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An Iron and Gold Renaissance Masterpiece

Purse Mount_Alessandro Cesati

This spectacular purse frame is a very rare example of a scarcely known kind of object. It’s the clasp for a purse used by noblemen, bankers, moneychangers and merchants -rigorously men- for keeping coins, but also keys, letters and documents or the white handkerchief, an essential accessory for the adult gentleman; for sure, the purse was a status symbol for an aristocratic. It had no handle or shoulder strap but it was attached to the belt with metal hooks and worn on the right side; also, it was often coordinated with the belt buckle and the sword handle worn on the left.

1. Alessandro Allori, Portrait of Tommaso de’ Bardi, circa 1560 , Sotheby’s 2014, detail. 2.G. Mazzola Bedoli (ca. 1505 - ca. 1569), Portrait of a Boy of the Bracciforte Family, ca. 1560, Rochester (NY), Memorial Art Gallery, inv. 76.13, Marion Sutton Gould Fund

1. Alessandro Allori, Portrait of Tommaso de’ Bardi, circa 1560 , Sotheby’s 2014, detail.
2.G. Mazzola Bedoli (ca. 1505 – ca. 1569), Portrait of a Boy of the Bracciforte Family, ca. 1560, Rochester (NY), Memorial Art Gallery, inv. 76.13, Marion Sutton Gould Fund

Since the Middle Ages, the purse was a leather or velvet pouch closed by a bronze or iron clasp; slightly different purses were worn by huntsmen and pilgrims. We still have many paintings and portraits of gentlemen wearing purses, but only a few frames still exist in international museums collections, some with the bag still attached. However, the Italian Renaissance iron purse mounts of remarkable quality are very few and only rarely gilded (e.g. New York, Metropolitan Museum; Cleveland, Museum of Art; Ecouen, Musée National de la Renaissance; Paris, Petit Palais; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum; London, Wallace Collection).

a.New York, Metropolitan b.Ecouen, Musée de la Renaissance c.Paris, Petit Palais

a.New York, Metropolitan Museum
b.Ecouen, Musée de la Renaissance
c.Paris, Petit Palais

This masterpiece iron clasp shows a refined and complex decoration on the front: the lower half presenting in the center the long-bearded Neptune holding the trident, laying within an oval frame adorned with scrolls and studs; Neptune is flanked by the allegories of two Rivers, represented as male figures resting on a jar; all the figures stand out against a golden background; the other parts of the mount are adorned with a pair of winged masks and intertwined scrolls; in the centre of the upper half there is another triad of figures: in the middle Jupiter, seated on a throne into an oval frame, on the left Mars, in a warlike suit with helmet and sword, on the right Vulcan; the three figures are chiselled in a very low relief against the golden background and both Mars and Vulcan are framed by two richly adorned scrolls; the descending sides have scrolls as well. The back is also decorated on the upper part with overlapping discs, volutes, interweaved geometric elements, and has some small holes used to stitch the velvet of the purse.

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The style and the technique are the same of the most beautiful 16th century armor suits made by the renowed Milan armourers such as Negroli, Pompeo della Cesa and Piccinino, who served the most important Italian and European families. In fact, besides the armour suits that made them so famous, Milanese armourers also produced different steel or iron luxury items, such as cabinets, mirrors, candlesticks, reliquaries, purse mounts, belts, swords hilts, horse bits, stirrups, saddles and powder flasks. About the real existence of the legendary damascener Martino Ghinelli there is no proof, but two main specialized workshops are known: the one belonging to Giovan Battista Panzeri, called the Sarabaglia (Milan, about 1517-1587), who was the brilliant pupil of Filippo Negroli and worked for Ferdinando Duca d’Aosta, Philip II of Spain and the dukes of Mantua; and the workshop of Giovanni Antonio Polacini called Romerio or Romé (around 1527- between 1595 and 1602). A couple of purse mounts, that must have been similar to the present one, appear in the inventory of a company lead by Panzeri and Marco Antonio Fava, another important iron master (see S. Leydi 2016).
The Milanese craftsmen achieved the highest levels in the art of ironworking. Their techniques, such as iron micro-sculpture, were used only in very rare cases for civil objects, such as this extraordinary Renaissance clasp, a work further embellished by the rare combined presence of both gilding and damascening (the complex decorative art of inlaying threads of precious metal into a dark metal background). The surprisingly well preserved gliding is an element of further rarity of the present piece.
The very high quality of this purse mount, the great technical difficulty necessary to make it and the presence of male divinities suggest it may have been made for an important, wealthy man, perhaps linked to the maritime world for privileges or economic activities. The richness of the decoration, typical of late Mannerism, allows to date the piece between the middle and the third quarter of the sixteenth century.


Wrought and chiselled iron, gilded and damascened in gold
Italy (Milan)
Circa 1570
Cm 13 x 12

References: La collection Spitzer: Antiquité, Moyen-age, Renaissance, Paris, Maison Quantin 1891, tome 3, p. 47, n° 20; Henri-René d’ Allemagne, Ferronerie ancienne, Catalogue du Musée Le Secq des Tournelles à Rouen, 2 voll. Schemitt, Paris 1924 (English version: Decorative antique ironwork, Dover Publ., New York 1968), plate 250; M. Delpierre, Indispensables accessoires, XVIe – XXe siècle, exh. cat. (Paris, Musée de la Mode et du Costume, 8 december 1983 – 23 april 1984, Palais Galliera), Paris 1983, p. 57, cat. 362-382 ; S. Leydi, Mobili milanesi in acciaio e metalli preziosi nell’età del Manierismo, in Fatto in Italia, dal Medioevo al Made in Italy, exh. cat. (Turin, Venaria Reale, 19 march – 10 july 2016, ed by A. Guerrini), Milan 2016, p. 121-137.

Alessandro Cesati at AMART Milano

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The AMART Antiques fair, organized by the Milanese Association of Antique Dealers, closed last Sunday welcoming nearly six thousand visitors and many famous guests.
The fair gave us the opportunity to show sculptures and works of art dating from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century, that aroused great interest and enthusiasm in many collectors and art lovers.
Among the artworks we showed, a female allegorical figure by a baroque venetian sculptor; a spectacular polychrome wax relief from the second half of 18th century, depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds, by a skillful Sicilian wax modeler and still enshrined in its original inlaid wood frame (we wrote an article about it); an elegant and slender sealing press in wrought, carved and engraved iron, made in Italy during 17th century.
Thanks to AMART, Milan restarts a tradition which had been interrupted some years ago.
We look forward to seeing you soon!Torchietto_Italia



This year the Alessandro Cesati Gallery is proud to celebrate its 20th consecutive participation to the TEFAF Maastricht (March 10 – 18, 2018), with an important selection of sculptures and works of art from the Renaissance to 20th century.

Cesati stand will have once again a highly relevant position in the layout of the fair, since it will be situated immediately after the right entrance of the exhibition.

Among the many and significant pieces presented by the Alessandro Cesati Gallery for this edition, it must be pointed out:

– a spectacular South-German baroque Strongbox with two armorial shields, the Imperial double-headed Eagle and a medallion depicting Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria. Due to the quality of the decoration and the elegance of the engravings, the strongbox is the result of a collaboration between an excellent locksmith and an outstanding goldsmith, a typical feature of Nuremberg tradition.

– an extraordinary Pair of Angels carved in Carrara marble, recently reattributed to the sculptors Gian Giacomo and Guglielmo della Porta and made during their Genoese activity, when they also received many important commissions for the Cathedral of the city.

-a Pair of intriguing Allegorical Paintings with a mysterious meaning recently unveiled. The painter is a curious artist active in Lombardy between the second half of the 17th  and the early 18th century, known as the Master of the Fertility of the Egg.

– a large Florentine terracotta high-relief, commissioned to celebrate the birth of a son of the couple Rospigliosi – Degli Albizzi, by Girolamo Ticciati, an important pupil of Giovan Battista Foggini and a celebrated artist at the Medici Court. The work is also a new and relevant proof of the artist’s early career.

TEFAF Maastricht will host more than 280 of the world’s finest art, antiques and design dealers, who will bring their very best pieces to the 2018 edition. Each section presents some of the most outstanding examples of fine and decorative arts available on the market: our section, TEFAF Antiques, is the largest of the fair, comprising 90 dealers. Also with our contribution, sculpture from across the centuries will be particularly well represented at the 2018 Fair.

We look forward to seeing you there!

TEFAF Maastricht – stand 155
MECC, Maastricht, March 10-18, 2018

For more information, please visit:

Cesati goes Social!

This year the Alessandro Cesati Gallery is proud to announce that joined the Social Media and has two brand new profiles: Facebook and Instagram!

For those who already know us, we will be even more in touch!

For those who love our newsletter, we will tell you even more stories and show you even more pieces for your collections!

For those who still don’t know our Gallery, let’s meet out there!

We’ll be proud to have you as a Friend and a Follower, so:

Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Instagram !

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Alessandro Cesati at the Biennial of Florence


The 30th edition of the Florence Biennial Antiques Fair will be opening its doors -from September 23rd to October 1st- in the Baroque halls of Palazzo Corsini. The fair is the oldest running art and antiques trade show in Europe and without doubt the most prestigious and international in Italy. This year the charming Palazzo Corsini will have a new layout by Matteo Corvino, a well-known Venetian interior designer, who conceived a glass ceiling and a reconstruction of an Italian-style hanging garden.
Alessandro Cesati Gallery will be attending the 30th edition of this important event showing an appealing selection of sculptures and works of art, in the stand n° 47 facing the Throne Hall of the Palazzo.
Among the significant works on show it is worth to mention a rare Tuscan wooden casket dating from the second quarter of the 14th Century, punched and decorated with a series of quatrefoil-shaped medallions, certainly painted by a great Sienese artist; the pagoda-shaped lid gives the casket its lovely and intriguing aspect.

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Another remarkable work of art on display will be a gorgeous and large terracotta high-relief attributed to Girolamo Ticciati, a well known baroque Florentine sculptor and architect and one of the best pupils of Giovan Battista Foggini; this impressive sculpture represents the Adoration of the Shepherds and shows the coat-of-arms of two Florentine families: Rospigliosi and Lanfredini.
Another intriguing and rare work of art presented by the Alessandro Cesati Gallery is an extraordinary Baroque Casket with different expandable compartments that disclose miniature scenes of the life of Christ: a typical example of southern Italian craftsmanship developed between late 17th and early 18th century.

We Look Forward to Seeing You at BIAF, Stand n°47!

Florence International Biennial Antiques Fair
Palazzo Corsini, Lungarno Corsini
23rd September – 1st October 2017
Preview: 22nd September, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m
Opening Hours: every day from 10.30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For further information visit


The Unrivalled Tefaf Maastricht

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This year’s exhibitors have put on an outstanding display of remarkable objects. To achieve this, year on year, is not easy: it takes dedication and connoisseurship. Yet again they have excelled themselves and have attracted international collectors from all corners of the globe to Maastricht”. This is what Patrick van Maris, CEO of Tefaf, said about the fair which ran from 10 to 19 March 2017 and welcomed over 71,000 visitors, from over 60 nationalities. The 30 years old Maastricht fair continued to provide a dynamic sales platform for its exhibitors, confirming itself as the most important event for dealers, collectors and art lovers for around the globe. In order to do so, Tefaf Maastricht continuously evaluates its offering, and each year takes steps to maintain its position as the world’s leading fine art and antiques fair. One such initiative is TEFAF Curated, a sub-section of TEFAF Modern, which this year took place for the third time. Penelope Curtis, Director of the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon and curator of the third edition of TEFAF Curated, this year entitled La Grande Horizontale, said about the event: “It was a different kind of space for an art fair, and within its distinctive design, art works which normally would never meet now spoke to each other in a new way.”

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Within the now large number of Italian exhibitors, the Cesati Gallery had great success with the elegant installation totally renovated in colour and lay-out, displaying as always an interesting combination of materials, ranging from the favorite ironworks to the sculptures in stone, wood and bronze.
Among the works on display, a special attention went to a tiny polychromed wood sculpture of a King Balthazar, from a rare workshop active in Cologne in the early 16th century, placed near a mid 13th century gilded and enamelled Corpus Christi from Limoges, rare for size and state of preservation.
Great appreciation also for the powerful wrought iron Safe from the late XVII century, attracting the attention of the visitors, not only for its sophisticated and ‘contemporary’ beauty, but also thanks to its strategic position through which it was immediately visible from the main entrance of the fair.

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