Issue n. 03
February 01, 2001
~~~ ARLECCHINO NEWSLETTER
~~~ A free bi-weekly newsletter of 225 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 http://www.studiosoft.it
~~~ Marco Piazzalunga, Publisher
~~~ Vol. 3, issue #03, February 01, 2001
IN THIS ISSUE
New Topics on Fine Arts in Italy/Europe (2)
1) Italian art scores major success at Sotheby's
by Georgina Adams
2) Art Nouveau Exhibition in DC
by Eva Lake
New Topics on Italian style (2)
1) Trieste: a lovely, neglected beauty in northern Italy
by Olivia Herman
2) Fashion portrait: Roberto Cavalli
New Topics on Italian handicraft works of art (2)
1) Style Trends From Vicenza
by William H. Donahue Jr.
2) Cameos and corals between tradition and innovation
by Consortium ARCA
New Topics on Italian/European antique & collectibles (2)
1) Arts and Crafts furniture
by BBC Online
2) Learning about Limoges
by Pamela Wiggins
-----====(* FINE ARTS IN ITALY & EUROPE *)====-----
Subject: Italian art scores major success at Sotheby's
LONDON, January 20, 2001 - Sotheby's scored a major success in London on 25 October with
its second specialised Italian sale, racking up over £7.5 million and setting four new
artists' records plus one for a Fontana sculpture. The total far outstripped last
years figure of £5.2 million.
The auction was put together by Claudia Dwek, Sothebys specialist in Milan, and was
conducted by Benjamin Brown who took bids from the battery of 23 telephones manned by
dozens of Sotheby's staff and from the packed saleroom. In the event, private bidders
largely outbid the trade and carried off nine of the top 10 lots, and American buyers made
a major and notable entrée into the field.
"It was very interesting to see such serious private interest from the United States
and from Europe," commented specialist Cheyenne Westphal, "people are building
up museum-like collections and the US is increasingly coming into this market which is
growing very fast. The sale showed that if you give Italian art international focus you
will do well, not only for the internationally known artists, but also for those whose
names are not so familiar outside Italy".
The highest price was paid by a private Italian for Morandi's 1938 "Natura
morta", a seductive arrangement of coloured bottles which had come from a Swiss
private collection. It was bought in the room for £839,500 against an estimate of
£400,000-500,000. The next highest price was paid for De Chirico's 1929-30 "La
Confessionne", an important mannequin painting showing two figures with torsos filled
with architectural elements. This made a within-estimate £718,500, again going to a
private Italian buyer in the room.
American buyers, on whom the market will inevitably depend in order to grow, bid strongly
and bagged four of the top nine lots. One telephone bidder paid £465,500 for Manzoni's
kaolin-on-canvas "Achrome", executed around 1958. This was just double pre-sale
expectations. Another telephone bidder galloped off with De Chirico's "Due cavalli
sulla spiaggia" at £465,500, on the nose of its high estimate. The auction featured
seven works by Fontana, and private US buyers also accounted for two of them, the 1957
bronze "Concetto spaziale", an unique piece, at £398,500, setting a record for
a sculpture by the artist, and a slashed canvas "Concetto spaziale, attese" at
£333,500. Both sold around their top estimates.
Among the failures were the other two pieces of decorative art, the Cassina "Tramonto
a New York" sofa by Gaetano Pesce and a "Reflecting city" armoire, made in
1955 by Fornasetti and Ponti. Burri's heavily impastoed "Nero rosso combustione"
dating from 1957 also died at £140,000, under its £150,000-200,000 estimate.
"Buying was split between Europe and the US, with the Europeans buying more by lot
and the Americans more by value," said Mr Brown, who reckoned that some 40% of the
pieces sold would be returning to Italy.
Subject: Art Nouveau Exhibition in DC
WASHINGTON DC, January 22, 2001 - The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC has chosen
the year 2000/2001 as a time to review the last turn of the century with the exhibition:
Art Nouveau, 1890-1914. The exhibition is the largest ever of this movement, which means
literally "new art". While Art Nouveau may seem sometimes overdone and antique
now, it was actually the first modern art movement and the first deliberate attempt to
define modern culture on an international scale.
This new art was multicultural in its origins: it was derived from Celtic and Viking forms
(as in the metalwork and ornamentation of Louis Sullivan), Japanese aesthetics (Frank
Lloyd Wright, Toulouse-Lautrec), Rococo (Gaudi), the romanticism and mysticism of
Symbolism and the Pre-Raphaelites, The Arts and Crafts movement and the art of Islam
(Tiffany). Last but not least, we had the cult of nature, which found it's way into all
forms of Art Nouveau. The exhibition takes us to various cities around the world, from
Chicago to Glasgow, where every manifestation had its own expression but still was unified
to an international theme, a triumph of nature over industry.
It's very interesting to compare what was important in art at that time to what we've got
to say now. There's one concern 1900 and 2000 have in common: a celebration of
multiculturalism and diversity. Mind, such words were probably not used 100 years ago. And
the people who made such art were probably for the most part a bunch of white men. But the
outcome and far-reaching range of Art Nouveau penetrated society to a depth that
contemporary art cannot touch. Outside of media and advertising, there is no art or style
which connects us and hopefully, affects us all.
Here indeed was the goal and the magic of the ideas at the last turn of the century: that
by just living with great design and art and poetry, your own life could be more poetic.
Life and art were one. The artists and craftspeople of this era believed that anyone from
any class could participate in art and reap its' benefits, just by living with it. Any
object or piece of furniture was fair game for creativity and beauty. This is a kind of
optimism not found anywhere today.
Whereas the theme of 100 years ago may have been a unity via nature, today boasts of
fragmentation and deconstruction, man over nature at all costs. Technology is celebrated
and may be the true unifying factor of the planet today. Maybe someday nature will make a
comeback. The only problem with this scenario is that there may be very little nature left
to celebrate when it does.
-------=======(* ITALIAN STYLE *)=======-------
Subject: Trieste: a lovely, neglected beauty in northern Italy
TRIESTE, Italy, January 17, 2001 - I had just graduated from college. I didnt have a
job, or a 10-year plan, or a boyfriend I could follow across the country to a glamorous
new life. So I did what Id successfully put off for four years and braved my
schools career office. I read through job descriptions. From time to time I closed
my eyes, wishing I had some aspirin or a really big trust fund. But then I discovered the
Teach Abroad binder, with a posting in a place called Trieste.
Typed out plainly on a white sheet of paper was a job notice for a music teaching intern
and elementary assistant at the International School of Trieste, Italy. No teaching
certificate necessary. Music degree required.
The few months before I moved to Italy I was a nervous wreck. Everything changed when I
got to Trieste. I had hoped that once I was there confronting the unknown my fears would
pass. But I hadnt anticipated the profound effect the culture itself would have on
The pace of life did wonders for my psyche. Shopkeepers shut down their stores for hours
during the middle of the day, as if nothing could be more important than rest and long
lunches certainly not work. If my errands had to come to a temporary halt, Id duck
into a bar and order a cappuccino. Or Id walk to the waterfront, sit on the pier and
enjoy the ocean breeze. Many of my most pleasurable moments involved drinking in the air
and watching people go by. You can do this in the States, but its not the same.
Theres a sense of urgency about Americans thats absent in the Old Country,
even in Trieste, with its relative northern efficiency.
BETWEEN EAST AND WEST. Trieste itself is a lovely, if somewhat peculiar place. Its
grossly underrated, unfairly forgotten. Most people couldnt tell you where it is,
let alone what its like. Ive read that even many Italians think it lies
outside the countrys borders. (Its actually the capital of the northeastern
Friulia-Venezia Giulia region, about 80 miles east of Venice, near the border of
Slovenia.) Yet it boasts a rich history, hilly terrain, an expansive seascape and
proximity to a host of interesting destinations, among them Venice and Verona to the west
and the Croatian coast to the south. Best of all, and I suppose this comes at the expense
of obscurity, there are few tourists.
Poised precariously between Central and Eastern Europe, Trieste gains its character from
the mix of Slavic, Austrian and Italian influences that have shaped it over the centuries.
Though Triestes ethnic makeup is largely Italian, the city is geographically closer
to Ljubljana, Slovenia, than it is to Venice, closer to Zagreb than to Verona, nearer to
Salzburg than to Milan. It was the prized port of the Austrian Empire into the early 20th
century and the most important Hapsburg metropolis after Vienna and Prague. The neoclassic
architecture, which Empress Maria Theresa of Austria masterminded in the 18th century,
still defines much of the city.
Italy annexed Trieste in 1919, but within 35 years the city would be occupied at various
points by the Germans, the Yugoslavs and Anglo-American forces before finally re-joining
Italy in 1954. Perhaps Winston Churchill best described the citys geo-political
position in his historic 1946 speech, when he declared that an Iron Curtain [had]
descended across the Continent from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic.
Apart from its complex history, Trieste is distinctive for its beauty. Its a rough,
ragged sort of beauty, like a precious but neglected stone. Though the city lacks the
self-confidence of a Florence or Venice, it has its own rewards. Riding into Trieste on
the train from Venice is like breathing a sigh of relief. By the time you pull into the
terminal, the train is all but emptied of tourists, and youre left with only the
dramatic view of the sea.
Subject: Fashion portrait: Roberto Cavalli
MILAN, Italy, January 17, 2001 - He's definitely the fashion industry's man of the moment
and everyone who's anyone is singing his praises.
The American edition of "Vogue" has dubbed him international fashion's most
His eccentric and self-willed style is being compared with 1980's Gianni Versace, and
considering Cavalli's unusual choice of fabrics and sheer audacity, the comparison is
The Italian designer's original and characteristic use of python-print has made his
women's pants a classic, and is sprinkled throughout his collection.
The Roberto Cavalli woman is aggressive and provocative, conspicuous and striking. It
comes therefore as no surprise that his two US celebrity sponsors are Jennifer Lopez and
Born in Florence 59 years ago, the designer still lives in Tuscany, smack in the middle of
the Chianti region. His house itself reflects his rather eclectic personality: zebra rugs,
marble busts and a purebred horse breeding stable. Cavalli's parties are famous for their
luxury and excess and he has been known to indulge himself on occasion. For example, he
inaugurated a new rubber dinghy this summer in Sardinia -- 18 meters, complete with a
honeymoon suite, Jacuzzi, zebra-striped upholstery and spotted sheets.
His success in Russia has hit the outer limits: gold, embroidery and python have conquered
Eastern Europe, where the austere minimalism of recent years met with little success.
Having established himself in New York -- with an address on Madison Avenue no less --
Roberto Cavalli is out to conquer the world!
------=====(* ITALIAN HANDICRAFT WORKS OF ART *)=====------
Subject: Style Trends From Vicenza
VICENZA, Italy, January 28, 2001 - Vicenzaoro I presents jewelers from around the world
with their first glimpse of style directions for 2001. Italians have caught color fever
just like the rest of the world. They're also torn between their beloved yellow gold and
still-popular white metals. Here's a look at the details:
Shades of pink and rose were everywhere, particularly in pink sapphire pavé, a trend seen
for the last few years in Vicenza, which has strengthened. Some American jewelers
attending the fair loved it, but others didn't think it would catch in the U.S. The
freshest combination of gemstone colors was pink and green, with yellow sometimes thrown
in. This is a real departure from the amethyst, citrine and blue topaz trios so popular in
the past. La Nouvelle Bague can be credited with introducing the color combo to U.S.
buyers last year.
Favored gem shapes included ovals and navettes, as well as rectangles and bar-cut gems.
Rows of princess-cuts or rounds were often used in parentheses-style pendants and rings, a
look made popular by Alfieri & St. John last year.
Colored Chinese freshwater cultured pearls were popular here as everywhere, especially
among formerly metal-intensive designers. Golden pearls were also significant as accents
Bigger, important chains were popular, as always, especially in fresh takes on rolo, cable
and anchor styles. Continuing trends include mesh, knitted styles and open-work chain in
Squiggles and swirls are still everywhere, as are nature-inspired pieces, from leaves and
flowers to bugs and other winged creatures. Art Nouveau's turn-of-last-century influence
is still apparent. Waning trends included cabochon cuts, two-tone styles, yellow diamonds
and shades of orange.
Heavy attendance at the metalworking symposia presented by the World Gold Council and the
Platinum Guild-International signal that Italian jewelry manufacturers remain committed to
learning and using cutting-edge techniques and technology. Their commitment was also
evidenced in the expansion this year of Oromacchine, Vicenzaoros machine and technology
William H. Donahue Jr.
Subject: Cameos and corals between tradition and innovation
NAPLES, Italy, January 28, 2001 - The name of the town of Torre del Greco, located at the
foot of Vesuvius, has always been linked to corals. In this area, in fact, the fishing of
the precious fruit of the sea has ancient origins. Very soon, the sea-activity alternated
with the family-run manufacturing of the raw material.
At the beginning of the Nineteenth century, they started creating refined engravings and
jewels that, thanks to the mysterious origins of cameos, believed to be now vegetal now
mineral, and only later animal, took on an apotropaic value, too.
Furthermore, Torre del Greco is regarded as the country of cameos on shell, which are
worked only in this area, both representing ancient mythological motifs and delicate
female profiles, and with more modern creations, real works of art in their uniqueness.
It is, thus, natural that the Consortium ARCA was born here from the synergy of firms of
the sector, all concerned in the upholding of the tradition of this country, by working
cameos and shells carefully and meticulously, with the techniques that have been kept
unchanged and handed down as the precious secret of a big family.
-----===(* ITALIAN/EUROPEAN ANTIQUE & COLLECTIBLES *)===-----
Subject: Arts and Crafts furniture
LONDON, January 25, 2001 - Arts and Crafts furniture is not characterised by any one
single style, but rather a range of styles by makers and designers looking towards
simplicity of design and modest use of decoration with a shared belief in the importance
of the individual artisan.
the Arts and Crafts movement emerged in the 1860s as a reaction against the
mass-production and over-ornamentation of Victorian furnishings. Social critics such as
John Ruskin believed the advent of industrialisation undermined the quality of items and
the skills of the 'honest craftsman'. The movement sought to put the onus back on the
simpler styles were adopted and decoration was seen as an integral part of the design
rather than an afterthought. Patterns and motifs were modest and mainly drew their
inspiration from nature, especially flora and fauna. Arts and Crafts furniture is
functional and well made. Its construction is the main form of decoration, and traditional
elements such as mortise-and-tenon joints, dovetailing, faceting and metal strap hinges
are common features.
Arts and Crafts designers:
well-known designers who embraced the Arts and Crafts style include William Morris,
Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Charles Francis Annesley Voysey. Furniture by Morris &
Co is highly collectable and based on traditional country designs. Pieces are sturdily
made with oak, ash, and sometimes mahogany and often incorporate rush seating. Voysey
produced simple and elegant designs that also incorporated rush chair seats and the
familiar heart-shaped decorative motif. Many will also recognise the distinctive
tall-backed chairs with oval panels designed by Mackintosh, which command high prices at
Commercial Arts and Crafts:
commercial companies such as Liberty & Co and Heal & Son also produced Arts and
Crafts furniture. Liberty & Co opened in Regent Street in London in 1875 and produced
and sold a wide range of Arts and Crafts furniture, typically in oak and simply marked
'Liberty & Co'. Furniture sold by Heal & Son was largely made from designs by
Ambrose Heal himself. Collecting commercially produced Arts and Crafts furniture is by no
means an inexpensive pastime but will certainly be more affordable than pieces by leading
Subject: Learning about Limoges
PARIS, France, January 16, 2001 - Limoges porcelain beckons many collectors with its
scalloped edges, gold décor and classic themes. They can almost hear a French whisper
saying, "Buy me."
The Limoges porcelain sought by antiques collectors today was actually produced by a
number of factories in Limoges, France from the late 1700's until around 1930. Production
did not cease in 1930, however.
This arbitrary cutoff date simply denotes a change in the global economy when the styles
of Limoges notably changed from elaborate to more basic. Even now, quality porcelain
marked Limoges, France can be found in the retail market.
The porcelain often found by collectors in genuine antique malls and shops these days
largely represents the American version of early Limoges, with Haviland being a prominent
name. In fact, status-conscious brides often chose Haviland dinnerware sets as their
wedding china in the late Victorian period, according to ceramics expert Mary Frank Gaston
in The Collector's Encyclopedia of Limoges.
Clever marketers for the Haviland company did research in the U.S. noting the popular
designs, colors and types of tableware used in this country, which differed greatly from
European preferences. From the mid-19th century to the beginning of the great depression,
Americans extensively used Haviland dinnerware on well-set tables. This accounts for so
many sets that have been passed down from grandmothers and great-grandmothers to their
Some porcelain collectors solely concentrate on Haviland products and largely ignore other
Limoges company names. Others focus on a broader range of Limoges items from a variety of
manufacturers. They move away from the quaint dinnerware toward decorative accessories
such as vases, trays and tankards generally featuring more vivid coloration and more
decorative gold trim.
At one point in the 1920s as many as 48 companies were producing wares marked Limoges,
according to Gaston. They weren't only marked Limoges denoting their origin, however. Many
pieces had factory marks and even marks showing who decorated each piece.
The factories primarily produced elaborately molded white wares. These undecorated pieces,
or "blanks," were taken to decorating studios away from the factory or exported
without decoration. The blanks exported to American soil often ended up in the hands of
china painting students with this being a popular hobby during the late 1800s.
Naturally, with some of the Limoges pieces being decorated by amateurs, collectors
sometimes notice a variation in the quality of the décor. When valuing Limoges pieces,
this should be taken into consideration. High quality hand painting holds more value than
the work of an unskilled porcelain painter.
Some pieces of Limoges porcelain were decorated with transfers as well. These transfers
were decals of sorts that mimicked hand decorating and were often combined with techniques
executed by hand. Even a beautifully transferred piece will hold more value than a
hand-decorated item completed poorly.
When evaluating Limoges, Gaston says looking at the quality of the decoration can often be
more important than determining the age. But since both are important, her book identifies
numerous factory marks with dates of production as a good starting point for researching
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