Arlecchino Newsletter

Vol. 3 Issue n. 07
April 01, 2001

~~~      A free bi-weekly newsletter of 256 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 #07, April 01, 2001

                    IN THIS ISSUE

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

1) Tower of Pisa will reopen with less of a lean
     by Jeffrey Fleishman

2) Uffizi gallery will be doubled in size by 2004
     by Il Giorno

New Topics on Italian style (2)

1) Tiffany Announces Plans to Open Store in Rome
     by Business Wire

2) Dino De Laurentiis celebrated for lifetime achievement at Oscars

New Topics on Italian handicraft works of art (2)

1) Ceramic art at Nove and Bassano

2) Italian gold manufacturing
     by Manuela Cardinetti

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

1) Italian glass blossoms in USA Collectors are clamoring for Venetian antiques in the 'magical' flowery style known as millefiori
     by Shawn Sell (USA TODAY)

2) Collecting Majolica
     by Marilyn G. Karmason

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

Subject: Tower of Pisa will reopen with less of a lean

PISA, Italy, March 18, 2001 - The Leaning Tower of Pisa will not fall. After centuries of precarious tilt, after conflicts between art and science, after earthquakes and wars, the 190-foot tower will stand slanted, yet firm. Scientists and engineers have gingerly removed tons of sandy soils near the tower's base, allowing the 12thcentury architectural wonder to slightly right itself.
The change in tilt -- about half a degree -- is imperceptible to the tourist's camera, but it is a mathematical leap expected to extend the tower's life by 300 years. By June, the steel cables supporting the tower will be removed, and visitors -- for years kept back by an iron fence -- will roam across the Piazza of Miracles and step again into the monument.
``The tower has been tilting all its life,'' said Paolo Heiniger, the engineer overseeing the soil excavation project, which includes 41 drills boring diagonally into the earth. ``We've brought it back to where it was two centuries ago. It has been substantially stabilized. . . . No one really knows how far this tower can tilt. From a lot of perspectives, it should have collapsed long ago.''
The top of the gravity-defying tower hangs out 14.8 feet from its base, resembling an ornate marble spear slanting in the grass. For many it is almost mythical.
Europe was tormented by plagues, hunger and war when construction on the tower began in 1173. The Pisan dream was to erect the grandest bell tower in the world to complement the city's black-and-white marble cathedral and its mosaic, Christ in Majesty. Pisans were artistic improvisers, and the tower took shape in a piazza adorned with a touch of the Romanesque and the Byzantine.
With only three floors finished, politics and debt forced work to stop in 1178. The stonemasons didn't return until 1275. The tower's remaining four stories of marble facades and 200 columns were finally completed in 1278. The slender bell chamber at the top was added between 1360 and 1370.
``If they would have built the tower all at once, it would have fallen over, no question about it,'' said John Burland, a soil scientist with the Imperial College in Britain and a member of a committee working to save the tower. ``Over time, the tower's weight squeezed water out of the soil and strengthened the layer of clay beneath the soil.''
In early 1990, the tower was closed to the public and its bells were hushed. The Pisa committee of experts decided first to stabilize the structure with steel cables and 900 tons of metal ingots stacked on the north side. The tower gained a reprieve, but the cables and the ingots were eyesores. Italian politicians worried that such trappings would mar the tower's allure and scare away some of Pisa's 7 million tourists a year.
After years of computer modeling, soil testing, infrared sensors, seismology and other scientific brainstorming, the committee decided in February 1999 that Burland's idea of soil extraction was the best way to preserve the tower. A similar plan -- although much less technological -- had been proposed in 1962 by an Italian engineer. The plan attracted little attention until the 1980s, when Mexico began using soil-extraction methods to straighten buildings damaged in earthquakes.

Jeffrey Fleishman


Subject: Uffizi gallery will be doubled in size by 2004

FLORENCE, Italy, March 28, 2001 - Florence's Uffizi Gallery will be doubled in size by 2004 thanks to an investment of 125 billion lire in lottery money, Italy's Fine Arts Minister, Giovanna Melandri, has announced.
The project, dubbed Operation New Uffizi, which has been discussed since the last war, involves increasing exhibition space from 7,000 to 15,000 square metres. The space will be gained from the recovery of the Uffizi's first floor which has been used as a state archives since the times of the Medici.
The Vassarian corridor which runs along an upper floor of the gallery and along and over the River Arno via the Ponte Vecchio to join the Pitti Palace across the river will also be permanently opened. The corridor has not being seen by the public since before the last war except for very brief periods in the last two years, when limited numbers of visitors could book a tour.
Museum services, many of them only recebtly introduced, will be overhauled, new stairways and lifts installed and a ground-floor restaurant opened, and a modern exit porch designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki built.
The re-acquisition of so much exhibition space means that hundreds of masterpieces now in storage will be able to finally see the light of day, Antonio Paolucci, Florence's Fine Arts Superintendent said.
In addition, as a result of the expansion plans the current ceiling of 900 visitors allowed in the museum at any one time will be able to be increased to 2000 people, probably in the next two years.
Although the 'historic nucleus' of the collection of the gallery designed by Giorgio Vasari for Lorenzo the Magnificent to house his private collection would probably not be changed, the alterations will require the guide books on the Uffizi to be re-written.

Il Giorno

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

Subject: Tiffany Announces Plans to Open Store in Rome

NEW YORK, March 22, 2001 - Tiffany & Co. today announced plans to open a store this fall near the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) on via del Babuino.
The store will occupy approximately 405 square meters (approximately 4,400 square feet). It will be the third TIFFANY & CO. location in Italy, in addition to stores in Milan and Florence.
The new store, which will occupy two floors of retail space, will feature design elements of the famous TIFFANY & CO. New York flagship store, including cherry wood interiors and stainless steel detailing on the showcases and vitrines. A broad range of the company's designs will be offered, including the new Lucida(TM) diamond cut and setting; fine and engagement jewelry; the exclusive jewelry designs of Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso and Jean Schlumberger; and an assortment of TIFFANY & CO. gifts.
"The opening of a TIFFANY & CO. store in Rome is an important occasion for us," said James E. Quinn, Vice Chairman of Tiffany & Co. "Rome has a rich history of art and architecture and is the capital of a country renowned for style and design innovation. We are pleased to introduce Tiffany's own traditions of quality, craftsmanship and customer service to all who make this great city their home, as well as the many visitors who are drawn to Rome's countless treasures."
Tiffany & Co. is the internationally renowned jeweler and specialty retailer. Sales are made primarily through TIFFANY & CO. stores and boutiques in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. Direct Marketing includes Tiffany's Corporate division, and catalog and Internet sales.

Business Wire


Subject: Dino De Laurentiis celebrated for lifetime achievement at Oscars

ROME, March 27, 2001 - Although the Oscars have come and gone and, this year, Italy didn't claim any awards for new films, one award was given that may have been of even greater value. Dino De Laurentiis was bestowed the Irving Thalberg lifetime achievement award.
81-year-old De Laurentiis has been pioneering the Italian and world film industry for decades now. Always keeping the public interest in mind, he has produced the biggest names in Italian cinema, such as Fellini and TotÚ. He claims responsibility for classics like "La Strada", "Serpico" and "Blue Velvet". And although his most recent film "Hannibal" has come under much criticism it is still an innovative collaboration that crosses the divide between Hollywood and the rest of the film world. In fact, he believes this to be an important part of the present day Italian producer.
De Laurentiis claims that Italian cinema has never returned to the heights it reached in the 1950's and 60's because there is no freedom for Italian producers and that these problems can't be denied because of a few successes every now and then. Hopes are that cinema will pick up again with fresh, innovative ideas.
Although De Laurentiis has become an imbedded member in American cinema, he seems to be slowly returning to his Italian and European origins, with hopes of being part of a rebirth in Italian cinema.

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

Subject: Ceramic art at Nove and Bassano

NOVE, Italy, March 29, 2001 - Three centuries of ceramics in Nove and Bassano. Many are the elements that have promoted the creation and development of ceramic art in Bassano and Nove since the 17th century. Among them, the availability of plastic clay and kaolin in the subsoil, and the possibility to exploit the Brenta river both to transport finished products and wood for the kilns, and to activate the grinding mills by means of its hydraulic force, in order to grind the pebbles found in the river itself.
In the 17th century the growing request of the precious Chinese porcelain and its diffusion in Europe brought Dutch ceramists to imitate this processing, with the result that this kind of production spread all over the market of the Serenissima. The Venetian Senate, therefore, tried to solve the problem by stimulating the home production with tax relief for the ones who managed to produce porcelain and to improve majolica.


Subject: Italian gold manufacturing

BERGAMO, Italy, March 18, 2001 - Some of the more common methods of manufacturing gold jewelry today are listed below:
-Lost Wax Casting- Hot molten gold is poured into molds made from wax models which are melted out -lost- before casting. When cooled, perfectly detailed gold forms are revealed.
-Chain Making- Most modern chain is produced by computerized machines programmed to form a wide variety of styles. Gold wire can actually be knit into chains of incredibly fine, flexible links.
-Stamping- A technique that presses steel dies into flat sheets of gold to produce three-dimensional shapes.
-Electroforming-A high-tech process that deposits gold around intricate models to create hollow gold pieces that can be bold and dramatic, but light, strong, comfortable and well-priced. (see below)
Weights: jewelers measure gold jewelry weight by pennyweight (abbreviated DWT). A pennyweight equals 1.555 grams. Gold is often measured in grams.
Durability: gold is the most pliable metal accommodating itself to intricate designs; it can be bent, twisted, stretched, hammered and milled, yet retains its flexibility and beauty.
Beauty & Care: gold does not tarnish, so its beauty remains constant for years. If karat gold jewelry leaves a black smudge on the skin of some individuals, the problem is not with the gold content. The individual’s own level of skin acidity can react with certain alloys, and this leaves black smudges on the skin’s surface. Hard chemicals found in cosmetics, medicated creams, lotion and toothpaste lodged on the underside of the piece may also cause smudging. Such particles abrade the jewelry metals, depositing gold particles on the skin that appear black since they are too small to reflect light. The two elements that are most destructive to solid gold are mercury and chlorine. For this reason, we recommend removing your gold jewelry before swimming or coming in contact with bleach or other harsh detergents. It is also a good idea to remove gold chains at night and store them flat to avoid kinking or breaking.
Cleaning: you can clean most gold jewelry with jewelry cleaner or a mild soap mixed with ammonia along with a soft bristle brush. Be careful if there are any stones in your gold jewelry, certain gemstones should not be submerged in these types of cleaning liquids due to brittle or porous nature.

Manuela Cardinetti


Subject: Italian glass blossoms in USA Collectors are clamoring for Venetian antiques in the 'magical' flowery style known as millefiori

NEW YORK, March 18, 2001 - The whimsical antique Venetian mosaic glass is the latest collecting craze for American glass enthusiasts, many of whom think nothing of paying thousands for a small vase or a couple of teacups. And the trend is extending beyond those who already collect glass.
''Italian glass is extremely popular now,'' says Barry Friedman, owner of the New York gallery Barry Friedman, Ltd., which carries pieces ranging from $500 to $7,500. Extremely large or rare millefiori (pronounced millay-fee-OR-ee) items have sold for more: Friedman remembers a plate -- cracked, in fact -- that went for $135,000 at auction. Most coveted are pieces from the early 20th century.
''These sorts of things pop up now and then,'' he says, ''because people like to look back (in time) to find art that interests them.''
They also have a penchant for glass. ''After stamps, glass is the second-most-collected item,'' says Patricia Marti, gallery manager at Steuben in New York, which just closed a show of Venetian glass. ''Glass is magical the way light works with it, and people respond to that quality.''
''We are very taken with the tactile,'' adds curator David McFadden of the American Craft Museum in New York, which featured an important Venetian glass exhibit last fall.
Marti agrees that Venetian glass is a hot commodity -- a 5-inch vase sold for $100,000 at a recent Christie's auction -- and a thing of beauty to behold. Making millefiori, for example, ''is an extremely difficult, painstaking kind of work,'' she says. ''The artisans who created it so long ago are gone and for the most part, they took their unique secrets with them.''
The power of these particular flowers lies in their exuberant appearance. Small, multicolored disks of glass, called murrine, are incorporated into larger glass objects, creating spirals, geometric shapes and flowers. Translated from Italian, millefiori means ''thousand flowers,'' a reference to the all-over floral patterns.
Another aspect of millefiori's appeal is its bright, slightly wacky, psychedelic look, reminiscent of the '60s. (Who hasn't encountered the ubiquitous glass paperweights -- most are inexpensive knockoffs of the real thing -- featuring what looks like kaleidoscopic flowers?) Full of beauty, verve and wit, this stuff is not staid.
''Millefiori is actually a category of mosaic glass,'' explains Barr, co-owner of Gardner & Barr, a New York gallery specializing in Venetian glass. ''It specifically refers to murrine in two-layered glass that was created between the 16th century and the late 19th century. Mosaic glass, on the other hand, uses the same technique but was made after 1877.''
But such huge sums for such little pieces are not always the norm, says Friedman, noting that prices are still reasonable for collectibles of this magnitude. (Prices start at around $500.) The good news, he says, is that ''there were large quantities made, and there are many pieces still out there.'' Adds Barr: ''Although galleries have the selection, you can still find millefiori and other examples of Venetian glass in certain antique shops and at estate sales across the country.''

by Shawn Sell (USA TODAY)


Subject: Collecting Majolica

NEW YORK, March 20, 2001 - When it comes to buying majolica, each collector, of course, must determine his or her own particular preferences and price ranges, but certain guidelines should be followed in all cases. This is particularly true when considering a purchase at a majolica dealer’s booth or when suddenly attacked by auction fever.
A potential buyer should first carefully note the condition of the majolica. Chips, cracks that go through the piece, and crazing may be hard to accept. Glazing that is dull, or does not conform to the outline of the design, or that looks heavy and over painted, is not going to enhance a collection. The under surfaces of a majolica piece is almost always glazed; if it isn’t, be wary.
Inexperienced collectors who cannot spot a repaired piece when they see one, or who don’t know if the piece is reasonably priced or not, would do well to deal only with a dealer they can trust.
Some collectors will buy only perfect pieces. And yet, any of us may still find ourselves carried away by a piece that has a chip (it can always be fixed!) or a piece that has been repaired (a museum-quality repair, no less!) or a piece that will require taking a chunk out of next week’s food budget (I should lose some weight, anyway!).
Most collectors recall making trips and bringing home a piece of majolica as a prize. Or many enjoy using pieces of majolica to express hospitality. Most of all, there is delight in arranging majolica throughout the house, so that each view of beauty and whimsy will bring a new sense of excitement and pleasure.
Collectors can become familiar with the works of different manufactures by making frequent visits to antiques shows and auctions and observing as much as possible. But it is also mandatory to learn the marks of the various factories, or to recognize the undersurface glazes in the event of no markings. More research is needed to interpret markings of painted numbers and strokes on the undersurface, as well as the underglazing itself.
The best majolica usually has an undersurface of pink, blue, green, and occasionally white. Some exhibit a finely mottled blue/black or blue/brown, as in Palissy or Minton pieces. Many English pieces with well-glazed yellow undersurfaces are thought to be from Thomas Forester, but many less well-glazed pieces with yellow undersurfaces may be American. Grossly mottled undersurfaces may indicate that the piece is American.
Markings on English majolica may include the name of the factory and the English registry mark. Minton and Wedgwood also have date-code symbols to indicate the exact date of the manufacture of each piece, even if it were a repetition of an earlier piece. Minton, George Jones, and Wedgwood marks also include a three-or four-digit number corresponding to the number of the piece in the pattern books.
Most collectors of majolica prefer pieces that are marked, but certain anonymous pieces are also very charming and should never be overlooked.
Marks themselves must be authentic; there have been some marks on reproductions partially obliterated as to appear old.

Marilyn G. Karmason

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