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