Save the Dates – and our 2024 theme is…

The 2024 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate the timeless appeal and elegant contrast of Black & White in the worlds of decorative arts, fashion, photography, fine art, and beyond. Inspired by the timeless tuxedo, the cinematic glamour of Hollywood, and of course Truman Capote’s legendary black & white ball, the show will explore the artistic and emotional dimensions of this enduring color duo – at once chic and bold, dramatic but simple, polar opposites yet perfect partners.

Opening Night Gala: October 16, 2024

Show Days: October 17 – 20, 2024

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! M is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… M is for:

Carlo Mollino (1905 – 1973)

Carlo Mollino was a prolific and enigmatic Italian architect, designer, and photographer, whose work left an indelible mark on the fields of architecture and design in the 20th century. Known for his innovative and avant-garde designs, Mollino’s creations were a unique blend of functionality and artistic expression. He defied convention, pushing the boundaries of design with his eclectic and imaginative approach. Mollino’s furniture designs, characterized by their sensual and sculptural forms, have become iconic pieces of mid-century modern design. Beyond his design work, Mollino was a passionate skier, race car driver, and photographer, showcasing his multifaceted talents.

Tea Table by Carlo Mollino, circa 1949. Image via The Brooklyn Museum.

Marisa Merz (1926 – 2019)

Marisa Merz was an Italian artist celebrated for her pioneering contributions to the Arte Povera movement and her influential role in the realm of contemporary art. As one of the few female artists associated with Arte Povera, Merz challenged traditional gender roles in the art world and made an indelible mark with her innovative and poetic creations. She was renowned for her use of unconventional materials like copper wire and aluminum, crafting delicate and intricate sculptures that blurred the lines between fine art and craft. Merz’s work often explored themes of domesticity, femininity, and personal introspection, inviting viewers to contemplate the intersection of art and life. Her ethereal and evocative installations continue to captivate audiences, reflecting her enduring impact on the art world and her commitment to pushing artistic boundaries.

1975 sculpture by Marisa Merz. Photograph: Renato Ghiazza/Fondazione Merz.

Michelangelo (1475 – 1564)

Michelangelo Buonarroti often referred to simply as Michelangelo, stands as one of the greatest artists in history. A true Renaissance polymath, he excelled not only as a sculptor but also as a painter, architect, and poet. His masterpieces include the renowned statue of David, the awe-inspiring frescoes in the Sistine Chapel ceiling (below), and the design for St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome in Vatican City. Michelangelo’s work is characterized by its exceptional skill, meticulous attention to detail, and a profound sense of human anatomy and emotion. His artistic genius reshaped the course of Western art, influencing generations of artists and leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts worldwide.

Giorgio Morandi (1890 – 1964)

Giorgio Morandi was an Italian painter and. His work is renowned for its subtle, contemplative nature, focusing on simple objects like bottles, vases, and everyday items. Morandi’s mastery lay in his ability to imbue these ordinary subjects with profound depth and a sense of timelessness through his meticulous attention to composition, color, and light. His unique artistic vision, marked by a limited and subdued color palette, created a serene and meditative atmosphere in his paintings. Morandi’s oeuvre reflects a dedication to the pursuit of artistic purity and a deep fascination with the interplay between form and space.

Still Life by Giorgio Morandi, 1942. Photo: FONDAZIONE MAGNANI-ROCCA ©DACS 2022

Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920)

Known for his elegant and elongated portraits, painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani’s work is characterized by sensuous, stylized figures with elongated necks and almond-shaped eyes, reflecting influences from African and ancient art. His bohemian lifestyle in early 20th-century Paris, where he associated with prominent artists and writers, added to the allure of his enigmatic persona. Despite a short and tumultuous life marked by poverty and health issues, Modigliani’s contributions to art are celebrated for their timeless elegance and unique portrayal of the human form.

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! L is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… L is for:

Lacca Contrafatta

Lacca Contrafatta (also termed Lacca Povera) was developed to imitate the appearance of costly, scarce, and fashionable high value lacquer being imported into Europe from the far East. This popular form of decoration sprang up in Venice circa 1750 and used prints, cut and pasted on to armoires, cabinets and chests, then painted, gilded and finished with clear varnish. Interestingly, Lacca Contrafatta is now rarer and possibly more valued in the west than the material it imitated.

From Carlton Hobbs:  Charming pair of cream Lacca Contrafatta folding tea tables, German or possibly Swedish, 18th century.

Lacca Povera

The Italian furniture known as Lacca Povera, which translates as “poor man’s lacquer,” dates from the 18th century and may or may not have originated in Venice.  Also known as Lacca Contraffata, or “counterfeit lacquer,” it is basically an imitation of Oriental lacquer. The technique involves printed paper images pasted on the painted furniture surface and then coated with many coats of varnish to create the illusion of high-gloss lacquer decoration. To satisfy the demand for a less expensive version of the true lacquer decoration, printers produced sheets of engravings specifically for Lacca Povera decoration.  Chinoiserie figures, shepherds and sheperdesses, huntsmen, garlands, and bouquets of flowers are all common printed motifs. One of the printing firms that produced sheets of motifs specifically intended to be cut out to create Lacca Povera furniture was Giovanni Antonio Remondini. 

An Italian Rococo Lacca Povera Commode, Second Half 18th Century. Image via Andrew Jones Auctions.

Lattimo
Lattimo refers to a white glass produced in the 15th century to imitate porcelain, using tin and lead. The word originates from “latte” (milk).

Lattimo glass vase. Venice, circa 1500-1509. Image via The British Museum.

Latticino

Latticino is a term used to describe glass decorated with a pattern of white, or sometimes colored, threads of glass. The technique is also known as Filigrana (thread-grained). It was developed in 16th century Venice and has been used to produce three main effects on glass: vetro a retorti, which has twists embedded in clear glass; vetro a reticello, which has a fine network of crossed threads; and vetro a fili, which has a spiral or helix pattern.

Tall Salviati latticino wine glass goblet, circa 1900

Fra Filippo Lippi (1406 – 1469)

Fra Filippo Lippi, a renowned Italian Renaissance painter, left an indelible mark on the art world with his distinctive style and captivating works. Born in Florence, Lippi’s early life was marked by turbulence, as he was orphaned and eventually found his calling as a monk. However, his passion for art could not be suppressed, and he embarked on a remarkable artistic journey. Lippi’s paintings are characterized by their delicate use of color, graceful compositions, and a keen sense of realism. His ability to capture the human form with remarkable detail and emotion is evident in works like “Madonna and Child” (below) and “The Annunciation.”

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! I is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… I is for:

Impasto

Impasto is a technique used in painting, where paint is laid on an area of the surface thickly, usually thick enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. Paint can also be mixed right on the canvas. When dry, impasto provides texture; the paint appears to be coming out of the canvas.

Incalmo

Incalmo in Venetian dialect literally means “graft” as in joining two plants. Incalmo glass objects are multicolored. The glass artist blows two separate bubbles of glass, opens them and joins them together to form a single bubble. It is a difficult operation because the two open lips must be exactly the same size to join properly. The process can be continued to add more colors; virtuoso pieces may include several sections, each a different color.

Incalmo vessels by Tapio Wirkkala for Venini

Intaglio

Intaglio is a technique which dates back to antiquity and is still in use at present. Patterns, designs or images are carved or engraved in gemstones leaving a hollow impression in the untouched background. This style of carving is the opposite of the cameo technique. By the nineteenth-century, intaglios were not considered optimal for jewelry. Victorians preferred cameos. Intaglios were relegated almost entirely to fobs and seals. In 1840 the postage stamp virtually eliminated the need for wax seals and the art of the intaglio began to wane.

From Phoenix Ancient Art: Roman Cornelian Intaglio with the nymph Galatea, goddess of calm seas. Roman, 1st century A.D.

Intarsia

Intarsia is an Italian term for elaborately detailed pictorial marquetry or inlaid decoration used on furniture in Renaissance Italy and also sixteenth-century Germany. Various woods, tortoiseshell, metals and ivory were chosen for color and texture to create a realistic architectural perspective, or a symmetrical still-life group of objects such as musical or precision instruments. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has on display a complete studio from the Palazzo ducale di Gubbio (below). Designed by Sienese artist Francesco di Giorgio Martini, an intarsia technique was used to create images of latticework cabinets and drawers on the room panels.

Istoriato

Istoriato (literally translated as “with a story in it”) is a style of pottery decoration, originating about 1500 in Faenza, Italy, and popular throughout the 16th century, in which paintings comparable in seriousness to Italian Renaissance easel paintings were applied to maiolica ware. The subjects—biblical, historical, and mythological scenes—are executed with a realism (including the use of perspective) quite unlike any previous pottery decoration.

An Italian maiolica istoriato plate, circa 1530-5, Urbino, workshop or circle of Nicola da Urbino. Image via Sotheby’s.

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! G is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… G is for:

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656)

Artemisia Gentileschi was a groundbreaking Italian Baroque artist whose talent defied the gender norms of her time. Born in Rome, she was the daughter of the renowned painter Orazio Gentileschi, and her early exposure to art inspired her to pursue a career as a painter herself. Artemisia faced numerous challenges as a female artist in a male-dominated field, yet her determination and extraordinary skill set her apart. Her works often depicted strong and empowered women from history and mythology, reflecting her personal experiences and inner strength. One of her most famous paintings, “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” (below) showcases her remarkable ability to capture intense emotions and dramatic scenes.

Giardinetto

A gardinetto is an ornament in the form of a vase of flowers or a flower basket, especially suited for brooches but sometimes rings and pendants. The colorful items were created from a multicolored array of gemstones such as rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Initially enjoying popularity c. 1740-1780 these colorful floral gemstone depictions were love tokens to be exchanged with lovers and friends. A resurgence in popularity occurred around 1920.

Vintage Bulgari Art Deco Giardinetto pin/bangle, circa 1937. Image via 1stDibs.

Carlo Giuliano (1831 – 1895)

Carlo Giuliano was a prominent Italian jewelry designer and goldsmith whose exquisite creations left an indelible mark on the world of jewelry craftsmanship during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Giuliano’s exceptional talent was evident from an early age, and he honed his skills under the guidance of his father, a skilled jeweler himself. Later, he moved to London and established his own workshop, quickly gaining recognition for his innovative and intricate designs. Giuliano’s distinctive style drew inspiration from Renaissance and Greco-Roman art, featuring delicate enameling, intricate filigree work, and the use of vibrant gemstones. His pieces often showcased botanical motifs, insects, and mythical creatures, creating a unique and captivating aesthetic.

Brooch by Carlo Giuliano, circa 1890

Ghiaccio
Ghiaccio is a way to obtain a crackled appearance by lowering hot glass into cold water and then covering the crackles with another layer of glass, it was produced primarily from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The term comes from the Italian for “ice”.

Ghiaccio glass, Venice, second half of the 16th century or beginning of the 17th century. Now in the Glass Museum, in Murano.

Giambologna (1529 – 1608)

Giambologna, also known as Jean Boulogne, was a celebrated sculptor of the late Renaissance period. Born in Douai, Flanders (now part of France), he spent most of his life in Italy, where he achieved immense fame and recognition for his exceptional artistic talent. Giambologna’s sculptures were characterized by their exquisite craftsmanship, dynamic poses, and a remarkable sense of movement. He was particularly renowned for his mastery of capturing the human form, often showcasing idealized figures with a focus on grace and elegance. His works, often created in bronze or marble, adorned the courts of several European monarchs and noble families, becoming iconic symbols of the Renaissance artistic achievements. Some of his most famous pieces include “The Rape of the Sabine” (below) and “Mercury,” both of which exemplify his skillful depiction of action and emotion.

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! F is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… F is for:

Leonor Fini (1907 – 1996)

Leonor Fini was a renowned Argentine-Italian surrealist artist and designer. She gained recognition for her unique and provocative artworks, which challenged societal norms and explored themes of sexuality, identity, and power. Fini’s paintings often featured enigmatic female figures, mysterious creatures, and dreamlike landscapes, reflecting her fascination with the subconscious mind and the complexities of human existence. Her artistic style was characterized by meticulous attention to detail, vibrant colors, and a sense of theatricality. Apart from her visual art, Fini also made significant contributions to theater and fashion, designing costumes and sets for various productions. She was a prominent figure in the surrealist movement and left an indelible mark on the art world with her visionary and audacious creations.

Woman Seated on a Naked Man (Femme assise sur un homme nu) by Leonor Fini, 1942

Lavinia Fontana (1552 – 1614)

Lavinia Fontana was an exceptional Italian Renaissance painter known for her remarkable talent and pioneering role as a female artist in a male-dominated era. Born in Bologna, Fontana received an excellent artistic education and quickly gained recognition for her extraordinary skills. She primarily focused on portraiture and religious themes, displaying a remarkable ability to capture the emotions and personalities of her subjects. Fontana’s works were characterized by their meticulous attention to detail, vibrant colors, and delicate brushwork. Her artistic achievements were not only limited to her technical prowess, but also her ability to navigate the challenges of being a woman in the art world of the time. She had a successful career, receiving numerous prestigious commissions and becoming a respected figure in Italian society.

Bianca degli Utili Maselli by Lavinia Fontana, 1605

Mariano Fortuny (1871 – 1949)

Mariano Fortuny was an extraordinary visionary in the realms of fashion, textiles, and stage design. His artistic talents were diverse and encompassed painting, sculpture, and architecture, but he is best remembered for his groundbreaking contributions to the world of fashion. He revolutionized textile printing by developing a unique technique that allowed for rich and intricate designs on fabrics. His delicate pleating process, known as the Fortuny pleat, created flowing and ethereal garments that draped elegantly on the body. Fortuny’s creations were celebrated for their timeless beauty, exquisite craftsmanship, and innovative use of color and pattern. His genius extended beyond fashion, as he also made significant advancements in lighting design and stage production.

Isadora Duncan’s adopted daughters in Fortuny Delphos gowns, 1920s

Florentine finish

For generations, a specialist engraving technique has been passed down from one master craftsperson to the next, leaving it relatively unknown to those outside of traditional Italian workshops. Its beauty reflects decades of Italian artistry, specifically the ability to transform the surface of gold with decorative finishes. Known as the ‘Florentine finish’, this technique creates tiny cross-hatch engraved lines across gold jewelry, watches and, as was especially popular in the 1970s, furniture and light fixtures.

Jade and diamond bangle with Florentine finish, by Buccellati

Filigrana
A method of infusing lines or grids of color (originally mainly white) into glass, which is achieved by laying thin rods of clear glass with the desired colored thread inside next to one another, fusing them together, and then molding them into a cylinder.

Photo courtesy of Frides Lameris Art and Antique, Amsterdam

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! D is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… D is for:

Vittorio Dassi (1893 – 1973)

The furniture of Vittorio Dassi, made in the ’40s and ’50s, stands out for the choice of fine woods such as rosewood, cherry wood, ash and walnut, often decorated with inlaid panels and crystal signed by prominent master glassworkers. Elegant in design without losing the functional quality, its furnishings are comparable to the refined style of Gio Ponti, to whom Dassi was linked by important collaborations, after replacing his father in the company Dassi Mobili Moderni, based in Lissone. Among the factory’s most important projects is in fact the realization of the furniture of the rooms of the Hotel Royal in Naples, designed by Ponti in the mid-’50s: this was a period that marked the turning point in Dassi’s practice towards more schematic forms and the employment of teak for the production of modular furniture.

From Guy Regal NYC: Three Door Cabinet by Vittorio Dassi, 1950s

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519)

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian polymath of the High Renaissance who was active as a painter, draughtsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor, and architect. While his fame initially rested on his achievements as a painter, he also became known for his notebooks, in which he made drawings and notes on a variety of subjects, including anatomy, astronomy, botany, cartography, painting, and paleontology. Leonardo is widely regarded to have been a genius who epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal, and his collective works comprise a contribution to later generations of artists matched only by that of his younger contemporary, Michelangelo.

La Belle Ferronnière by Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1495

Giorgio de Chirico (1888 – 1978)

Giorgio de Chirico was a pioneer in the revival of Classicism that flourished into a Europe-wide phenomenon in the 1920s. His own interest was likely encouraged by his childhood experiences of being raised in Greece by Italian parents. And, while living in Paris in the 1910s, his homesickness may have led to the mysterious, classically inspired pictures of empty town squares for which he is best known. It was work in this style that encouraged him to form the short-lived Metaphysical Painting movement. His work in this mode attracted considerable notice, particularly in France, where the Surrealists championed him as a precursor. But de Chirico was instinctively more conservative than the Paris avant-garde, and in the 1920s his style began to embrace qualities of Renaissance and Baroque art, a move that soon drew criticism from his old supporters. For many years afterwards, the Surrealists’ disapproval of his late work shaped the attitude of critics. The artist’s reputation was also not helped by his later habits of creating new versions of his Metaphysical paintings and of backdating his work, as if those pictures had been created back in the 1910s. In recent years, however, his work of that period has attracted more interest, and it was certainly influential on a new generation of Italian painters in the 1980s.

The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon by Giorgio de Chirico, 1910

Giovanni Giacomo De Rossi (1627 – 1691)

Giovanni Giacomo De Rossi was an Italian printer and publisher active in 17th century Rome. Giovanni inherited the important Rome-based printing business originally founded by his father, and through his hard work and dedication, he pushed the firm to the heights of its success. By the mid 17th century the Rossi firm was considered the most active and important press in Rome. Their collection of published prints includes the work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, famous for his views of Rome and fictitious prisons. Today the Rossi press is known as the Calcografia Nazionale and is a free museum located at 6 Via della Stamperia, Rome. The print and printing plate collections of the Calcografia Nazionale are among the largest and most important in the world.

The Arch of Trajan at Benevento by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, etching print, 1748-1774

Properzia de Rossi (1490 – 1530)

Properzia de Rossi was a ground-breaking female Italian Renaissance sculptor. “Because she had an intellect both capricious and very adept, she set herself to carve peach-stones,” wrote Italian art historian Giorgio Vasari in his canonical collection of Renaissance artist biographies, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, Architects (1550). “She executed [these carvings] so well and with such patience, that they were singular and marvelous to behold, not only for the subtlety of the work, but also for the liveliness of the little figures that she made in them and the extreme delicacy with which they were arranged.” Sparse details are known about de Rossi. She spent most of her approximately 40-year life in Bologna, where there was a concentration of Renaissance women artists. She probably began her career sculpting fruit pits out of necessity—traditional sculpture materials could be costly. Later, she progressed to marble and, finally, engraving.

Grassi Family Coat of Arms by Properzia de Rossi, a filigreed crest inlaid with 11 quarter-sized sculpted fruit stones, circa 1510-30. Image via the Museo Civico Medievale, Bologna.

Vittorio De Sica (1901 – 1974)

Vittorio De Sica was an Italian film director and actor, a leading figure in the neorealist movement. Four of the films he directed won Academy Awards: Sciuscià and Bicycle Thieves (honorary), while Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Il giardino dei Finzi Contini won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Indeed, the great critical success of Sciuscià (the first foreign film to be so recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and Bicycle Thieves helped establish the permanent Best Foreign Film Award. These two films are considered part of the canon of classic cinema.

Lamberto Maggiorani (left) and Enzo Staiola star as father and son in the influential Italian 1948 film Bicycle Thieves, directed by Vittorio De Sica.

Donatello (1386 – 1466)

Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, better known as Donatello was an Italian sculptor of the Renaissance period. Born in Florence, he studied classical sculpture and used his knowledge to develop a Renaissance style of sculpture. He spent time in other cities, where he worked on commissions and taught others; his periods in Rome, Padua, and Siena introduced to other parts of Italy the techniques he had developed in the course of a long and productive career. Financed by Cosimo de’ Medici, Donatello’s David was the first freestanding nude male sculpture since antiquity. He worked with stone, bronze, wood, clay, stucco, and wax, and used glass in inventive ways. Although his best-known works mostly were statues in the round, he developed a new, very shallow, type of bas-relief for small works, and a good deal of his output was larger architectural reliefs.

Bronze David by Donatello, circa 1440

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! C is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… C is for:

Joe Colombo (1930 – 1971)

The life of maverick Italian designer Joe Colombo may have been short, but his future-focused vision of intelligent technology and integrated living environments had a revolutionary impact on mid-century design. Colombo’s diverse career began in the world of fine art. He gravitated towards the avant-garde art scene, becoming part of the Movimento Nucleare (Nuclear Movement) of painters, founded by Sergio Dangelo and Enrico Baj, who, inspired by mounting international anxiety about nuclear war, challenged the boundaries of painting with organic forms. Colombo’s ceramic contributions to the 1954 Milan Triennale marked the beginning of a move into design and architecture. He designed his first architecture project, a condominium, in 1956, before taking over the family business, which produced electric cables, in 1959. It was there that he started to experiment with new construction and production technologies, and in 1961, Colombo opened his own interior design studio, designing architecture and furniture. Captivated by the zeitgeist of the Atomic Era, Colombo believed that he could create the environment of the future, and that the emerging language of interior design he was helping to shape would result in seamlessly integrated living environments rather than individual pieces of furniture.

Joe Colombo’s Tube Chair, 1969

Commesso

Commesso, also called Florentine mosaic, is a technique of fashioning pictures with thin, cut-to-shape pieces of brightly colored semiprecious stones, developed in Florence in the late 16th century. The stones most commonly used are agates, quartzes, chalcedonies, jaspers, granites, porphyries, petrified woods, and lapis lazuli; all of these, with the exception of lapis lazuli, are “hard stones,” or stones that fall between feldspar and diamond in hardness. Commesso pictures, used mainly for tabletops and small wall panels, range from emblematic and floral subjects to landscapes, and some are executed with such laborious care and such sensitivity to the pictorial possibilities of the colors and shadings of the stones that they rival paintings in their detailed realism.

Agony in the Garden by the Galleria dei Lavori (Opificio delle Pietre Dure) after a painting by Benedetto Veli, circa 1604. Image via Mudeo del Prado.

Contrapposto

In sculpture, contrapposto (“counterpose” in Italian) is an asymmetrical posture in which most of a figure’s weight is distributed onto one foot. This results in a realistic stance, as famously evident in Michelangelo’s David statue.

Correggio (1489 – 1534)

Antonio Allegri da Correggio, usually known as just Correggio, was the foremost painter of the Parma school of the High Italian Renaissance, who was responsible for some of the most vigorous and sensuous works of the sixteenth century. In his use of dynamic composition, illusionistic perspective and dramatic foreshortening, Correggio prefigured the Baroque art of the seventeenth century and the Rococo art of the eighteenth century. He is considered a master of chiaroscuro.

Leda and the Swan by Antonio Allegri da Correggio, circa 1532

Gabriella Crespi (1922 – 2017)

Italian designer-architect Gabriella Crespi attracted a cult following thanks to her penchant for creating geometric, sculptural forms imbued with an aura of glamour. Although she often cited modernist pioneers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier as key influences, her designs for furniture, lighting, and decorative accessories were largely artisanally produced in fine materials—never intended for the mass market. Her Small Lune Collection (1950s), a group of polished steel crescent moon sculptures, and her decorative boxes and animal sculptures drew the attention of clients such as Christian Dior, Audrey Hepburn, Hubert de Givenchy, Gunther Sachs, and Gianni Versace. Her deep spiritualistic beliefs united her eclectic aesthetic. Inspired by the cosmic and futuristic qualities of simple rounded metal forms, Crespi unapologetically contrasted brass with natural materials and imagery such as bamboo and lotus leaves. In 1987, Crespi abandoned her high-profile design career to embark on a spiritual journey, which took her to the Indian Himalayas to follow guru Shri Muniraji. She remained in India for almost two decades and documented her experiences in the book Ricerca di Infinito, published in 2007 upon her return to Europe.

Cubo Tondo adjustable Coffee Table, from the Plurimi Series by Gabriella Crespi, circa 1979

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! C is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… C is for:

Achille Castiglioni (1918 – 2002)

Achille Castiglioni was an Italian architect and designer of furniture, lighting, radiograms and other objects. He had a unique way of looking at things. As a product designer, he was often inspired by materials that others would consider mundane and found unique functions for them. The Castiglioni design team of Achille and his brothers, Livio and Pier Giacomo, worked from the viewpoint that design must restructure an object’s function, form and production process. They applied this philosophy to every piece that they produced. As a professor of design, he advised his students “If you are not curious, forget it. If you are not interested in others, what they do and how they act, then being a designer is not the right job for you.”

Sanluca chair designed by Castiglioni for Poltrona Frau, 1960

Maurizio Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan (born 1960) is an Italian visual artist. Known primarily for his hyperrealistic sculptures and installations, Cattelan’s practice also includes curating and publishing. His satirical approach to art has resulted in him being frequently labelled as a joker or prankster of the art world. Self-taught as an artist, Cattelan has exhibited internationally in museums and Biennials. In 2011 the Guggenheim Museum, New York presented a retrospective of his work. Some of Cattelan’s better-known works include America, consisting of a solid gold toilet; La Nona Ora, a sculpture depicting a fallen Pope who has been hit by a meteorite; and Comedian, a fresh banana duct-taped to a wall (below).

Benvenuto Cellini (1500 – 1571)

Benvenuto Cellini was a Florentine sculptor, goldsmith, and writer, one of the most important Mannerist artists and one of the most picturesque figures of the Renaissance. His best-known extant works include the Cellini Salt Cellar – a part-enameled gold table sculpture (below), the sculpture of Perseus with the Head of Medusa, and his autobiography, which has been described as “one of the most important documents of the 16th century”.

Chiaroscuro

Italian for “light-dark,” chiaroscuro is the use of strong contrasts between luminosity and shadow to achieve a sense of volume and dimensionality. This unique technique was developed during the Italian Renaissance by Leonard da Vinci, the Baroque period by Caravaggio, and the Dutch Golden Age by Rembrandt.

Salomé with the Head of John the Baptist by Caravaggio, circa 1607/1610.

Francesco Clemente

Francesco Clemente (born 1952) is a contemporary Italian artist known for his dreamlike paintings based on esoteric themes of sexuality and spirituality. Working across oil painting, installation, and watercolor, Clemente’s works are characterized by their formal experimentation with symbols, portraiture, and the human figure. “I believe there is such a thing as an imagination shared by the different contemplative traditions,” he has said. “My goal is to collect images and references from these traditions and connect them with the emotions from the present-day, and common experiences.” Clemente has lived at various times in Italy, India and New York City. Some of his work is influenced by the traditional art and culture of India.

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! C is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… C is for:

Calcedonio
Calcedonio glass imitates the agate rock (called “calcedonio” in Italian and a type of quartz), with veins of contrasting color running through the deep-colored glass. It is produced by mixing coloring agents into a fusion of different types of glass.

Covered beaker in calcedonio glass. Europe, 18th century. The Corning Museum of Glass.

Caravaggio (1571 – 1610)

Caravaggio was a master Italian painter, father of the Baroque style, who led a tumultuous life that was cut short his by his fighting and brawling. As a child and art student, he trained in Milan under a teacher who had been taught by the great Italian painter Titian himself, and who exposed him to the great works of Leonardo de Vinci and the Lombard artists. He moved to Rome in 1592, at the time the city was in a period if great expansion, and the many churches and palaces being built were all in need of paintings to decorate the walls. He immediately began working for Giuseppe Cesari, the favorite painter of the Pope, and throughout the end of the 16th century his reputation as a great painter grew. His big break came in 1599, when he was commissioned to paint the Contarelli Chapel in Rome, which was finished in 1600. after which he began receiving many commissions, both public and private. Some of his works, being controversial in subject matter (his unacceptably vulgar realistic style) and models (one of his favorite models for the Virgin Mary was a prostitute), and some of his works were returned to be painted over or fixed. Others were returned entirely, but Caravaggio always had a public willing to snatch up any painting he produced.

Caravaggio’s “Boy with a Basket of Fruit,” one of his first paintings.

Cassapanca

A cassapanca is is an Italian-style furniture piece that combines the comfort of a bench with the storage capabilities of a chest. It features a low-profile seat on top of a hinged wooden box with plenty of space for storing items like blankets, books, toys, and more. 

Cassapanca, Florence, mid 16th century. Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Cassone

Cassone is the term given to large decorated chests made in Italy from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Next to the marriage bed, cassoni were cherished in wealthy Renaissance households, for they held clothing, precious fabrics, and other valuables. Often commissioned by the groom in marriage, a cassone was prominently carried in the nuptial procession, laden with the dowry of his new bride. In the fifteenth century, whole workshops were given over to the manufacture and decoration of cassoni.

Italian cassone, circa 1425–50. Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Castellani

The Castellani family were goldsmiths, collectors, antique dealers and potters who created a business “empire” active in Rome during the 18th and 19th centuries. Fortunato Pio Castellani (1794–1865), the forefather of the family, opened his own workshop in Rome and specialized in the creation of jewels imitating the ones that then came to light from the necropolis of Etruria, that were found in the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum or that could be observed in the Campana collection. Initiating a partnership with Duke Michelangelo Caetani, a lover of fine arts and a designer of jewels himself, allowed Fortunato Castellani to quickly work for the most illustrious aristocratic families, initially Roman and at a later date even European. Fortunato also imported luxurious goldsmith works from the rest of Europe to be resold in Rome. The Castellani of the second generation devoted themselves only to the trade of jewels of their own production or to the sale of archaeological finds.

Castellani 15k gold bracelet, with four carved scarab carnelian elements. Italy, early 20th century.

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! B is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… B is for:

Osvaldo Borsani (1911 – 1985)       

Osvaldo Borsani was an Italian designer and architect, born into a family of artisan furniture makers. His father, Gaetano Borsani, owned a furniture shop, the Atelier di Varedo, where the 16-year-old Osvaldo first started to train. Best known for his research-based approach to making furniture, throughout his career Borsani merged technological and material improvements with inventive Modernist stylings. In 1953, Osvaldo and his brother, Fulgencio, founded a firm called Tecno. There, he created one of his hallmark designs, the P40 lounge chair, featuring rubber arms and the ability to assume 486 distinct postures. Some early designs from the Tecno company can now be found in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Pair of burr walnut-veneered armchairs by Osvaldo Borsani, 1930s

Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510)

Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. Botticelli’s posthumous reputation suffered until the late 19th century, when he was rediscovered by the Pre-Raphaelites who stimulated a reappraisal of his work. Since then, his paintings have been seen to represent the linear grace of late Italian Gothic and some Early Renaissance painting, even though they date from the latter half of the Italian Renaissance period. In addition to the mythological subjects for which he is best known today, Botticelli painted a wide range of religious subjects (including dozens of renditions of the Madonna and Child, many in the round tondo shape) and also some portraits. His best-known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera, both in the Uffizi in Florence, which holds many of Botticelli’s works. This fall, San Francisco’s Legion of Honor will hold the first exhibition ever dedicated to Botticelli’s drawings. Exploring the foundational role drawing played in Botticelli’s work, the exhibition traces his artistic journey, from studying under maestro Fra Filippo Lippi (c. 1406 – 1469) to leading his own workshop in Florence. Featuring rarely seen and newly attributed works, the exhibition provides insight into the design practice of an artist whose name is synonymous with the Italian Renaissance. Botticelli’s drawings offer an intimate look into the making of some of his most memorable masterpieces, including Adoration of the Magi (c. 1500), which will be reunited with its preparatory drawing, surviving only in fragments. From Botticelli’s earliest recorded drawings through expressive designs for his final painting, the works on display reveal the artist’s experimental drawing techniques, quest for ideal beauty, and command of the line.

Sandro Botticelli, Study for the Portrait of a Lady in Profile to the Right (detail, recto), ca. 1485. Silverpoint, heightened with white, on yellow-ochre prepared paper (recto), 13 3/8 x 9 in. (34 x 23 cm). The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford, UK, WA 1863.613

Buccellati 

The long-established Italian jewelry and watch company is synonymous with tradition, creativity and skill. Buccellati’s craftsmanship resolves around intricate textural details in the highest quality materials, derived from inspirations such as Venetian lace, Etruscan patterns, Italian vegetation, insects and animals. The founder Mario Buccellati (1891-1965), nicknamed the Prince of Goldsmiths, was fascinated from a very young age by all types of metals, gemstones and the Renaissance period. The extraordinary combination of these three inspirations led to his own distinct style, allowing the brand to become a highly recognizable jeweler and goldsmith in Italy.

Gold cuff with a semi-baroque cultured pearl and rose-cut diamonds, signed M. Buccellati

Paolo Buffa (1903 – 1970)

Paolo Buffa was an Italian architect and designer best known for his designs of mid-century furniture. Characterized by a melding of tradition and modernity, he used a combination of low-profile, rectilinear, and hardwood forms to produce his most classic pieces. Known for his elegant, Neoclassical designs as well as his use of superlative materials in his dining chairs, Buffa also worked with local cabinetmakers to pioneer more efficient production techniques. In the 1960s, Buffa began working with the Italian furniture company, Cassina de Meda, ultimately moving Italian design toward even more streamlined and efficient production models.

From Milord Antiques: Mahogany and sycamore bar cabinet by Paolo Buffa decorated with fencing scenes. Italy, circa 1950

Carlo Bugatti (1856- 1940)

Best known for his associations and contributions to the Art Nouveau movement, Carlo Bugatti’s most recognizable work is his furniture, often composed of natural materials like wood, parchment, vellum, and copper. These pieces are usually heavily decorated with organic accoutrement, such as tassels, painted motifs, and woven fabric. Bugatti had a unique gift for combining and evoking a startlingly wide range of styles and eras. A single chair could reflect Gothic, Asian and Moorish styles, as well as the more-is-more attitude to ornamentation that dominated the Victorian era; the naturalistic motifs of Art Nouveau; and touches that foreshadow Art Deco.

From Milord Antiques: Rare Carlo Bugatti cabinet of asymmetrical design is made of intricately carved and ebonized walnut inlaid with pewter, bone and copper, partially covered with parchment. Italy, circa 1902

Bulgari

Even though Bulgari is an Italian luxury fashion house known for its jewellery, watches, fragrances, accessories, and leather goods, it was actually founded in 1884 by the Greek silversmith Sotirios Boulgaris (1857 – 1932). In its early years, Bulgari was known for silver pieces that borrowed elements from Byzantine and Islamic art, combining them with floral motifs. At the time, Paris was the apex of fashion and creativity, and its trends influenced Sotirios’ designs for decades: jewels of the early 20s were characterized by platinum Art Deco settings while those of the 30s featured geometric diamond motifs—sometimes set in combination with colored gemstones. Convertible jewels were also popular during the time, and one of Bulgari’s major pieces was the Trombino, a small trumpet-shaped ring.

From Kentshire: 1980s Bulgari gold, diamond, and chrysoprase doorknocker hoop earrings

The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Italian style! B is for…

The 2023 San Francisco Fall Show will celebrate La Dolce Vita – the quintessentially Italian approach to the “good life”. We will indulge in the pure pleasure of appreciating and collecting art, antiques and design. From Botticelli to Bertoia, from Fellini to Fornasetti, from Schiaparelli to Sottsass, La Dolce Vita is all about poetic beauty, breathtaking art, groundbreaking design, exuberant colors and refined materials. We’re breaking it down alphabetically… B is for:

Baldacchino

A baldacchino is a canopy over the altar in a church, sometimes made of a permanent material like bronze. The most famous is Bernini’s baldacchino for St. Peter’s in Rome.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 – 1680)

From his early days as a child prodigy until his death in 1680 at the age of 82, Gian Lorenzo Bernini remained unchallenged as the foremost sculptor of his time. His dynamic and exuberant style perfectly embodies the baroque period, of which he has become the symbol. Bernini excelled in every sculptural genre (portraiture, tomb sculpture, religious and mythological representations). He was equally creative in other media, including architecture, painting and drawing. An early practitioner of the art of caricature, he used his quick sketches to poke fun at the Roman papal court. In his all-encompassing virtuosity, Bernini brings to mind another prolific artist who redefined sculpture, Michelangelo.

Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome built between 1648 and 1651

Harry Bertoia (1915 – 1978)

Harry Bertoia’s oeuvre encompasses sound sculptures, furniture, and jewelry design. A successful designer at the mid-century furniture company Knoll, Bertoia famously designed their Diamond Chair (below), a delicate and airy steel-framed chair introduced in 1952 and still sold today. He would later devote his artistic energy towards innovative sculpture, finding ways to bend and stretch metal so that when crossed with wind or touch, it would create different sounds. Many of Bertoia’s “tonal sculptures” were commissioned for established institutions and as public art displays. He has also performed concerts with these pieces, even recording a series of albums known as Sonambient music. From a young age Bertoia was friends with other prominent designers such as Walter Gropius and Ray and Charles Eames, and he regularly designed jewelry for his friends.

Bernardo Bertolucci (1941 – 2018)

Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian director whose films were known for their colorful visual style, was born in Parma, Italy. He attended Rome University and became famous as a poet. He served as assistant director for Pier Paolo Pasolini in the film Accattone (1961) and directed The Grim Reaper (1962). His second film, Before the Revolution (1964), which was released in 1971, received an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay. Bertolucci also received an Academy Award nomination as best director for Last Tango in Paris (1972), and the best director and best screenplay for the film The Last Emperor (1987, below) – the first Western feature film authorized by the People’s Republic of China to film in the Forbidden City in Beijing – which walked away with nine Academy Awards.

Umberto Boccioni (1882 – 1916)

Umberto Boccioni was an influential Italian painter and sculptor. He helped shape the revolutionary aesthetic of the Futurism movement as one of its principal figures. Despite his short life, his approach to the dynamism of form and the deconstruction of solid mass guided artists long after his death.

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by Umberto Boccioni, 1913

Cini Boeri

Cini Boeri was one of the first female Italian designers to rise to prominence after the second world war. Over the course of her career, Boeri collaborated with some of the biggest names in Italian design, including lighting brand Artemide and furniture makers Knoll, Magis and Arflex. “There is nothing affected or elitist in the essentialism of her architecture, just as there is nothing austere or penitent in the minimalism of her furniture design projects,” states her son, architect Stefano Boeri.

Strips seating system designed by Cini Boeri for Arflex, 1968