Arlecchino Newsletter

Vol. 3 Issue n. 05
March 01, 2001

~~~      A free bi-weekly newsletter of 243 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 #05, March 01, 2001

                       IN THIS ISSUE

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

1) Tidemarks Canaletto helps Venice fight floods
     by Rory Carroll

2) The Etruscans at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice
     by Dolcevita

New Topics on Italian style (2)

1) Italy celebrates 50 years of design
     by Jennifer Clark

2) Carnival in Venice brings out costumed craziness
     by Reuters

New Topics on Italian handicraft works of art (2)

1) Jewelry Gears Up for a Colorful Spring
     by Couture Jeweler

2) The Art of Maiolica

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

1) Cigarette Cards
     by Franklyn Cards

2) Button collecting
     by M. W. Speights


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

Subject: Tidemarks Canaletto helps Venice fight floods

ROME, February 15, 2001 - Canaletto's 18th century paintings immortalised Venice as perhaps the most beautiful city in the world. Their exquisite precision may now help to save it.
When depicting palaces rising out of the water, he included lines of green scum - traces of algae - which provide a historical record of the tides.
Scientists from Italy's national research council have started analysing the paintings to chart water levels. By mapping tide dynamics they hope to predict, and prevent, flooding.
"It is very exciting. It fills gaps in our knowledge," Dr Dario Camuffo, who came up with the idea, said. "To predict the future we need to understand the past."
Canaletto's mastery of perspective in his canal scenes made him hugely popular with British aristocrats passing through on their grand tour of Italy.
He had trouble keeping pace with demand, so he increased output with a portable camera obscura - a lens which projects images on to sketch pads. The method was described by Leonardo Da Vinci 250 years earlier, and it enabled Canaletto to reproduce landscapes replete with the green lines left on buildings by high tides.
A 1767 painting of the Piazza San Marco shows algae 34cm lower than today.
Venetians have protested at the authorities' failure to prevent ever more frequent and serious flooding, which is blamed on subsidence and rising sea levels.
Proposed giant flood barriers have been rejected by environmentalists and the authorities now plan to raise the Piazza San Marco.

Rory Carroll (Guardian Unlimited)


Subject: The Etruscans at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice

VENICE, February 18, 2001 - The exhibit at the Palazzo Grassi solicited the contribution of over 700 items by nearly eighty museums from thirteen museums around the world. By means of these collected artifacts, the intention of the exhibition is to explore in detail the social and political experience of Etruscan society, which remains to this day, in many ways, a mystery. Their origins, for example, are unknown: certain is only the fact that they lived in the area between Lazio and Tuscany, while other ideas as to the ancestry of the Etruscan people is merely speculation. One such hypothesis is that they may have arrived from Mesopotamia some three thousand years before Christ and established a civilization which was later overrun by the Romans, which ultimately led to its decline.
The Etruscan exhibition extends throughout all 36 galleries of the 16th-century Venetian palazzo, covering a total area of nearly 4000 square meters. The objects on display are all on loan from museums, private collections and institutions from Austria, Belgium, Vatican City, Denmark, Germany, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Holland and the United States. The most bountiful contributor is, however, without doubt, Italy with over 400 pieces gathered from 46 different sources.
Exhibition Themes:
The exhibition takes a close look at the Etruscan power structure before it was crushed by the Roman empire: from its legal system to its cult of ancestor worship to the wealth evidenced by the rich ornaments buried with women found in tombs, festive arrangements and the elaborate trappings of soldiers.
Displays on the first floor feature the craftsmanship of bronze and iron, for which the Etruscan region became known as the "El Dorado" of the ancient world. The exhibition offers an ample and articulate overview of the Hellenic culture, in view of how it was absorbed and adapted by the Etruscans to suit their needs. It deeply explores their agricultural foundation and their metallurgy upon which their fortunes were founded.
On Exhibit:
Among the fascinating objects exhibited, of particular interest is the reconstructed Castel san Mariano carriage, a lady's carriage which lay in pieces distributed in four different museums throughout Europe, and assembled here for the first time.
The most impressive work displayed is perhaps the 1 meter 80 cm high statue of the Arringatore, on loan from the Museo Archeologico di Firenze.
The weightiest item is surely a sarcophagus from the Necropoli dello Sperandio, on loan from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Perugia, which is 2 meters long and weighs around 2, 800 pounds!
Among the smallest objects are a collection of scarabs from Berlin which measure about 1 square centimeter and some polished precious gems from the Museo Archeologico di Firenze, a little over 1 square centimeter in size. The artifact that traveled the farthest to arrive is a small statue of Tinia, which came from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.


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

Subject: Italy celebrates 50 years of design

MILAN, Italy, February 23, 2001 - From those humble beginnings at Florence’s Villa Torrigiani on Feb. 12 1951, Italy’s fashion industry has grown into a $43 billion annual business.
That achievement was commemorated this week by the donation of Giorgini’s photo archives to the Palazzo Pitti Costume Institute in Florence where they can be consulted by historians and students.
Looking back on 50 years, Paris has kept haute couture, transforming it into a niche product; the United States has won a leading role in sportswear; and Italy is a world leader in high-end ready-to-wear, said Mario Boselli, chairman of industry group Camera Nazionale della Moda at a presentation Tuesday.
The Italian fashion industry celebrated its 50th birthday in Florence behind closed doors at an invitation-only ceremony at Palazzo Pitti on Monday.
But the Milan-based furniture fair Salone Internazionale del Mobile decided it wanted to get as much bang for its buck as possible out of its own 40th anniversary during Furniture Week in April.
So the Salone is putting on a high-profile museum exhibition called Made in Italy that encompasses fashion, design and what it calls -fifty years of Italian life- celebrating itself even as it borrows some of the limelight from the fashion world.
Once seen as a junior cousin to the Milan fashion shows that precede it by a month, the Salone has become more publicity-minded in recent years. Its -Stanze e Segreti- (Rooms and Secrets) museum show last year was a smash hit, leading some Milanese commentators to warn that the Salone could soon start to outshine the Milan fashion shows.
There were two reasons for doing Made in Italy, said curator Luigi Settembrini. First of all we want to reach a broader audience. And second, we want Milan to regain its position as a cultural capital.
Organizers asked architect Gae Aulenti, theater director Luca Ronconi, photographer Oliviero Toscani and others to design a series of installations on fashion and design-related themes.
Organizers of -Made in Italy- said they wanted to do something different from the usual sort of retrospective of cult design items like Bialetti coffee makers, Vespa scooters, Olivetti typewriters and the like.
So they asked architect Gae Aulenti, theater director Luca Ronconi, photographer Oliviero Toscani and others to design a series of installations on fashion and design-related themes for the exhibition, which runs from April 4 to May 13 at Milan’s Triennale museum.
The show coincides with the trend-setting Salone Internazionale del Mobile, which drew 165,000 visitors from 144 countries last year. This year’s edition, the fair’s 40th, runs from April 4-9.

Jennifer Clark (Reuters)


Subject: Carnival in Venice brings out costumed craziness

VENICE, Italy, February 20, 2001 - His black cloak flowing, Casanova darts through the arches of the Doge's palace, followed by a well-dressed woman, her full petticoats impeding her progress through the throng. Could it be a secret assignation for the famous Venetian lover and a powerful nobleman's wife?
"How's it going, mate?" he shouted to his female companion in a strong northern English accent. "You want to hitch your skirt up and run if you're going to keep up". Just what Casanova would have said.
Carnival time in 21st century Venice throws up the oddest images: Japanese tourists with painted faces; Venetians in glittering carnival regalia dodging Egyptian pharaohs carrying umbrellas; harlequins at bus stops; a bad-tempered 10-year-old 16th-century nobleman spray-painting his screaming little sister, who is dressed as a yellow chick.
About 70,000 people crowded into the city on the first Sunday of the 10-day carnival and all seemed to turn up at once in St. Mark's Square to watch the "Angel's Flight" -- a young woman in white gliding down from the Campanile tower in a traditional ceremony to kick off the celebrations.
"I came here with five children," said Linda Barker from London, as she squinted to see if her son was in the seething mass before her. "I wonder how many I'll go home with."
"The days of the carnival are the days of craziness and happiness," Venice Mayor Paolo Costa told Reuters. "It also reminds people of Venice's greatest days."
Pagan ritual turned rowdy - The carnival celebrations began more than 1,000 years ago as a pagan ritual was turned into lavish partying ahead of abstemious Lent. Social roles were reversed: Masters dressed as servants, servants as masters, men as women, women as men.
Entertainment became so excessive that by the mid-15th century men were officially banned from entering convents dressed as women to commit something called "multas inhonestates."
By the 18th century the carnival spanned several months and masks became commonplace. Its fame spread wide. According to one historian, a teenage Mozart was so carried away at the carnival that he fathered a child with an eager local girl.
But Napoleon put a stop to that at the turn of the 19th century when he gave Venice to the Austrians, who banned the carnival for fear spies would flourish amid the chaos. It was not properly revived until 1979, following two decades of social and political upheaval.
"Its revival was important," said Costa. "It was the first time people could go into the squares and enjoy themselves."


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

Subject: Jewelry Gears Up for a Colorful Spring

ROME, February 25, 2001 - After the bright shades spotted on the streets during the holiday period and the fabulous tropical colors on the season's newest evening wear, there can be doubt that the color wave is continuing in a big way for spring/summer 2001.
Led at the couture level by Gucci, Versace and Chanel, the fashions for spring jump out and demand attention. Likewise the newest jewelry that will be worn with them.
The recent Accessories Circuit and Intermezzo fashion shows in New York underscored the color craze. Here, designers unveiled clothes and accessories that oftentimes resembled the colors and patterns from a 1960s head shop. Tie dyes; handpainted designs, space dyes, birds, butterflies and bugs. And all in bright citrus shades of yellow, orange and lime, as well as hot pink and turquoise.
Among Couture Jewelers the trends are the same. Here, a brief look at the hot trends for spring:
Beads of all shapes, colors and sizes
Ethnic themes
Ancient details
Jewelry with secret messages, letters, symbols
Stars in all materials and sizes

Couture Jeweler


Subject: The Art of Maiolica

FAENZA, Italy, February 23, 2001 - Maiolica is a technique where a decoration of ceramic pigments is painted onto a low-firing white glaze, usually a tin-glaze over an earthenware or terra-cotta clay. The white clay forms a 'canvas' or background for the colored decoration. The piece is then fired to earthenware temperature of about 1000* Celcius or 1820* Fahrenheit.
Maiolica or Faience (as it is called in France), can be traced back to Mesopotamia of the 9th century A.D. From there the technique made its way to the Middle-East, then on to North Africa, from where it migrated to Spain. From Spain the art of Maiolica was finally introduced to Italy as early as the 11th century. That country is still famous for this particular type of decoration to this day.
The first ever comprehensive treatise on Maiolica was Picol Passo's 'The Three Books of the Potters Art', written in 1557.
Decoration on Maiolica ware was often abstract, sometimes borrowed from spanish or arabian motifs, eg. this typical 13th C Maiolica basin from Pisa. In Renaissance Italy of the 15th and 16th centuries historical or narrative scenes were also borrowed from other sources such as printmaking.
The French name Faience derives from Faenza, the famous Italian town of ceramics and is essentially the same as Maiolica.
We all know the wide-spread technique of Maiolica that has become so popular outside of Italy. Modern ceramic artists such as Guido Baldani or Tony Hermsen employ the centuries old technique today. Maiolica glaze kits and information on how-to are readily available and can achieve great results. As it offers such scope for painting it has often been called the 'painters medium'.


Subject: Cigarette Cards

LONDON, February 27, 2001 - I am sure if you put all the factors that make up a collectable into a computer it would tell you cigarette cards are the perfect example. It all started in America over 100 years ago but it was in the U.K. that the cigarette card reached its peak.
Older collectors refer to the cards as stiffeners which describes the original function perfectly as they were designed to strengthen the flimsy packaging cigarettes were originally sold in. At first the cards only had very simple advertising on them.
By the 1880's the cards issued had photographs of 'Beauties' and celebrities of the day. It must be remembered this is quite early on the history of photography and for many would represent some of the first photographs of such people the ordinary man in the street would have seen.
The next big boost to cigarette cards came during the period known as The Tobacco Wars. This happened early in the 20th century when James Duke, a US businessman with huge tobacco interests, landed on the shores of the UK with the idea of taking over the industry there. The cigarette card became a very important part of the struggle which followed.
To ensure there was always an element of collecting, the cards were more often than not numbered so the idea was you just kept buying the brand of cigarettes until an entire set of cards was accumulated. This meant cigarette producers were in competition with one another to produce sets which appealed to the smoker.
The cards issued between 1900-1915 are of the highest possible quality and are much sought after by collectors. The First World War reduced the output of the cigarette cards although some were still issued, perhaps the most famous being Carreras' Raemakers War Cartoons. Issued in 1916 it showed illustrations by the famous cartoonist, Raemaker. It is said the Kasier had a price put on his head for the production of these cartoons.
This brings into focus part of the appeal of these cards: they were not cheaply produced. Well known artists and cartoonists were commissioned to produce them and the text on the back was painstakingly researched in an age when information was not as abundant as it is now.
After the break created by World War One large scale card production began again in 1923. Players re-issued Characters from Dickens as a 50 card series. Pre-war it had been two series of 25 cards. This re-issue has led to it being considered the first ever set of cards issued by some, which is evidently not so.
This secondary period of activity saw massive quantities of cards being produced and on much more varied subject matter. Cinema Stars became more popular by the year, almost rivalling the production of sports cards, and now represent some of the most sought after cards in the US market. If you were a football or film star of the period and were not on a cigarette card, chances are you only thought you were.
By the 1930's the collection of cigarette cards was almost a national obsession and there were many organised collectors clubs springing up, some of which survive today.

Franklyn Cards


Subject: Button collecting

Milan, Italy, February 22, 2001 - In the past decade, membership in the exciting hobby of button collecting has tripled, for this is a quest of the unexpected in the highly varied world of buttons.
Most people are first attracted to buttons by their surprising beauty. From the wonderful paintings on ivory under glass of the 18th Century, to the finely executed and colorful enamels, to the great brass picture buttons of the 19th Century, and even to the 20th Century additions of fine porcelains, the whimsical Bakelite realistics, and some really innovative work with glass and plastics - there is something to please the eye of anyone. Who could resist the charming designs of Kate Greenaway or of the depictions of children’s stories, mythology, animal life of all kinds, or beautiful flowers in a wide variety of materials?
If you love history, the buttons of the past 300 years mirror the great people and events of many eras. Reflecting our own history, we have the sought-after and pricey George Washington Inaugural buttons which were sold as souvenirs for the second inauguration of Washington in 1789. The French Revolution of the same period is well documented in buttons, as are the fashion plates of the day known as Fops. Victorian buttons reflect the fashions of that era, which is known as the heyday of button manufacture. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, mass production was possible and even though this ended the great period of handwork, where artisans were considered next to royalty, the people who before could not afford to wear beautiful buttons came to the fore. Even then, button manufacturers were proud of their work and built-in obsolescence was unknown.
If your interest is in art, buttons are a kaleidoscope of nearly all the great periods and styles of art - from baroque to roccoco to art nouveau to art deco - with many modern periods thrown in.
If you love jewelry, buttons of the 17th and 18th Centuries and the Victorian period sparkle. Indeed, buttons were a form of jewelry. Can you picture a gentleman at Versailles resplendent in his velvet or silk knee britches and waistcoat decorated with bright steel or pearl buttons catching the light of the candles? A cartoon of the day shows the ladies swooning at such a glorious sight. These buttons are definitely of museum quality.
If you are a collector of militaria, buttons are an important part of history. The manufacture of military buttons has been thoroughly researched and excellent records are available for time of use.
Buttons come in such a variety of materials and subjects that it would be impossible to name them all. Here it can be said that materials go from A for aluminum to Z for zinc - and that includes such odd materials as bread dough, butterfly wings, chicken skin, hair and wax. Subjects cover just about anything imaginable and it would be easier to name the subjects not covered than to list those covered. This is a nearly perfect hobby, inasmuchas it represents examples of just about all materials and subjects man has chosen to collect.

M. W. Speights

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