Arlecchino Newsletter

Vol. 3 Issue n. 04
February 15, 2001

~~~      A free bi-weekly newsletter of 231 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 #04, February 15, 2001

                  IN THIS ISSUE

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

1) £30m plan to halt Venice flooding
     by Bruce Johnston (Electronic Telegraph)

2) Assisi Restoration Opens To Visitors
     by Associated Press

New Topics on Italian style (2)

1) Spazio Armani: a monumental tribute to style
     by DolceVita

2) The May Queen of Italy dies as family fights to end exile
     by Bruce Johnston

New Topics on Italian handicraft works of art (2)

1) Porcelain: the discovery of an oriental mistery
     by Consortium of Porcelains and Ceramics of Capodimonte

2) The ceramics art of Chini family in Tuscany
     by Gilda Cefariello Grosso

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

1) Buyers warm to February art date
     by Antiques Trade Gazette

2) The Empire style
     by BBC Online

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

Subject: £30m plan to halt Venice flooding

ROME, January 31, 2001 - AN ambitious project has begun to raise the level of the area around St Mark's Square in Venice by up to 10in to protect it from ever more frequent flooding.
The piazza, the city's old legal and administrative hub, which Napoleon called the "drawing room of Europe", is Venice's lowest and most flood-prone point. The area, thought to have lost 10in to the sea in the past century, is inundated five times more often than the rest of the city and the sight of people having to cross it on duckboards has become commonplace.
Flooding also plays havoc with parts of the 12th century floor of St Mark's Basilica. On a level four inches lower than the lagoon basin where gondolas are kept, it flooded 250 times last year. The St Mark's project, which is expected to cost £30 million and will take five years to complete, began this week.
The first stage will be to heighten a 150-yard stretch of lagoon front by eight inches. Work will then begin in a few months to protect the richly decorated floor of the basilica. Each piece of mosaic will be removed until the work is completed and will then be replaced.
A further stage will be to remove paving stones from the piazza to lay a thick, waterproof clay and ash membrane underneath them. But Anna Ranghieri, of the Venezia Nuova consortium appointed by the city council, which controls all work in the city centre, said that while the work would greatly reduce flooding it would succeed only as part of a wider plan to safeguard Venice.

Bruce Johnston (Electronic Telegraph)


Subject: Assisi Restoration Opens To Visitors

ASSISI, Italy, February 3, 2001 - Small groups of visitors will be able to take a close look at the restoration under way to piece together the 14th century frescoes that rained down from the ceiling of St. Francis' Basilica during a 1997 earthquake.
The building housing the restoration, next to the medieval basilica, will be open for several hours every Saturday, starting this week, said the Rev. Nicola Giandomenico, a church spokesman.
Visitors will be allowed inside in groups of 10.
Thousands of fragments, some the size of postage stamps, broke off from the ceiling during the quake that killed 10 people and damaged houses and churches throughout Umbria in central Italy.
So far, the frescoes of two saints, in a cycle attributed to Giotto, have been returned to the vault in the basilica's upper level, which was reopened to the public in 1999 after repair.
The reassembly of frescoes of six more saints depicted on the ceiling is almost finished, Giandomenico said.
Experts approximate that at least 20 percent of the ceiling fresco by Giotto and Cimabue, the fathers of Italian painting, is lost forever.

Associated Press

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

Subject: Spazio Armani: a monumental tribute to style

MILAN, Italy, February 8, 2001 - There's the clothing, the perfumes, accessories, furniture and the home decorating articles. Then there are the books, the flowers and oh, yeah, the restaurants. Then there's also the new, ultramodern Sony store--the biggest in Italy! Where are you?
It's all at the spanking new Spazio Armani at Manzoni 31 in Milano.
It's a full 6000 sq. meters in the historic old town center of Milano spread out over three floors, the result of a ca. 45 billion project intended to delight and astound.
The large department store/mini-mall evidences the Armani commitment to maintain style throughout the project, which clearly carries the Armani touch.
As the designer himself says, "style is the only luxury everyone can posses, and with very little money at that!"
The newest reference point in Italy's fashion city, the Spazio Armani is a plane of light distributed over a series of communicating halls planned inch by inch by Giorgio Armani himself, with the help of architectural studio Gabellini.
The project was a long time coming, a dream harbored by the designer for many years, realized to coincide with Armani's 25th year in the industry. The structure itself reflects its purpose: open and open for anything.
Each of the majestic palazzo's four sides is outfitted with its own entrance, and the eye-catching effect is done by the clever and harmonious contrast of materials of varying hues and consistency. Nothing was left to chance and everything is completely functional. In Armani's world, travelers pass seamlessly from household accessories to the Emporio and Jeans lines, from Sony to the Japanese restaurant Nobu, and finally to the book and flower corner. Making a bit splash is Armani Casa, the newly-hatched furniture and decor line which are presently sold exclusively in the structure's 900 square meter loft space. The subterranean floor has been extensively hollowed out to make room for the biggest Sony store in Italy.
Spazio's two restaurants reflect Armani's well-defined and unique taste, which veers strongly toward the Oriental, yet is firmly attached to his roots: the first is named after its legendary Japanese chef Nobu.
The entrance on Via Pisoni opens onto a bar-lounge and stairs leading to the 90-place dining room; the Emporio Armani Caffè on the first floor (Via Croce Rossa entrance) is in its final phases, is a classic Italian restaurant where pasta is king. The cross-shaped plan of the complex is intentionally reminiscent of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (a famous street near the Duomo), and provides a large pedestrian area where young Italian artists are invited to show their work.
The look is made up of varied elements, but the total picture remains essentially Armani: floors are an elegant composition of beige quartz and light gray stone, counters and other surfaces are opaque as well as translucent, embossed and imprinted, huge LED rival those in New York's Times Square, external light is filtered through Plexiglas panels, the lighting geared to accentuate and flatter the various impressive array of technological solutions.
Armani has an eye cast on the not yet acquired upper floor, with an idea for a new project: the designer is thinking of installing a designer's dream of a luxury hotel, still in high-style, always Armani.



Subject: The May Queen of Italy dies as family fights to end exile

ROME, January 29, 2001 - The last Queen of Italy, who reigned for 27 days before a referendum abolished the monarchy, died in Geneva at the weekend, prompting appeals for her family to be allowed to return home.
Maria Jose, 94, a writer with Communist leanings, and the widow of King Umberto II, died of pneumonia. She was the daughter of Albert I, King of the Belgians. She was known as the May Queen because her husband's reign lasted for less than four weeks, from May 9, 1946, before Italians voted for a republic.
The direct male line of the House of Savoy was subsequently banished in retaliation for the way Victor Emmanuel III, collaborated with Mussolini. Maria Jose, however, was a known anti-fascist with Marxist sympathies, who said of Hitler: "You could tell straight away that he was a cretin and a madman."
Her diaries, kept by a lawyer in London, will be made available to the public 70 years after her death. Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law, noted in his own diary that the then princess had called the Germans "liars and pigs". She sought to dissuade Mussolini from entering the war, but was warned by the king to keep her "nose out of family politics".
She was said to have been the first member of the royal family to open channels with the Allies. When Rome was bombed, she is said to have run up to her tower in the Quirinal Palace, thrilled at the sight, and to have written about the bombers as "white liberating birds . . ." In the same tower, she was said to have once cornered Hitler to plead with him not to cut off Belgian bread supplies.
She published her memoirs and books on the Savoys in exile after the war. Her right to return was recognised in 1987 and the next year she made the first of a series of brief visits to Italy.
Yesterday, her son, Victor Emmanuel, heir to the throne, made plans for her to be buried alongside her husband at an abbey in Haute Savoie, France. There was growing pressure, however, for her to be moved to the Pantheon in Rome, where Umberto II's burial was refused in 1983.
A Pantheon burial would open a new and possibly decisive chapter in the Savoys' long struggle to return to Italy, led by Victor Emmanuel, 63. After years of seeing their hopes dashed, their case was taken up by Romano Prodi, now EU Commission president, when he became Prime Minister in 1996. His government later fell and the momentum was lost.
Separate moves in the European parliament and courts to secure their return have meanwhile also failed. Italy's government will now consider the queen's case. Refusing her a burial before elections in which the Rightist opposition, which includes monarchist elements, is favourite, could be seen as cruel.

Bruce Johnston

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

Subject: Porcelain: the discovery of an oriental mistery

NAPLES, Italy, February 10, 2001 - The myth of porcelain was born in Europe during the Thirteenth century, when the first European merchants decided to attempt the adventurous voyage towards China. On their way back, they brought some vases made of this mysterious material. So, in many European courts they tried to discover the secret of porcelain.
The "soft paste" factory that Charles of Bourbon established in Naples in the Eighteenth century brought these manufactures to the highest European artistic levels.
The Neapolitan production confronted brilliantly with the first half of the Nineteenth century, too, thanks to the artists trained under the Royal Factory of Ferdinand which, after several years, replaced Charles' factory, that had been moved to Spain with the King himself.
Then, the Industrial Artistic Museum was established, together with the workshops, so as to keep the strong tie with the tradition inspiring the firms of the Consortium of Porcelains and Ceramics of Capodimonte, in order to uphold the quality of precious and delicate works of art.
The aim is to realise creations according to old techniques so as to give to the many lovers of the genre the possibility of enjoying a collector's piece which is the fruit of the meticulous work of the most skilled masters.

Consortium of Porcelains and Ceramics of Capodimonte


Subject: The ceramics art of Chini family in Tuscany

MUGELLO, Italy, February 02, 2001 - Since many years the activity of the Chini family represents the heart of deep analyses and studies, in order to give to this activity a right position in the artistic culture, matured in Italy between 1800 and 1900. We do not want to dwell on here and go into the artistic dimension of Chini ceramics, but we would like to go back over the roots and contents of the activity of the Fornaci San Lorenzo. So this brief document will represent a sort of travel in the artistic bent that this family is growing up from decades, within an area purely Tuscan but at the same time in a very important adventure for the development of modern style.
Till now anybody has examined and studied the production of Fornaci San Lorenzo, a production that can be also studied from some models found in the territory of Borgo San Lorenzo: the listing of this models allow us to understand the importance this family has had in this territory, leaving some objects with an elevate craft quality.
The presence of Chini family in Mugello dates back to the beginning of 1800 with Pietro Alessio, the progenitor of the family, who was a decorator and who was followed in this activity by the most part of his descendants.
The fame of Chini family was marked out to the territory of Mugello until the end of 1800. The event which will give fame and importance to this family is the foundation in Florence, at the end of 1896, of a small ceramics factory called "L'Arte della Ceramica", whose production represents the main example of experimentation in Tuscany and in Italy for the development of decorative arts. The artistic director of this factory is Galileo Chini, who understands very quickly the precepts of the new aesthetics, already asserted in the most part of Europe. At the "Esposizione di Torino" (Exhibition in Turin) in 1898 the production of "Arte della Ceramica" obtains an incredible success, dominating for its modern style. To the undertake, initially founded by Galileo Chini, Vittorio Giunti, Giovanni Montelatici and Giovanni Vannuzzi, then added some other members of the Chini family: Chino, Guido and Augusto. The stormy events of this undertake, already well known, led both Galileo and Chino to leave their activities in the factory. But in 1906 they create, together with Pietro Chini, brother of Chino, the ceramics factory "Fornaci San Lorenzo", situated in Borgo San Lorenzo, in the mugello valley, from which this family takes its origins. In the name of this new undertake, which is located in the ex "tintoria" Tesi, the name of Chino does not appear, in fact as he was technical director of the factory "Arte della Ceramica" and so depository of manufacturing secrets, he would have had some troubles with the members of the old undertake. Galileo Chini, become a very famous artist, is the author of the first advertising for the manufactures of Fornaci San Lorenzo; during the "Esposizione di Milano" (Exhibition of Milan) in 1906, where he introduces his works as a painter, he understands the importance to let know the manufactures of the new factory.

Gilda Cefariello Grosso


Subject: Buyers warm to February art date

LONDON, February 14, 2001 - Last week London saw Sotheby’s and Christie’s first ever round of major Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary sales in February.
To increase gathering times and let buyers recover from their November purchases, Sotheby’s and Christie’s in London have abandoned their traditional policy of holding sales in early December, a month after New York’s Impressionist and Modern week.
Buyers seemed comfortable enough with the new February sale dates, though totals were somewhat lower than in December 1999.
Bidding was upbeat and competitive at Sotheby’s tightly-edited February 5 Part I sale of Impressionist & Modern art, led by the record £7m given by New York’s Acquavella Galleries for Egon Schiele’s Secessionist Portrait of the Painter Anton Peschka and the £4.8m paid by a South-East Asian telephone buyer for Monet’s c.1917-1920 Bassin aux Nympheas, but the total of £23.6m was £3.5m down on Bond Street’s December 1999 Part I proceeds, despite an impressive selling rate of 96 per cent by value.
Bidding was less consistent at Christie’s evening sale of Impressionist & Modern Art on February 6, bought-ins were 26 per cent by lot and 23 per cent by value, but the total of £17.8m was some £500,000 up on December 1999.
With Picasso’s 1932 oil Le Repos failing to make its ambitious estimate of £2.5-3.5m, top performer at Christie’s was Picasso’s 1942 canvas, Buste de Femme (Dora Maar), bought by the Tel Aviv-based dealer Joseph Hackmey.
Consignors, having seen a softening of demand at the November Impressionist and Modern sales in New York, were clearly nervous about testing the market at the highest level. Continuing concerns over the health of the American economy were underlined on February 6 by Christie’s first Art of the Surreal sale, where 87 per cent of the lots went to Europeans.
Sotheby’s and Christie’s contemporary sales made similar totals. Bond Street’s February 7 evening auction took £7.5m (£1.5m up on last year) with a record £1.05m for Sigmar Polke’s c.1963-64 Doppelportrat.
Christie’s slickly marketed but unconvincingly auctioned February 8 double act of Post War and Contemporary Art took a total of £8.5m from 54 lots. There were strong notes of selectivity, particularly for 1950s painting and Thomas Struth photographs, but selling rates of more than 75 per cent at all three sales suggested continuing confidence for ‘classic’ contemporary and ‘cutting edge’ works.

Antiques Trade Gazette


Subject: The Empire style

LONDON, February 7, 2001 - Prior to 1789 in France, style was decorative and frivolous. It depended on the monarchy and aristocracy. But, of course, after the Revolution all that changed. There came a new order socially, politically, economically and artistically. The leader of that new order was the Emperor himself, Napoleon. He established a style that he thought fitting for this new culture, a style he thought would last for generations.
So what is Empire? Essentially Napoleon wanted a style that equated the new France with the great civilisations of the past: the classical world, Egypt and so on. What was established was a grand, formal style, something completely new in Europe, rich and extravagant, but drawing its ideas from the past.
The style was formal, elegant and grand and it applied universally to porcelain, to metalwork and to furniture. And what linked all those things together was the dependence on elements from classical and ancient civilisations.
The candlestick is rich with classical detail but even more interesting are the sphinxes - a record of the fact that it was Napoleon who was the first to carry out major excavations of Egyptian civilisation in North Africa.
Empire was a severe style. Dark and light mahogany replaced the variety of precious woods previously used. Any sign of coloured inlays in delicate shades was completely out. Most of the furniture would be uncarved but generously ornamented with brass inlay and ormolu mounts. To some extent the French Empire style was matched by English Regency but Regency lacked the power, the purity and the elegance the French achieved. Empire was a universal style but it wasn't to last. The history of France in the 19th century was a see-saw between revived monarchy and republicanism. But, in its heyday, Empire was a style that affected many areas of society.
It was also a time when women were in the ascendancy. Empress Josephine, the power behind the throne, launched the Empire line - the high-waisted court dress with train. But history deemed otherwise and Wellington won the Battle of Waterloo. And so, although France remained the style centre for much of Europe through the 19th century, in Britain we retired to Queen Victoria and the rather unsexy Gothic revival. And Wellington? His legacy is a pair of Wellington boots.

BBC Online

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