Arlecchino Newsletter

Vol. 3 Issue n. 03
February 01, 2001

~~~      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
~~~      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
     by DolceVita

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 year’s figure of £5.2 million.
The auction was put together by Claudia Dwek, Sotheby’s 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.

Georgina Adams


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.

Eva Lake

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

Subject: Trieste: a lovely, neglected beauty in northern Italy

TRIESTE, Italy, January 17, 2001 - I had just graduated from college. I didn’t 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 I’d successfully put off for four years and braved my school’s 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 hadn’t anticipated the profound effect the culture itself would have on me.
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, I’d duck into a bar and order a cappuccino. Or I’d 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 it’s not the same. There’s a sense of urgency about Americans that’s 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. It’s grossly underrated, unfairly forgotten. Most people couldn’t tell you where it is, let alone what it’s like. I’ve read that even many Italians think it lies outside the country’s borders. (It’s 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 Trieste’s 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 city’s 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. It’s 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 you’re left with only the dramatic view of the sea.

Olivia Herman


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 glamorous designer.
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 understandable.
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 Pamela Anderson.
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 in jewelry.
Precious Metals:
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 metal-intensive jewelry.
Style Trends:
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 showcase.

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.

Consortium ARCA


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.
Individual artisans:
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 individual craftsman.
Simpler Styles:
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 auction today.
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 designers.

BBC Online


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 lucky ancestors.
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 Limoges pieces.

Pamela Wiggins

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