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, 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.
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