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 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 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 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 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 (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.