Issue n. 06
March 15, 2001
~~~ ARLECCHINO NEWSLETTER
~~~ A free bi-weekly newsletter of 249 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 #06, March 15, 2001
IN THIS ISSUE
New Topics on Fine Arts in Italy/Europe (2)
1) Baschenis: Music and Art at the Metropolitan
by Souren Melikian
2) International Contemporary Art Fair Bologna
New Topics on Italian style (2)
1) Italian Style Shifts to Romantic
by Associated Press
2) Hotels & Design
New Topics on Italian handicraft works of art (2)
1) Venetian glass
by Paolo Coin
2) The secret of the Stradivarius violin revealed
by Carla Rossi
New Topics on Italian/European antique & collectibles (2)
1) The Bauhaus Pottery
by Steven Goldate
2) The beauty of Victorian Parian Ware
by Bob Brooke
-----====(* FINE ARTS IN ITALY & EUROPE *)====-----
Subject: Baschenis: Music and Art at the Metropolitan
NEW YORK, March 14, 2001 - In 17 tableaux, to the silent accompaniment of 14 stringed
instruments that seem to have walked off the paintings, the most dramatic opera ever
staged in a museum plays soundlessly at the Met until March 4.
The Still Lifes of Evaristo Baschenis, aptly subtitled
The Music of Silence rescues from quasi-oblivion one of the most
profound painters on the 17th-century Italian scene.
If there is a mystery about art, Baschenis sums it up. None of the brief documentary
references to this genius, as discreet about himself as in his painting, explains the
tension allied with a feeling of ineffable serenity that emanates from his still lifes.
Perhaps it was the trauma experienced by a boy of 13 during the 1630 plague in which he
lost his father and two of his brothers that plunged Baschenis into silent meditation for
the rest of his life. Nine years elapsed before he could envisage embarking on the
profession that his family had embraced in Bergamo for generations. He was admitted into
the studio of Gian Giacomo Barbello from Crema, a small town to the east of Milan.
Barbello was no genius but a highly skilled craftsman who initiated the young man into the
difficult technique of painting foreshortening (i.e. compressing perspective) as Enrico de
Pascale points out in the wonderful exhibition book edited by the show curator Andrea
Bayer. The need to concentrate on this complex form of trompe loeil rendition may
have had a soothing effect on Baschenis by forcing his mind away from his darkest
memories, but it could not erase his awareness of the vanity of all possessions and of the
frail, fleeting beauty of life.
In circumstances we know little about, Baschenis took the orders and became a priest as
soon as he was back in Bergamo in 1643. Discreetly, like everything else Baschenis ever
did. A document of July 24, 1644, granted him permission to celebrate his first Mass.
He also set up as a professional painter. One would dearly like to find out how the quiet
man came to have contacts with the modern artists of the day. He must have been well
acquainted with leading Caravagesque painters to acquire his close understanding of
chiaroscuro and he obviously saw Spanish still lifes. Simple objects from Spain such as
oval-shaped wooden boxes of oval shape represented by Juan Sanchez Cotan and Juan van der
Hamen in the 1620s, recur in the still lifes of Baschenis.
Subject: International Contemporary Art Fair Bologna
BOLOGNA, Italy, March 9, 2001 - Two hundred or more contemporary art galleries have set up
shop under the one roof for the biggest art fair in Italy. The organizers have chosen the
slogan ART HAS A POINT the meaning of which eluded many of the Italian gallery owners I
spoke to who asked me for a translation. They still wore the slogan buttons and it does
seem strange to have adopted an English language slogan when there were so few overseas
galleries represented at Bologna ArteFiera. That art really does have a point will be the
topic of talks given at the fair by such luminaries as Jannis Kounellis, Arnulf Rainer and
The meat of this enormous visual feast is made up Italian reliables, an elite team of
artists mostly in the over fifty age group who are courted by all the galleries. Gianenzo
Sperone of Rome and New York, known as Italy's foremost galleryist showed the latest work
from Aldo Mondino, a large alabaster sculpture of a severed wing inspired from the Nike of
Samothrace. Mondino, a flamboyant artist regarded as a "grande personaggio" (a
great character) by his peers is omnipresent throughout the Fiera and on opening night,
the artist was able to saunter from stand to stand reassured of his fame by numerous works
on the walls. His latest one man show (on till 30th Jan.) was hosted by Santo Ficara of
Florence, who was at Fiera displaying Mondino's chandelier made of bic pens.
Mondino is the classic example of a hard working artist who also knows how to
"play" the artist down to his dandyish mode of dressing, his divine offspring
and soignée, much younger companion. In Italy, playing the part is highly important.
Nobody wants to know or show a boring artist.
Sperone's stand was the first to be invaded as the huge crowd braved a freezing cold
evening and poured through the doors at Fiera to see and be seen. The first area is set
aside for art publishers and prints. However it is inside that the main action takes place
on two floors. The individual stands are very large compared to other art fairs and really
do give a gallery adequate space to recreate a gallery atmosphere. Everyone chose to keep
their walls white except Silvano Lodi Junior of Milano who opted for an incredibly elegant
matt black on which to hang his sedate, quality collection of moderns from Miro to Arman.
Bologna Fiera remains one of the top 5 contemporary art fairs in Europe, although where
one would place it in that top 5, is hard to say. More important than FIAC perhaps, but
definitely nowhere near as exciting as Cologne. It remains by and large, an Italian affair
and you really have to be familiar with names like Mondino, Turcato, Accardi, Gilardi,
Salvo, Paladino and all the rest of this ilk before a foreigner could seriously start to
wander around and appreciate what is on view.
-------=======(* ITALIAN STYLE *)=======-------
Subject: Italian Style Shifts to Romantic
MILAN, Italy, March 8, 2001 - Italian designers are thinking soft and sweet rather than
tough and tawdry for next winter.
At the end of long eleven days of preview showings for the fall-winter 2001-2002, it seems
``moda Milanese'' wants to take a break from the sexy silhouette that has been its
trademark for many a season.
``It's time to pull back and be more spiritual,'' said Tom Ford of Gucci.
The runway result, not only at Gucci but at most of the top shows including Armani, Prada,
Ferretti and even Versace, was a sort of avant-garde romanticism: ruffled blouses, tiny
jackets, flounced skirts, pretty dresses, chic capes and ballet-style footwear.
Although the basic palette remained black, delicate floral prints and ultra-light fabrics
helped underline the softness of the look. At its most refined (Ferragamo and Pucci) the
styles could have passed for couture.
The 1960s baby doll dress, flimsy and short, is this round's answer to sexy nightwear. It
showed up everywhere on the runway, and usually came in see-through chiffon or embroidered
silk. A version in fur was spotted at Fendi.
In their quest for new romanticism,, the designers harked back to Old England, but also
visited the American frontier where they found homespun styles such as pretty smock
dresses in floral prints, lace-up boots and Davy Crockett's trusty fur hat.
Following, from head to toe, is a rundown on the trends:
--Headgear: furry, if possible with a tail
--Hairdo: loose and easy or gathered in a satin ribbon
--Makeup: pale and dreary or cheery pink
--Jewelry: pearls and brooches
--Bags: enormous or tiny carried by hand, or a shoulder satchel
--Coats: short, long or, best of all, a cape
--Jackets: small and boxy like a child's
--Blouse: extra-long sleeve and ruffled front
--Skirt: A-line, flounced or panel pleated
--Dress: baby doll or shift, with puffed sleeve or strapless
--Pants: low-waisted and extra long
--Belts: lots, and usually wide and with big buckles
--Hosiery: heavy wool or leggings; bare legs replace sheer
--Footwear: lace-up boots and ballet styles, high-heeled or flat
--Favorite accessory: raccoon tails for decorative fun
--Fur: heavily used for next year's chillier seasons. Although fur coats do not show up in
excess, fur is used as lining, as well as the border of a hemline, cuff or lapel. When
shorn extra thin, it can become a cozy cocktail dress.
Subject: Hotels & Design
MILAN, Italy, March 12, 2001 - Large luxury hotels seem to be the current passion of
architects, designers and fashion designers who have recently taken to creating hotels
from start to finish and a personal given to the smallest detail, from furnishings, to
fabrics to walls and artwork.
The design of the brand new Palazzo Versace hotel - also includes a beauty farm - in
Australia makes a very strong visual impression. All of its 250 rooms enjoy a view of the
sea and the hotel's private beach. Furnishings and accessories were, for the most part,
chosen directly from the Milanese label's Versace Home Collection homewear division. Some
pieces were, however, created for the hotel, in keeping with the overall neo-classic
style: marble columns, granite, mosaics, colorful fabrics and the sumptuous, even
extravagant, detail associated with the Versace name.
Versace has created this luxurious oasis on the Australian Gold Coast, offering a refined
"Baroque" holiday not out of touch with the surrounding natural environment.
The Palazzo Versace is in line with Maison Versace's general philosophy, tastes and
projected lifestyle images. Mr. Abedian's knowledgeable execution complements Donatella
Versace's creative vision to perfection. His team has admirably met the challenge of
constructing a non-irritating 250-room structure in the heart of a tranquil, natural
setting. The interior, inspired by the late Renaissance, interacts well with the natural
environment. Gleaming white Carrara marble is crisply contrasted with the vibrant greens
and creamy tones also found in the family's numerous residences around the world as well
as their boutiques. The services offered the hotel's discriminating guests are quite
exclusive, and the standards high. Quality prevails from beauty treatments to meeting
rooms, to bars and restaurants.
In Sardinia, Milanese architect Fabio Novembre has completed work on the enchanting Hotel
Li Cuncheddi. Impressive are the eye-catching horizontal niches, starkly illuminated by
the Sardinian-sunny yellow lighting interrupted only by curving hallways. A joyous
diversion is provided by an army of stuffed animals -- sheep, to be exact -- scattered
throughout the hotel to bring the characteristic Sardinian landscape indoors. Guests are
apt to find one grazing in their rooms!
Another prominent figure, Diesel proprietor Renzo Rosso, is preparing to try his luck as a
hotelier for the second time, hoping to copy his successful 1994 acquisition of the Hotel
Pelican in Miami. He plans to take reopen the Art Déco District's Hotel Carlyle this
An oriental atmosphere with Mohammedan overtones and Zen-like minimalism come together at
the Hotel Carducci 76 in Cattolica. The hotel was recently restored by Massimo Ferretti,
brother of stylist Alberta Ferretti and president of the Aeffe textile group.
Leonardo Ferragamo, son of the legendary "shoemaker to the stars" Salvatore, has
developed his concept of the museum hotel with the opening of the Gallery Art Hotel in
Florence. Guests are treated to in-house exhibitions, art shows and presentations by
------=====(* ITALIAN HANDICRAFT WORKS OF ART *)=====------
Subject: Venetian glass
MURANO, Italy, March 14, 2001 - Although a glassblowers' guild existed in Venice from
1224, the earliest extant specimens that can be dated with certainty are from the mid-15th
century. The early history of Venetian glass is therefore largely conjectural. It is known
that in 1291 the glasshouses moved across the lagoon to the island of Murano, where they
have remained. The capture of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204 and by the Ottomans
in 1453 brought an influx of Byzantine glassworkers to Venice. In the 16th century, a
period from which a significant number of samples has survived, Venice was no longer a
world power; and Venetian glass therefore belongs, along with much of the city's other
art, to its period of commercial decline.
In the 15th century efforts were concentrated in the perfection of cristallo--i.e., clear
glass that approximated rock crystal in appearance. By the 16th century techniques of
adding colour to clear glass were mastered as well as those of decolourizing glass from
the natural smoky tint of all primitive glass produced by metal in the glass material.
Gilding and enamelling were also known. These and other secrets were guarded, and severe
penalties were meted out to defecting workmen. Examples from the 16th century include
vessels done in millefiori technique, an ancient technique in which canes of different
coloured glass are bonded together so that a section reveals many small multicoloured
flowerlike beads. Other techniques used were calcedonio, a method of simulating marble and
other stones; and latticinio, in which rods of opaque, usually white, glass were
incorporated in the body of the glass vessel and worked in patterns. Diamond-engraving was
made possible in the 16th century by the improvements that had been made in the quality of
The staple products of Venetian glassblowers in the 16th and 17th centuries were drinking
glasses. Their peculiarly Venetian characteristic was the elaborate working of the stem
with tools such as pincers while the glass was still malleable. Symmetrical
"wings" were drawn outward at each side; these were sometimes further elaborated
into animals or masks, and sometimes the stem so bristled with projections that the glass
can hardly have been used for drinking at all. This type of drinking glass and some other
vessels with elaborately flared bowls are usually called bouquetiers ("flower
In the 18th century competition from other countries, especially Bohemia, caused somewhat
of a decline in the prestige of Venetian glass, although 17th-century types continued to
be reproduced along with mirrors and beads. In the 19th century little was done that was
worthwhile apart from the reproduction of older types. In the 20th century the old
techniques such as latticinio were employed with continued skill to produce some tasteless
glass, though from c. 1961 some good specimens such as plain obelisks and hourglasses were
being made. The reproduction of 17th-century types continues.
Subject: The secret of the Stradivarius violin revealed
CREMONA, Italy, March 6, 2001 - It is a chemical treatment, not the varnish, that makes
the Cremonese violins the most valued violins that exist It was all in the chemistry the
secret of Antonio Stradivarius violins. There is no special varnish, of which the
composition has been known for quite some time. It is, rather, a chemical treatment of the
wood containing potassium silicate and calcium that creates a greater absorption in the
softer wood in respect to the hard wood found in other parts of the violin. This is the
secret that has tortured violin makers for over three hundred years that was finally
revealed yesterday by the Professor Andrea Mosconi who has dedicated his life to the
organization and maintenance of the violins and collection of documents of the famed
Stradivarius held at the museum of Cremona, located in the northern Italian province of
Lombardy. He is the leading authority on the history of Stradivarius that exists today.
For thirty years he has been the curator of this invaluable collection. Every day he
checks the temperature, the humidity, the lighting before he begins the most delicate job
of playing each instrument. On violins that have a value in the millions of dollars he
delicately plays a few cords to keep the instruments in tune.
-----===(* ITALIAN/EUROPEAN ANTIQUE & COLLECTIBLES *)===-----
Subject: The Bauhaus Pottery
LONDON, March 4, 2001 - In 1920 the Bauhaus took on master potter Max Krehan as a
collaborator in setting up a pottery workshop. Krehan's initial class consisted of 5
students, who worked at his pottery in Dornburg, 30 kilometers away from the main school
The ceramics students were more self-sufficient that some of the other craft workshops,
partly due to the physical separation, partly due to the ceramic tradition of
self-sufficiency, e.g. by digging up one's own clay. Krehan taught the principles of
pottery: throwing on the potters wheel, turning (trimming), glazing and firing kilns.
Gerhard Marcks, who was also involved in other aspects of the school, taught the history
of ceramics and encouraged experimental ceramic design.
In 1924 Otto Lindig took over the technical aspects of the Bauhaus pottery, while Theodor
Bogler looked after the commercial side of things. Architect Walter Gropius, at the time
director of the school, and himself a sometime ceramic designer encouraged machine-made
ceramic mass production, although there was some resistance to this idea, e.g. from
Gerhard Marcks, who believed that the Bauhaus should be an educational institution and not
a 'factory'. None-the-less, the Bauhaus pottery studio provided designs for mass
production in industry of ceramic containers and other items, particularly slip-cast forms
designed by Lindig and Bogler.
By 1925, the fate of the short-lived Bauhaus pottery workshop was sealed. The State of
Thuringia, dominated by right wing parties and intolerant of Bauhaus ideas halved funding
for the school and shortly after sacked Gropius. The Bauhaus moved to Dessau and the
pottery workshop was disbanded, never to be resurrected again. By the early 1930's Nazi
Germany forced the liberal, forward-thinking Bauhaus to close it's doors altogether.
Despite this, Bauhaus ceramic design has had a long-lasting effect on German and European
ceramic design. A good example of the style is immortalized in Gropius' famous Tea
Service, still being manufactured by Rosenthal today.
Subject: The beauty of Victorian Parian Ware
LONDON, March 12, 2001 - The marble-like beauty of Parian Ware porcelain captivated
Victorians. They eagerly welcomed its inexpensive, small-scale copies of famous statues.
They loved its endearing models of children and animals, busts of literary, political or
other luminaries, and its decorative vases, boxes and pitchers.
Parian Ware, an unglazed and finely textured biscuit porcelain was one of the most popular
Victorian ornaments. A Parian bust of Sir Walter Scott or William Thackeray, set in a rich
wood-paneled entryway, conveyed a family's literary interests, while a Parian vase on a
parlor table expressed the Victorian dedication to the home. In a Victorian parlor filled
with pattern and the rich texture of velvet, a Parian reproduction of a noted sculptor's
work lent a fashionable and refreshing note of white.
Parian was made of a liquid clay poured into a mold. It was first called "Statuary
Porcelain" or "Statuary Ware" because it so closely resembled marble and
permitted accurate and finely detailed reproductions of sculptures. Later, it was dubbed
Parian due to its strong resemblance to the marble from the Greek Island of Paros, a
marble popularly used in the eighteenth and ninteenth century for small sculptures.
A development of earlier biscuit porcelain, Parian Ware was first made by in England in
1842 by Copeland. The use of Parian in England was given a substantial boost when the
esteemed Art Union of London commissioned Copeland in 1845 to issue a number of Parian
figures after the works of leading contemporary sculptors.
Until the arrival of Parian, sculpture was primarily in the domain of royalty and the
wealthy. Queen Victoria surrounded herself with marble statues of her children and
commissioned a statue of her beloved Prince Albert attired, surprisingly, as a Roman. And
Americans often returned triumphantly from their Grand Tours of Europe with marble statues
that spoke eloquently, when in their homes, of their Continentally acquired
No wonder potteries all over the British Isles produced Parian pieces to meet the growing
demand for this affordable ware. Leading makers of it included Copeland, Minton, Charles
Meigh and Worcester. Wedgwood referred to its biscuit ware as Carrara, but this ware is
now generally called Parian. Models for the production of Parian figures were frequently
the work of the period's finest artists who approved Parian's fidelity in reproduction of
There were busts of Milton, Byron, and even Apollo; figures representing Autumn, angels,
cherubs, and the popular Red Riding Hood, children, animals and birds, along with copies
of the noted American sculptor Hiram Powers' famous The Greek Slave.
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