Arlecchino Newsletter

Vol. 3 Issue n. 09
May 02, 2001

~~~      A free bi-weekly newsletter of 263 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 #09, May 02, 2001

                    IN THIS ISSUE

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

1) How Canaletto Found His Way (Cini Foundation)
     by Roderick Conway Morris

2) Degrees online in Italian art, culture and language
     by Monrif Net

New Topics on Italian style (2)

1) May is the month of music in Florence
     by Il Giorno

2) Art and Fashion
     by Alice Carlon

New Topics on Italian handicraft works of art (2)

1) Caltagirone, town of ceramics in Sicily
     by Ceramics Online

2) Florence: exhibition dedicated to 20th-Century jewels
     by Manuela Cardinetti

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

1) US-Italy treaty against antiquities smuggling
     by Cristina Ruiz

2) Amazing Majolica
     by Pamela Wiggins

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

Subject: How Canaletto Found His Way (Cini Foundation)

VENICE, Italy, April 30, 2001 - For many artists a visit to Rome has been a revelation, but for Canaletto it marked a complete change of course for a painter who might otherwise be remembered only as an obscure footnote in theatrical history.
He went there in 1719 with his father, Bernardo Canal, a theatrical scene painter, to prepare sets for two Alessandro Scarlatti pieces that were to be presented in the Carnival of 1720. But Canaletto ("Little Canal") also found time to sketch views of the city and its ancient monuments. In so doing he discovered his real metier, and on returning to Venice presently abandoned the security of the family business and struck out on his own as a painter of his native city.
The first decade of Canaletto's activity as an independent artist is now unfolded in an illuminating and elegantly presented show, "Canaletto: The Early Works," at the Cini Foundation on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where more than 100 paintings and drawings from some 30 collections will remain on display until June 10.
Already in his early twenties, Canaletto came relatively late to view-painting and was essentially self-taught in it - a reason why, as Hugo Chapman points out in his excellent short essay in the catalogue, some works that now seem indubitably to be by Canaletto were previously disputed on account of their technical shortcomings.
Even in the early Rome drawings, certain characteristics emerge that were to become abiding features of the artist's work. The use of small figures, for example, not merely as decorative devices but as players of intriguing, incidental, miniature social comedies is already established, as is a willingness to deviate from strict topographical accuracy to enhance the picturesque. And, of course, he was to make lifelong use of his spell in Rome not only in views of the city he painted long after his visit, but also in his "capricci," or imaginary views, many of which contain ancient ruins.
Canaletto seems to have had a clear idea of the kind of pictures he wanted to paint from very early on, after which it was primarily a question of adapting his considerable innate gifts, through trial and error, to realize his vision on canvas. In both his early drawing and painting he showed an unusual control over both large architectural structures and minute detail, but was constantly experimenting with broader, more flamboyant brushstrokes to energize his scenes with immediacy and life. A brilliant example of his determination to capture vibrancy and shimmer through virtuoso brushwork is provided by a wonderful pair of canvases from the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, of two views over the lagoon, painted with tremendous energy and panache and suffused with a bold luminosity that is almost startlingly colorful.

Roderick Conway Morris


Subject: Degrees online in Italian art, culture and language

ROME, Italy, April 28, 2001 - The first of its kind here in Italy, an online course is being offered to foreign students in art, culture and language.
A new means of getting a university degree embarks on the Internet. It is the arrival of the online degree in Italian language and culture for foreigners. All it takes is an automatic application by November 2001 on the site and the courses have begun.
This new degree has been accredited and reaches the standards of the Italian university system. The initiative for this degree was by the university consortium ICON (Italian Culture on the Net) and the state ministers of education. The course is available to all students residing outside of Italy. Evaluations and grades will all be done via Internet with help from a variety of professors and tutors. The students must successfully finish the 180 credits required.
ICON is an organization created to promote Italian language and culture and they hope to do just this with the new courses online. A digital library has also been created, containing over 1,200 works, as well as a virtual museum and an encyclopaedia. Luciano Guerzioni, an organizer of the site claims the site "is a new portal of Italian culture that reaches a global level. It is a formidable instrument of diffusion." Guerzoni also pointed that this program is the first of its kind to come out of the inter-European learning projects.
This project also comes at a moment of major education reforms in Italy. And promoters of these reforms hope to display this as one of the examples of what could be in store for the rest of system.

Monrif Net

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

Subject: May is the month of music in Florence

FLORENCE, Italy, April 29, 2001 - Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the world-renowned classical music event, begins this weekend with the opera 'Il Trovatore', in honor of the great composer Giuseppe Verdi.
The president of the Republic, Carlo Azelio Ciampi, will be present at the inauguration of the 64th annual Maggio Musicale Fiorentino on Sunday May 6 to enjoy the opening piece 'Il Trovatore' by Giuseppe Verdi. The opera was chosen to remember the 100-year anniversary of Verdi's death. And, directed by Zubin Mehta, it promises to be quite a spectacle.
The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is a month of classical operas and concerts performed by some of the top directors and musicians in the world - and it is always a well-received event. In fact, all five of the scheduled performances of 'Il Trovatore' sold out as soon as box offices opened a month ago.
Head musical director of the event is the celebrated Zubin Mehta, music director at the Bavarian State opera in Munich and life director for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also conducted for the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. From 1961 to 1967 he was Music Director of the Montreal Symphony. And, from 1962 to 1978, he was appointed Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Other concerts include operas by Handel and concerts by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The event will last throughout the month of May and into June. The final concert will be held outdoors in the breathtaking Piazza di Santa Croce on Saturday, June 30, and prices, at least for this show, will be very economical.

Il Giorno


Subject: Art and Fashion

MILAN, Italy, April 23, 2001 - Now that clothing is practically walking sculpture, fabrics rustling canvases and accessories indispensable finishing touches, it's obvious that fashion is rapidly approaching the level of art, and drawing increasingly upon art for its inspiration. As in art, there are brilliant single strokes of creativity, frequent breaks with established norms and inspired experiments with materials diverted from other sectors. Like art, the effect is equally astounding, equally provocative. Fashion and the evolution of style have become social and cultural phenomenon which command a great deal of interest and study.
Giorgio Armani, one of this century's fashion icons, is the subject of a current exhibition hosted by NYC's Guggenheim Museum , while Gianni Versace's prematurely interrupted career is spotlighted in Sydney, at an exhibition first presented at the Moma.
Bulgari, whose has been name historically linked with the work of master artisans is to present its latest watch within the context of a recent exhibition dedicated to art of the 1930's.
But fashion is not solely about exhibitionism: quite often the industry is working busily behind the scenes as promoter, producer and executor of a variety of events. To this end, both the Fondazione Prada and the Spazio Krizia were founded. Both organizations provide a forum for young artists to introduce new means of creative expressions and innovative techniques.
Bulgari, has always actively supported the preservation of artistic traditions and is currently involved in an initiative to benefit the city of Florence as the sponsor of various artistic and cultural events.
And it's unforgettable the "Shoemaker of the Stars", Salvatore Ferragamo, who decided to return to Italy to open his atelier in Palazzo Spini Feroni in Florence, but did not renounce his adoring clientele.
The costume gallery of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence is to reopen its doors with an exceptional gesture: an exposition of sixty-six completely accessorized ensembles donated by designer Gianfranco Ferré.
This particular event is part of a larger project, which involves a series of donations to public service organizations and museums.

Alice Carlon

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

Subject: Caltagirone, town of ceramics in Sicily

CALTAGIRONE, Italy, April 27, 2001 - Archaeological remains from the prehistoric age certify the presence of a built-up area already in the bronze age. The area was Hellenized between the seventh and the sixth century BC, and continued to live under the rule of the Romans, Byzantine and Arabs. At the time of the Arab rule, the town was given the present name, which indicates that the town was by its nature a -jar fortress-, for its ceramics production.
In 1090 the town gave itself up to Count Ruggero the Norman, who, for gratitude, granted the town a long series of feudal concessions and privileges that made it prosper and become wealthy during all the Middle Ages and up to the seventeenth century.
It was a magnificent town for its prestige and wealth, until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693, but it rose again and thanks to its aristocratic elegance, excited travellers’ admiration in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
In the twentieth century it remained an important and singular town, a significant laboratory of interesting political experiences of national relevance.
Situated on a hill of the Ereo-Hyblaean range, Caltagirone dominates the large and fertile plains of Gela and Catania and gives an image of wealth, with its untouched architecture and town plan and with all its monuments and palaces that remind of the old splendour.
In the heart of the old town centre, there are the squares Municipio and Umberto I, once called -Della Loggia- and -Malfitania-, from which the beautiful stairs -Scala di Santa Maria del Monte-, Via Luigi Sturzo, Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Roma lead off, all of them dating back to the Renaissance. From the square also the close net of the winding -carruggi- leads off.
From March to September, the Town organizes important events and exhibitions characterised by cultural, historical, artistic and religious elements.
At Easter, the -Passion- and the -Giunta- are performed, attracting tourists’ attention and the participation of all the citizens. In May the Stairs of Santa Maria del Monte are covered with a coloured tapestry of plants and flowers in honour of the Madonna di Condomini and the stairs become a stage for the International fashion show: -Ceramics, flowers and fashion-. In July, in honour of San Giacomo, the patron saint of the town, the stairs are illuminated, according to a centuries-old tradition, by hundreds of coloured oil lamps that every year form a different glowing shape. Finally, at Christmas, Caltagirone becomes the town of cribs, with dozens of exhibitions of handmade articles, made by the famous local ceramists and by masters coming from all over the world.

Ceramics Online


Subject: Florence: exhibition dedicated to 20th-Century jewels

FLORENCE, Italy, April 24, 2001 - For the first time ever in Italy, the public is invited to view a unique collection of jewellery: over 300 pieces created by creative masters such as Picasso and Lalique to Tiffany and Bulgari.
Exhibited in the splendid rooms of the Museo degli Argenti in the Palazzo Pitti, these miniature works of art recount the artistic history of an era full of variation and creative impulse, from revolutionary and inspired art nouveau pieces born at the turn of the century to more daring contemporary flights of fancy.
The exhibition marks important steps along the way by which an art form has developed its own identity and autonomy of expression through innovation, creativity, technique and the incessant evaluation of design and new materials.
On display are some quite rare and extraordinary examples of jewellery which reflect the tastes of their time and the essence of those who created them: the painters, the sculptors and architects, the goldsmiths who transformed an ornament into a historical artefact of the century so recently come to a close.
The jewels on exhibit at the Museo degli Argenti serve as a historical continuum, an idealistic epilogue of sorts. The Florentine museum has included the precious collection of Baroque and Renaissance jewellery which once belonged to Anna Maria Luisa, the last of the Medici princesses. Several 19th and 20th century pieces have been added to the original collection, including a diadem by Cartier in platinum, diamonds and amethysts dating back to 1900.

Manuela Cardinetti


Subject: US-Italy treaty against antiquities smuggling

LONDON, April 30, 2001 - The US has agreed to impose import restrictions on Italian archeological material from the pre-classical, classical, and imperial periods in an attempt to stem the flow of illicitly excavated works that regularly enter the US.
By all accounts, the US is one of the largest markets for stolen Italian artefacts, many of which are first smuggled to Switzerland laundered with a false provenance and from there exported to the US.
Italy is one of the world’s archaeological treasures and it behooves us all to safeguard it, Dr Finn said in a statement. The areas particularly at risk were identified as Sicily, southern Italy, and Etruscan sites in central Italy.
The agreement was reached in response to a 1999 request for import restrictions on archaeological material from Italy, made under Article 9 of the Unesco Convention. The terms of the original request were broad and included material from the fifth millennium BC to the fifth century AD.
The request was reviewed by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee whose members are appointed by the President and whose deliberations are private. The committee includes two members who represent the interests of museums, three experts in archaeology, anthropology, ethnology or related fields, three experts in the international sale of cultural property, and three members representing the interests of the general public.
The final agreement states that the US shall restrict the importation of... archaeological material ranging in date from approximately the ninth century BC to approximately the fourth century AD, including categories of stone, metal, ceramic and glass artifacts, and wall paintings... unless Italy issues a license or other documentation which certifies that such exportation was not in violation of its laws.
US Customs regulations will now be amended to require that the listed artefacts not be imported into the US unless accompanied by a valid export permit from Italy.
If an importer cannot produce the required evidence proving that the objects have been exported legally, the works are to be taken into custody and, if the documentation is not produced within the required time period, seized and forfeited to the US. They will then be offered for return to Italy.
The agreement also stipulates that Italy shall use its best efforts to increase...protective measures for archaeological excavations at known sites, particularly in areas at greatest risk from looters. At the moment, most sites in Italy are completely unguarded and tomb-robbers go about their business unhindered.

Cristina Ruiz


Subject: Amazing Majolica

NEW YORK, April 21, 2001 - Not long ago, a reader of my newspaper column came by the office with an interesting bowl. He asked me if I knew anything about it and how much it might be worth.
Looking on the back of the bowl, I discovered that it was majolica. I'd seen pieces of this type of pottery from time-to-time in the antique malls where I've done business and worked during the past 10 years, but never learned much about it.
Actually, I knew lots of majolica had been produced in Europe, it was a type of vividly glazed pottery and some pretty convincing reproductions were floating around the antiques marketplace, but that was basically it. I didn't own a book on this topic either, so I decided to poke around on the Internet and a few of my general reference guides to see what I could come up with to share.
In my quest for information, I learned that majolica is a type of soft earthenware ceramic formed with plaster of paris molds. The first base coat of glaze is lead-based and then brightly colored metal oxide glazes are applied on top. The ceramics then receive another firing.
During the second firing, the glazes interact creating the rich colors majolica pieces carry so well. These colors, and the unusual and varied objects they decorate, attract collectors to this distinctive type of pottery with intensity.
The majolica most collected today, developed by ceramics expert Herbert Minton and chemist Leon Arnoux, was shown to the public at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. The "new" Victorian art form actually represented a culmination of ceramic artistry and glazing techniques spanning centuries according to Charles L. Washburne, a majolica expert, in an Antiques Council article.
Many majolica artists looked to nature for inspiration. Ocean themes, farm animals, fruits and exotically colored plant motifs all find a home within the decoration of these earthenwares. Some majolica pieces, especially those depicting reptiles, sea life and other types of living creatures can be remarkably realistic looking too.
Many pieces of majolica had no identifying marks. Some of the most notable English majolica manufacturers that did mark their wares are Minton, Wedgwood, Holdcroft and George Jones. Two of the most recognized American names are Griffin, Smith and Hill (Etruscan) and Chesapeake Pottery. Pieces with these marks, especially the English versions, can be quite expensive with some pieces selling in the thousands although most list in the hundreds.
Majolica from the Victorian era is often found with crazing. Some pieces may even have chips, cracks or repairs. Joyce Worley, the author of the article, notes that these types of damage are common for the age of the pieces and don't have much bearing on the price. I'm not sure if this is an accurate assessment.
All collectibles are more valuable if in pristine condition. The only exception to this rule is with extremely rare examples.

Pamela Wiggins

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