Arlecchino Newsletter

Vol. 3 Issue n. 02
January 15, 2001

~~~      A free bi-weekly newsletter of 213 subscribers
~~~      on the discussion of topics related to
~~~      the made-in-Italy products, to the Italian way of life
~~~      and more generally to the Italian style.
~~~      supported by Studiosoft at
~~~      Marco Piazzalunga, Publisher
~~~      Vol. 3, issue #02, January 15, 2001

Dear friends,

as you will have noticed, in the latest issues of last autumn, our main
commitment was mainly a careful selection of articles, trying to offer news
of marked originality. In other words, we try to find out news that is not
easily found, but which, at all events, raises highly stimulating topics for
meditation for those who are interested in all that Italy represents on an
international level.
As a confirmation of the above, please taste the passage dealing with the
restauration of the painting "The Baker Girl" by Raffaello, and that dealing
with the re-opening of the Pinacoteca Capitolina (Capitolina Picture
Gallery) in Rome.

Your tireless moderator,

Marco Piazzalunga

                    IN THIS ISSUE

New Topics on Fine Arts in Italy/Europe (2)

1) Raphael: Painting Restoration Reveals a Ring
    by Associated Press

2) A restored Pinacoteca Capitolina has reopened in Rome
    by ArtNewspaper

New Topics on Italian style (2)

1) Forward March! Guns and Roses, and Fur
    by Suzy Menkes (International Herald Tribune)

2) Italy pops cork for Verdi centenary
    by Jane Barrett

New Topics on Italian handicraft works of art (2)

1) Murano glass is back in fashion
    by Georgina Adam

2) Jewellers brace for tough year as U.S. economy slows
    by David Brough

New Topics on Italian/European antique & collectibles (2)

1) Perfume bottles (commercial bottles)
    by Eric Knowles

2) Doulton collecting
    by Mark Oliver

-----====(* FINE ARTS IN ITALY & EUROPE *)====-----

Subject: Raphael: Painting Restoration Reveals a Ring

ROME, Italy, January 05, 2001 - Did Italian Renaissance master Raphael propose to his lover -- but never live to marry her?
New restoration unveiled Monday of Raphael's ``The Baker Girl'' reveals a ring on the wedding finger of the voluptuous baker's daughter believed to have stolen the heart of the master artist.
A layer of paint, removed in the restoration, had covered the ring -- a patch of paint that experts believe was put there by Raphael himself. He died before the portrait was finished.
``It's as if he had given her a ring but then took it away,'' said Giovanna Martellotti, one of the painting's restorers, discussing the work at the National Gallery of Antique Art at Rome's Palazzo Barberini.
The portrait shows Margherita Luti, daughter of a Roman baker. Art historians say Raphael became enamored of Margherita and used her as his model while he was in Rome completing the frescoes at the Villa Farnesina in 1518.
In the portrait, a transparent veil is draped over her stomach, and she glances sideways with rosy cheeks and a mysterious smile.
Raphael painted a blue ribbon around her left arm, and on it put his own name in gold lettering -- ``Raphael of Urbino,'' in Latin.
Her left hand in the restored painting now shows a ring with a red stone -- visible for probably the first time since its painting. It was first detected with X-ray equipment, Martellotti said.
The ring is on one of the first knuckles of her finger -- as if it had just been slipped on.
Raphael died at 37 in 1520, leaving the portrait incomplete.
Margherita Luti checked herself into the Convent of Sant'Apollonia immediately after his death.
It is thought that the painting remained in the artist's studio where it was finished, and later sold, by Giulio Romano, one of his students.
The painting came into the hands of Italy's Barberini family in the mid-16th century. Although art experts say it is undoubtedly a Raphael, the work has long been a mystery to art historians since no documents remain to trace its provenance.
Raphael, a young contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, was summoned to Rome while still in his 20s to decorate the papal rooms at the Vatican and later was appointed architect of St. Peter's. His ``Sistine Madonna'' is considered one of the master portraits of Western art.
``The Baker's Girl'' will be on display at Palazzo Barberini until Feb. 28.

Associated Press


Subject: A restored Pinacoteca Capitolina has reopened in Rome

ROME, January 10, 2001 - The Pinacoteca Capitolina, housed in the sixteenth-century Palazzo dei Conservatori, has reopened in record time. It has taken just over eight months to restore and reorganise the exhibition rooms and to rehang a number of paintings in its collection, including Guercino’s celebrated painting, 'The burial of St. Petronilla'.
The modernisation of the gallery has been financed by a donation of L1 billion (£320,000; $520,000) from Pirelli. The director of the Pinacoteca, Maria Elisa Tittoni, explains that the aim was to increase the space available for works of art without altering the overall architectural characteristics of the building. The collection will be shown off to better advantage and the rooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology. In the building itself, the walls have been repainted with lime wash, mainly in green, apart from the St Petronilla and Pietro da Cortona rooms which are the 'colour of air'.
The Slavonian parquet floor has been repaired and restored to its original colour and shine. The skylights have been replaced and, although natural light is used predominantly, it is supplemented by a photo-sensitive lighting system for darker days.
The art gallery now has an information desk and new public services.
Inside, the number of objects on display has increased, with many items taken out of store. Much has been reassessed in the light of modern scholarship.
The layout is chronological, beginning with the fourteenth century and climaxing with an extraordinary range of seventeenth-century paintings from Italy and abroad (the foreign component is small but important). Some of the rooms are organised around a theme, as was the case before the restoration. The Guido Reni Gallery, reopening after fifteen years, contains all the paintings belonging to the Emilian School. The Pietra da Cortona Gallery (also for his followers), mentioned above, replaces the Hercules Gallery after 250 years.
The change of name follows a decision to relocate the Roman statue of Hercules to a site under the glass dome in the Roman garden (designed by Carlo Aymonino), where the original of the celebrated equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius is also on display. The plinth in the square outside now bears a replica.
The heart of the seventeenth century will now be the Santa Petronilla Gallery, where Guercino’s enormous painting (7.2 x 4.3m), now restored to its full clarity, is already hanging on the wall. One novelty is the portrait room, with oil paintings by, most notably, Velázquez (his self-portrait of about 1650) and Van Dyck. Finally, in the Galleria Cini, the porcelain has been housed in new rosewood and steel display cabinets. The windows are screened with PVC which filters out the ultra-violet rays to preserve the seventeenth-century Flemish tapestries on the walls.


-------=======(* ITALIAN STYLE *)=======-------

Subject: Forward March! Guns and Roses, and Fur

MILAN, Italy, January 14, 2001 - A new uniform for manhood is on parade at Italy's autumn-winter shows. After a decade of gender blending, designers are proposing a new confident masculinity in 2001, with a focus on military trench coats, pressed pants, shapely suits and big-boy sports: motocross at Burberry, Formula One for Dolce Gabbana, Easy Rider bikes at Roberto Cavalli and an Olympian glam-slam at Versace.
The strongest drum roll is for the military. A Florence exhibition of uniforms in art, fashion, film and rock ("Order and Disorder" at the Stazione Leopolda until Feb. 18) has hit a raw fashion nerve. The collections have featured epaulettes defining a macho shoulder line and military gear in fur or supple leather to mix soft and hard. Let's call it - especially in the case of Cavalli's flower embroidery on an army greatcoat - guns and roses.
"After all the men's fashion extravaganzas, we come back to uniforms like taking a cold shower," said Giorgio Armani, who threw a party Sunday, where clips from the Florence show of the Beatles in Sergeant Pepper mode, Michael Jackson bristling with decorations and the Eurythmics in camouflage proved that uniforms can also be rock style.
But in fashion, as in the army, you need leaders and foot soldiers. Jil Sander's show Monday, although well judged and perfectly fine, had been reduced from colonel status to the lower ranks after the departure of its founder. The team from Prada Group, its new owner, did an efficient job sending out trench coats in fine cloth and leather, with pants tucked into army boots. The pure, plain clothes were often beautiful: succulent corduroy suits in earthy truffle colors. There were also delicate details like a stand-up fur collar, a touch of flower embroidery or a basque at the back of snug-fit pants.
Patrizio Bertelli, president of Prada, who received a prize for business acumen at Florence's Pitti Uomo, may have made a smart commercial move for the brand Jil Sander. But a unique and personal fashion voice has been lost.
The best shows expressed fashion's forward march. Dolce Gabbana's sharp 1980s shoulders on wasp waisted pin-striped suits added a touch of wit to the sense of masculine purpose. Their show featured a flashy Ferrari parked outside a country seat, where the young milord first wore a leather jacket done up like a Formula One uniform, then slipped into a blazer over T-shirt with family crest, before trying a more doubtful horsey look with prancing steeds on tailored silk shirts. The message was: Smarten up. Yet such is the sexy, body-conscious tailoring from Dolce Gabbana, that even the urban suits (shown with the inevitable leather accessories) looked very rock 'n' roll.
Olive and khaki colors dominate the shows, adding to the military flavor. Costume National played with military details, raising the belts on taut trench coats and using suede tabs to create displaced epaulettes. Trussardi did conjuring tricks with leather, printing graphic pinstripes on pony-skin pants or a lattice of hide on knit. The best of the slight show was in the zippered cardigan jackets and bold fur accessories.

Suzy Menkes (International Herald Tribune)


Subject: Italy pops cork for Verdi centenary

MILAN, Italy, January 15, 2001 - Opera is as much a part of the Italian image as pizza, pasta and politics, and this year the country is toasting one of its greatest exponents. Giuseppe Verdi, the quintessential opera composer who fought his way to fame and fortune from humble beginnings in northern Italy, died on Jan. 27, 1901, and his compatriots are preparing to celebrate the centenary in style.
From Milan's world-renowned La Scala opera house to the small village of Le Roncole where Verdi was born, the year will be full of homage to the composer of such favorites as La Traviata, Rigoletto and Aida.
Verdi has always held a special place in the hearts of Italians, bucking the theory that the truly great were misunderstood or undervalued in their own eras.
Such was his popularity that when he lay dying in Milan, aged 87, people laid matting on the street outside so the maestro would not be disturbed by traffic rolling past.
When his body was taken to the Rest Home for Musicians a month after his death, the procession became a state ceremony. The streets of Milan were draped in black and crowded with an incredible 200,000 mourners.
Verdi’s body was sent on its way by an 800-strong choir singing a chorus from the composer’s opera Nabucco led by legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini.
On the centenary of his death, choirs the length of the peninsula will sing what is arguably Verdi’s most popular non-operatic work, Requiem.
The anguished Dies Irae and prayers for the souls of the dead will raise roofs from La Scala in Milan to the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome.
And a nation renowned for its passion is unlikely to leave the celebrations there. The Requiem is one night of a whole season dedicated to Verdi in Milan where the composer spent much of his working life.
It is not a just a challenge (to produce 11 Verdi operas in a year at La Scala), La Scala music director Riccardo Muti said in the opera house’s magazine.
It is not just a matter of performing Verdi but to rethink him, to understand him in his European stature ... to find new hidden meanings, to interrogate him over again!
Other festivals are also giving themselves over to Verdi, including the opera festival at Verona, where the march of Aida looks so much more triumphal for being performed in a pink marble Roman amphitheatre.

Jane Barrett

------=====(* ITALIAN HANDICRAFT WORKS OF ART *)=====------

Subject: Murano glass is back in fashion

NEW YORK, January 11, 2001 - Christie’s sale of Murano glass on 30 November was a clear success, with strong bidding for the collection built up by an American couple. Only a few years ago these quirky, brightly coloured creations were out of style, but now with renewed interest in mid-century design, modern Italian glass is having its day in the sun.
The collectors had bought extensively from the 1940s and 1950s period, but the group spanned 1900 to 1961. Many of the pieces had been acquired directly from the Murano glass works and in some cases from the artists’ estates. The 119 lots on offer gave a panorama of the most desirable works by such famous names as Carlo Scarpa, Guiseppe and Ercole Barovier, Carlo Scarpa and Dino Martens.
The sale made an upbeat $1.5 million (£1 million), and set three new artists records as well as a new price high for any 20th century Italian glass. This was set for the top lot, which doubled estimate to make $138,000. It was a rare piece in the form of a plate showing a peacock and made in the ancient murrine technique of fusing glass canes together. Executed by Giuseppe Barovier for Artisti Barovier in 1913, the plate was bought by the Steinberg Foundation, which already has a major collection of Murano glass.
A red-dotted Granulare vase designed by architect Carlo Scarpa for Venini, about 1940 made $99,500 (£70,070), way over its estimate of $12,000-18,000, and the same sum (est. $40,000-60,000) was paid for a Zanfirico vase by Dino Martens for Aureliano Toso, dating from about 1958. Both set new records for the creators, and the cover lot, a glass bird by Ercole Barovier for Vetreria Artistica Barovier dating from 1930, made $94,000.

Georgina Adam


Subject: Jewellers brace for tough year as U.S. economy slows

VICENZA, Italy, January 15, 2001 - Gold and silver jewellery makers at the world's largest jewellery and gem fair said on Monday they expected a tough year for exports in 2001 as the U.S. economy slowed down.
The jewellers, showing their wares at the Vicenza Trade Fair -- a vast showcase of gold, silver, pearls and gems -- also said they were adapting to changing tastes as consumers around the world had shifted to bright gemstones and conspicuous, heavy designs from more understated creations.
"It's going to be a difficult year," said Matteo Rigon, CEO of Superoro, a Vicenza-based jewellery manufacturer, which counts the United States as one of its leading markets.
"The fall in the Nasdaq (stock exchange) has had a big psychological impact on U.S. consumers, and the first thing they will stop buying is luxury goods," he said.
"There is also a kind of inverse psychology, where people go for clunkier, more conspicuous designs when they feel poorer."
Superoro aimed to push forward its Business-to-Business (B2B) sales on a new internet site and planned to invest more in communications and marketing to tackle the U.S. downswing, Rigon said.
JEWELLERS ADAPT - Nogah Ben-David, president of Israel-based Gold of Jerusalem Ltd, said ewellery makers would have to be flexible to achieve sales in the U.S. market and should sell lighter designs.
"When the economy turns down, people buy lower priced jewels," he said. "If we have to reduce price, we should aim for a heavy look with a light weight."
Consumers increasingly favoured traditional yellow gold over white gold as part of the trend towards a more ostentatious look, Ben-David said.
Jewellery makers attending the Vicenza Trade Fair told Reuters that Christmas sales were disappointing in the United States, which accounts for a third of Italy's jewellery exports.
According to Vicenza Trade Fair figures, Italian gold and silver jewellery sales to the United States rose by 18.6 percent year-on-year to 2.57 trillion lire in the first nine months of 2000, before U.S. economic conditions soured. No forecasts for sales in 2001 were available.
The annual Vicenza fair, which opened on Sunday and runs until January 21, is a magnet for the international gem and jewellery business, attracting hundreds of international buyers.
Vicenza is a leading jewellery manufacturing centre in Italy, one of the world's main gold consumers.
Prospects for sales in Europe and Asia were brighter than in the United States this year, jewellers said.
"Continental Europe is looking very promising for our jewellery sales as the euro is recovering against sterling," said Chris Barton, international sales director with G & A Ltd, a jewellery maker based in Leeds, England.
He also said the outlook for mass market jewellery sales to Asia, particularly China, was encouraging.

David Brough


Subject: Perfume bottles (commercial bottles)

LONDON, January 13, 2001 - The years between 1907 and 1940 are regarded by many collectors as the Golden Age of the Commercial Perfume Bottle (i.e. sold containing perfume).
1907 witnessed François Coty seeking the collaboration of France's premier jeweller to design the embossed gilt labels for his perfume bottles. The name of that jeweller was René Lalique.
Lalique, however, was not content with his commission to design labels, and provided Coty with designs for the bottles as well.
As Lalique did not have his own commercial glassworks at that particular moment, the bottles were produced by Legras et Cie. Sales of perfume in bottles of Lalique design soared. And in quick time Coty's rivals recognised the marketing advantages of selling their essences in tasteful pressed glass bottles.
By the year 1925, Lalique had provided designs for most of the top perfumers of the age including Molinard, Caron, Roger et Gallet, Jean Phillipe Worth, Guerlain, Houbigant and Lucien Lelong.
Despite his dominance in perfume bottle design, Lalique was by no means a solitary creative force. The Baccarat glassworks were responsible for providing an extensive and equally innovative range of perfume bottles, eagerly commissioned by France's booming perfume industry.
Sale catalogues of both Baccarat and Lalique illustrated a massive variety of perfume bottles that were also available for private purchase, as production was not limited to commissions from the large perfume empires.

Eric Knowles


Subject: Doulton collecting

LONDON, January 12, 2001 - It is interesting to see how the Doulton collector approaches his or her passion. Firstly we must understand that the word 'passion' is not lightly applied. Many collectors would kill for that missing figurine or character jug to complete their collection - the super rare figure of Pavlova (HN 487, produced 1921-38) made £3,800 at auction in 1993, while The Village Blacksmith prototype Character jug made £6,000 earlier the same year.
However, the 1990s are proving to be the decade of the discerning eye. In the '70s and '80s prices rose steadily as any Doulton in sight was snapped up without too much concern for condition, restoration or production numbers. Now the collector is seeking out the really unusual and rare and paying top price for it.
Few readers of collectors' magazines could have missed the ballyhoo in the last three years over the Beswick figure Duchess with Flowers. This was produced between 1954-67 and was not popular with collectors at the time. However, any '90s Beswick collector wanting to complete their Beatrix Potter collection of Beswick figurines needs the 'Duchess'. One minute it was worth £300 then a couple of months later it was being traded at fairs at £500, six months later it was at the £1,000 level.
And today? Sorry, not much change from £2,000 - and all for a little black dog that would have cost you about 5 shillings (25p) in the swinging sixties!
So what should we be eagerly investing in at the moment? The answer loud and clear has to be Royal Doulton Snowmen and Bunnykins figurines!
Topping the list of incredible price rises is the Skiing Snowman, marketed in 1990 at around £12. Royal Doulton discovered they had a problem producing his skis (the reader has to imagine a little china snowman in goggles skiing down a mountain)! Consequently they withdrew him from production towards the end of 1991 after which collector mania took over in full force.
Yes, you've guessed it; everyone wants the skier to complete their snowman collection (currently around 25 different figures).
As we go to press, the skier is being retailed through a London specialist dealer at £700! Closely, followed by Lady Snowman produced 1987-92, at £250.
When it comes to the more distant past, interest in Doulton is just as ferocious. We have already talked about rare discontinued figurines and character jugs, but there is an equal enthusiasm for Kingsware, Sung, Chang, Series Ware and many other varieties of the product.
Prominent among these is the artist stoneware made popular by such great Doulton names as Hannah Barlow, Frank Butler, Eliza Simmance and George Tinworth who were employed at the Lambeth factory at the end of the last century. Each production piece was worked on by hand with characteristic designs.

Mark Oliver

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