALAZZO DEI CONGRESSI IN FIRENZE, FIRENZE 1995, P. 9

Federico Zeri

 

Widely known for its collections of ‘ancient’ art, Villa Vittoria was also (on its second floor, where the owners resided) a masterpiece of Italian 20th-century interior furnishing. I can’t imagine where, today, one could find furniture and the other furnishings designed by Tommaso Buzzi and by Gio Ponti and manufactured by such masterful cabinet-makers and bronze-workers . . .

Those desks, those chairs, those doors, those bookcases opened my eyes to the exceptional quality of the inventiveness, the ‘style’, and the workmanship that characterised Italian architecture and artisan production from the late 1920s through the following decade.

 

GIO PONTI

Milan 1891-1972

Gio Ponti was a key figure in the history of Italian design, the most authoritative artificer of renewal in the Italian decorative arts in the Twenties and Thirties. Appearing on the design scene during a period of great stylistic uncertainty, he responded to the call for a ‘return to order’ that wound through the European art world at the time, identifying recovery of classicism as the road to overcoming the confusion and poor taste of the prevailing neo-eclecticism. He was blessed with inexhaustible creative exuberance and approached architecture and design of objects and furnishings with equal commitment; whenever the occasion arose, with his words, writings, exhibitions, works, he fought to circulate his conceptions of aesthetics and culture.

Chiefly as concerned furnishings, and furniture design in particular, Ponti’s ‘well-mannered’ yet ironic neoclassical taste, ideally derived from early 19th-century Lombard style, was so original and incisive as to gain a premier place for itself and stand as a model for other designers. In the second half of the Twenties, a real, although non-institutionalised, ‘Milanese School’ coalesced around Ponti and the architects most closely-associated with him – Buzzi, Lancia and Marelli. Ponti’s items of furniture, with their unadorned, graceful profiles and exquisite artisan workmanship, in precious woods finished with metal trim – in gilded, silvered, green-patinated bronze – are one-of-a-kind luxury pieces intended for a wealthy upper middle class clientele.

 

 

LA CASA ALL'ITALIANA

La casa all’italiana non è il rifugio, imbottito e guarnito, degli abitatori contro le durezze del clima, come è delle abitazioni d’oltralpe ove la vita cerca, per lunghi mesi, riparo dalla natura inclemente: la casa all’italiana è come il luogo scelto da noi per godere in vita nostra, con lieta possessione, le bellezze che le nostre terre e i nostri cieli ci regalano in lunghe stagioni…

La casa all’italiana è di fuori e di dentro senza complicazioni, accoglie suppellettili e belle opere d’arte e vuole ordine e spazio fra di esse e non folla o miscuglio. Giunge ad esser ricca con i modi della grandezza, non con quelli soli della preziosità.

Il suo disegno non discende dalle sole esigenze materiali del vivere, essa non è soltanto una “machine à habiter”. Il cosiddetto “comfort” non è nella casa all’italiana solo nella rispondenza delle cose alle necessità, ai bisogni, ai comodi della nostra vita ed alla organizzazione dei servizi.

Codesto suo “comfort” è in qualcosa di superiore, esso è nel darci con l’architettura una misura per i nostri stessi pensieri, nel darci con la sua semplicità una salute per i nostri costumi, nel darci con la sua larga accoglienza il senso di una vita confidente e numerosa, ed è infine, per quel suo facile, lieto e ornato aprirsi fuori e comunicare con la natura, nell’invito che la casa all’italiana offre al nostro spirito di ricrearsi in riposanti visioni di pace, nel che consiste, nel pieno senso della bella parola italiana, il conforto.

 

Gio Ponti, in Domus, Gennaio 1928

 

 

MODERNO O NON MODERNO

Si disente e fervorosamente su questi termini. Vi son pochi argomenti anzi che più di questo facciano inferocire gli spiriti. Io vedo spesso brave, calme, educate persone congestionarsi perdere le staffe, perder lo stile appena pronunciano queste fatali parole: moderno, novecento. Non voglio certo attaccare polemiche: questa pianta fiorisce già da se nei giardini artistico-letterari d’Italia. Lasciamo andare anche le designazioni particolari che ha l’appellativo di novecento riferito a gruppi d’artisti, e badiamo invece al fenomeno. Lasciamo andare polemiche, definizioni, uomini, parti e fazioni e guardiamoci attorno considerando cose moderne o novecento quelle che sono del millenovecento.

Gio Ponti, in Domus, Novembre 1933

Estimate    40.000 / 60.000
Price realized  Registration
13

Henri-Jean-Guillaume Martin

(Toulouse 1860 - La Bastide-du-Vert 1943)

A CHACUN SA CHIMÈRE

oil on canvas, cm 82,5x151

signed lower right 

An export licence is available for this lot.

 

The painting is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity by Cyrille Martin and by the Avis d'insertion dans les archives destinées au Catalogue Raisonné d'Henri Martin, prepared by Marie-Anne Destrebecq-Martin.


Provenance

Private collection

 

Literature

Unpublished

 

The never-before-shown work we have the pleasure of presenting at this sale is a preparatory sketch for Henri Martin’s great work A Chacun sa chimère, now at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. One of the most significant works of French Symbolism, it was presented at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français in 1891; at the conclusion of the exhibition it was purchased by the French state and sent to Bordeaux to decorate the Auditorium of the Faculty of Literature in Rue Pasteur, today the site of the Musée d’Aquitaine. Nine years later, the monumental canvas was transferred to the city’s museum, where it is still conserved.

During the 1891 exhibition the iconography of the painting captured the attention of criticism and elicited numerous comments. Below is the review by Maurice Demaison published in the Paris revue L’Artiste in May of 1891:

«Monsieur Henri Martin a emprunté aux poèmes en prose de Baudelaire l’idée de son beau tableau, intitulé Chacun sa chimère : Dans le désert d’une lande plate et sans horizon, sous un ardent soleil qui rend aveuglante la blancheur du sable, où se dessèchent quelques herbes chétives, s’avance un long cortège personnifiant toutes les vaines illusions de l’humanité. Tous ces hommes portent sur leurs épaules leur chimère et sous ce fardeau, ils marchent mélancoliques, accablés mais sans révolte, résignés comme des gens “condamnés à espérer toujours”.

En tête du cortège, un jeune homme tient dans sa main une victoire de bronze et la gloire guerrière l’empêche d’écouter la Jeunesse qui, sous la figure d’une femme ailée et nue, lui présente une rose de ses doigts effilés. A côté marche, perdu dans son rêve extatique, les yeux au ciel ; les pieds et les mains troués des stigmates divins, un religieux à la robe de bure, semblable à Saint François d’Assise, et sur ses épaules plane une belle figure de la Foi, en longs vêtements blancs, ailée de rose, les mains jointes en un geste d’ardente prière. Puis un voluptueux chemine accablé sous sa pesante chimère, une courtisane au masque bestial, qui l’enchaînant de fleurs, s’appesantit sur lui et raille sa lassitude. Plus loin c’est l’illusion du bonheur familial ; le malheureux qui a caressé ce rêve paraît le plus lamentable de tous, traînant ses enfants affamés et gémissants sous le poids d’une femme trop féconde qui tient à sa mamelle un enfant nouveau né. On distingue encore la chimère de la science, celle de l’orgueil sous la forme d’un paon, celle de l’envie, une bête immonde, une sorte de dragon dont la gueule ouverte coiffe d’un casque hideux, la tête de l’envieux. Et le cortège se prolonge, les signes devenant moins distincts et méconnaissables. Il faut d’ailleurs un peu d’attention pour démêler le sens des différentes chimères qui accompagnent l’humanité dans sa marche pénible et tout le monde ne les a pas comprises. Ainsi la Foi occupe si exactement le milieu de la composition et domine de si haut tout le groupe, qu’on lui attribue une signification plus générale et quelques critiques y ont vu le symbole de l’illusion. On pourrait donc reprendre quelques obscurités dans les détails symboliques de cette oeuvre, mais le sens général en est simple et lucide et cela me paraît suffisant».

 

We are grateful to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux for the useful information on Henri Martin’s large painting.

 

Estimate    100.000 / 150.000
14

Mosè Bianchi

(Monza 1840 - 1904)

OLD MILAN

oil on cardboard, cm 53,5x77

signed lower right

 

Exhibitions

Maestri dell'800 italiano, Galleria Sacerdoti, Milan, 20 November-22 December 1971

 

Literature

Maestri dell'800 italiano, exh. cat. (Galleria Sacerdoti, Milan, 20 November-22 December 1971), Milano 1971, s.p.

 

Mosè Bianchi, a Verist painter in the strictest sense of the word, was one of the most famous Italian artists of the 19th century; his notoriety accompanied him even abroad, thanks to Maison Goupil, which handled the most prominent painters of the time. 

A stay in Paris in the 1860s infused the works of this painter from Monza with that vital impulse that permitted him to broaden the horizons of Lombard Naturalism, an anti-academic current that arose primarily from a deeply-felt need to re-establish a contact with everyday reality.

Adhesion to the ‘real’, one of the dominant motifs in the artist’s pictorial creations in the Eighties, is accentuated by his palette, chosen to faithfully represent the atmospheres of the city.

The work presented here falls within the production of those years and stands in coherent relation to his other works of the time, which explore many facets of the same theme. It is one of his most specifically realistic views of the city of Milan, in which the artist reveals Impressionistic leanings with a vibrant brushstroke and a strong compositive structure.   Snow is a subject especially congenial to this painter, as he himself mentioned in several letters to friends, since it allowed him to paint moments in which the city takes on an intense atmospheric and chromatic unity.

The quality of this representation of a ‘slice’ of city life is also expressed in the equipoise achieved by the composition, in the balanced ratios of full and empty spaces, of buildings and open areas; the background architecture melds into the grey of the cloudy sky, while the bustling figures on the sidewalks, braving the winter cold, appear as coloured silhouettes in the urban landscape of which they are integral parts. One very interesting note is lent by the background portrayal of a yellow horse-drawn tram, a means of transportation introduced to the city only a few years before: Milan’s first animal-powered urban tramways were inaugurated on 11 April 1881 on occasion of the great Esposizione Industriale Nazionale. The lines, managed by the Società Anonima degli Omnibus, were laid out in a radial pattern with a single central terminus in Piazza del Duomo and ran to the city’s gates.

The painting emerges favourably from comparison with other, analogous views of the same corner of Milan dating to the period from 1885 ca. to the end of the century’s ninth decade; the painter returned to it numerous times, thanks in part to the support offered by the photo camera. Of note among these works are Neve a Milano, in a private collection, and Una nevicata a Milano, in Milan’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna (P. Biscottini, Mosè Bianchi. Catalogo ragionato. Milan, 1996, pp. 285 nos. 382, 352, 549), which references our painting in the unexpected red spark of the hood of a figure hurrying away, on the right, although the work presented here is much richer in figures and anecdotal suggestions.

 

 

Estimate    50.000 / 70.000
Price realized  Registration
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