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A Kunstkammer in Milan

The stunning project by American film director Wes Anderson and artist Juman Malouf, his wife, brings 538 objects to Fondazione Prada in Milan, selected among the four million ones preserved by the 12 departments of the Kunsthistorisches Museum and among the 20 million pieces of the 11 collections of the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. The exhibition is the largest museum loan in history and reconstructs an imaginary Kunstkammer, with an inspiring collection in the collection resulting from the duo’s personal choice.

The works are displayed in a very elegant setting designed with architect Itai Margula, consisting of small themed rooms, that also show many objects that were never seen before because they are kept in storage. Bypassing the academic criteria, the precious objects are grouped together according to shape, colour, or to other connections that the visitor is encouraged to discover in Milan – after the first and smaller version of the project presented in Vienna.


A curious selection of objects that explores six centuries of illustrious collecting and five thousand years of history: a real aesthetic journey created by two authentic alchemists of the image.

The journey includes several masterpieces: a bust of a laughing boy by Desiderio da Settignano, the portrait of the Lutheran Johann Friedrich, defeated by Charles V, painted by Titian, a sculpture by Riemenschneider, the portrait of Isabella d’Este painted by Rubens, the custody of the crown and sceptre of Rudolph II of Prague, a splendid etched lock, a series of refined miniature antique busts carved in hard stones, the ivory Phoenix by the Master of the Furies; there also are different curiosities like a false-real emerald mounted at the end of the 16th century, an automata and the object that gives the title to the exhibition: the small Egyptian sarcophagus that once contained the mummy of a Shrew, an animal listed in the Ancient Egypt recipe books as one of the useful ingredients for preparing love potions -and on this occasion the famous patisserie Marchesi has prepared a curious limited edition cake!

“Il Sarcofago di Spitzmaus e altri tesori”, at Fondazione Prada – Milan, from 20 September 2019 to 13 January 2020.

Alessandro Cesati at the Florence ‘Biennale’

From September 21 to 29 at Palazzo Corsini, the 31st BIAF Florence International Antiques Fair will be open to the public, celebrating its 60 years: 77 galleries with their exquisite selection of artworks are bound to charm the numerous Private Collectors, Museum Directors and Curators coming from all over the world.

The Alessandro Cesati Gallery will be attending the oldest and most prestigious Italian fair with a fascinating ensemble of Sculpture and Works of Art.
An accurate selection of mainly Italian artworks will be shown in stand 47, facing the Palazzo Corsini Throne Hall: among these, an unpublished Portable Triptych with Scenes from the Life of Christ, made in the well-known Embriachi workshop and dating to the first decades of the Quattrocento, with two beautifully painted monochrome Angels on its doors backside.

Some significant sculptures will be exhibited as well, such as a proud-looking limestone Stylobate Lion, representing a rare witness of the very early 14th century sculpture in the Marche region.

It will be also possible to admire some rare caskets, like an exquisite ebony one, inlaid with engraved and gilded mother-of-pearl plaques, depicting different scenes from the Story of Susanna. This special work, made in Southern Germany in the early 17th century, was probably conceived as a wedding gift to the bride.

We Look Forward to Seeing You at BIAF!

Stand n° 47. Florence International Biennial Antiques Fair
Palazzo Corsini
September 21st -29th.
For further information: biaf.it

A Rare Writing Box with a “Gioco del Pallone” Scene

This rare and curious writing box is decorated with a beautiful series of engraved and inked bone plaquettes, describing different leisure activities of the high society. It is lined inside with a precious paper, hand-made by the famous Remondini workshop in Bassano del Grappa. On the lid there is a lion hunting scene; on the sides there are six other rectangular plaquettes: four with hunting scenes (two canids face each other in a field, a horse runs in front of a farmhouse; a hunter with a spear faces a dragon; a hunter with a firearm shoots a flock), and two on the front with game scenes (two people and a dog on a balance swing; the old “Gioco del Pallone”).


This game, of ancient Greek-Roman origins, began to be popular in Italy from the sixteenth century on and for more than four hundred years it has been the undisputed protagonist of sports in the courts of Central and Northern Italy, particularly in Tuscany and Marche: in Rome many competitions and demonstrations were organized for the will and delight of the Popes.


Three players per team, battitore, spalla and terzino, had to hit the ball, on the fly or after the first rebound, to send it into the opponent’s field. To do so, players wore a special wooden bracelet with a handle, well illustrated in a very famous 1555 treaty. The bracelet was quite always made of walnut wood and its outer surface had hardwood tips called bischeri.

Antonio Scaino da Salò, Trattato del giuoco della palla, diuiso in tre parti, Venezia, 1555. BRACELET, Walnut, 18th century / BRACCIALE, legno di noce, XVIII secolo.

The popularity of this sport, whose matches were traditionally the subject of great bets, was certainly due also to some famous players (even the future Pope Pius 9th was a ball player). The stories that circulated about them, as often happens, ended up becoming true legends of this game that was for centuries what football is today.

WRITING BOX
Bone inlaid wood
Northern Italy
Early 18th century
Cm 39,5 x 27,5 x 14h

TEFAF Maastricht 2019: a New Selection

Also this year, the Alessandro Cesati Gallery will exhibit at TEFAF Maastricht (March 16-24, 2019) for the 21st time, offering a new selection of important Sculptures and Works of Art in a two-rooms stand: the first room will be dedicated to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the second to Baroque Era.

At the center of the first room of the stand, the Gallery will proudly present a little and extraordinary Sienese Casket of the mid-14th century, whose great importance has led to the publication of a dedicated book, with contributions by Prof. Andrea De Marchi and Dr. Chiara Guerzi: a treasure casket for small and precious objects, considered the oldest example among the so-called ‘pagoda-shape’ caskets, and attributed to a Sienese artist in the circle of the Lorenzetti brothers and close to Lippo Vanni.

Among the many stone sculptures, one will admire a charming Madonna of the Book by Cristoforo Mantegazza (Milan, 1429-1479) – one of the most important artists of the 15th-century Lombardy, and Galeazzo Maria Sforza favourite sculptor – whose provenance dates back to a famous and noble Italian collector of the second half of the 19th century. The work, of great gentleness and already known to scholars, has recently been restudied, recognizing in it a little masterpiece by this inspired Milanese sculptor.

One of the the absolute new entries of this year is an unpublished and very well conserved Triptych with Scenes from the Life of Christ, of large dimensions, by the Embriachi workshop, active in Florence and Venice between c. 1370 and 1430, specialized in bone and ivory carving.

As usual, a very fine selection of fine ironwork, such as doorknockers and locks, will also be presented to collectors.

In the second room, mainly dedicated to works from the Baroque period, collectors will admire an intense pair of large-sized ivory sculptures depicting the Virgin and Saint John, recently reattributed to the hand of Johann Balthasar Stockamer (circa 1634-1700), a well-known German ivory sculptor who spent many years in Italy working in Rome for Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

TEFAF Maastricht – stand 155
MECC, Maastricht, March 16-24, 2019

For more information, please go to tefaf.com

A Candle-by-the-hour Holder

This curious and rare device in wrought and engraved iron belongs to the large category of table candlesticks and is also classified as Candle-by-the-hour Holder since it gave way to empirically calculate the candle flame duration.
This refined object consists of a square-shaped and engraved plate, supported by four thin and partially twisted legs with shell-shaped feet; in the plate center there is a small decorated stem, on top of which there are a sort of elegantly fashioned and engraved spring scissors working as candlesnuffer. A shell-shaped handle, joint to the plate, was designed for moving the lamp from one room to another.
A special candle was rolled up around the stem: a kind of waxed thread ball which end was secured between the scissors blades, protruding a few centimeters. Once the candle was lit, the flame burnt until reaching the scissors that put it out automatically.
Assuming that an inch of candle could correspond to about 15 minutes of light, its duration could therefore be preset according to need, calculating the length of the candle sticking out above the scissors. A whole ball of waxed thread could last up to 70 hours, and this procedure also represented a way of economizing the candle consumption.

CANDLE-BY-THE-HOUR HOLDER
Wrought and engraved iron
Northern Italy
18th century
Cm 11 x 18 x 14 H
References : AA.VV., Antichi Strumenti dalla Collezione Nessi, Milan 2004, p. 334; Vittorio Fagone, Il momento artigiano: aspetti della cultura materiale in Italia, Milan 1976, p. 39; AA.VV., Objets civiles domestiques, Imprimerie Nationale, Paris 1984, p. 430, n° 2064.

A Young Boy at Venice Biennale in 1932

This beautiful bronze head depicts the artist’s son as an adolescent. The wavy hair, arranged on one side, partially fall on the forehead. The gaze ahead and the softly closed mouth transmit a feeling of innocent amazement, characteristic of that young age. The bronze surface, gently rippled, softens the light recalling an impressionistic and “scapigliato” effect typical of other sculptors of that period such as Libero Andreotti, Italo Griselli and Francesco Messina. But here, in his confident pose and in the attentive look, one can find the energy and the potentiality of a young adult, so appreciated in the boys of those years, together with an ephebic beauty recalling classical aesthetics. Baglioni, and the Italian sculpture of the Thirties in general, look for a renewed humanism by looking at the ancient art.
At his first Venice Biennale, the 18th edition held in 1932, Baglioni exhibited two sculptures in Room 19, one of which is precisely the present one: this is attested both by a label with the title of the work, still pasted under the original wooden base, and by two photographs taken on that occasion now stored at the ASAC (Archivio Storico dell’Arte Contemporanea, Venice).

Umberto Baglioni, born in Calabria (Scalea 1893), moved to Turin in 1917 where he studied with Edoardo Rubino at the Accademia Albertina, initially close to the “Scapigliato” and Liberty taste of the rich and lively Turin of those years and then approaching the roman Neoclassicism. Already praised in 1919 for “the ability to reach high peaks and to wrap the work with a mystical veil”, around 1920 he opens his own studio.
He participates in the Venice Biennale six times since 1932; in 1942, he even deserves an entire room where he shows eleven sculptures and the critics write: “Napoleone Martinuzzi e Umberto Baglioni respirano un’atmosfera più calma, vivono in un mondo più sereno, dove il sentimento è contenuto e dominato dal gusto; la loro Musa […] (è) Tersicore, musa dall’agile passo e dell’equilibrio difficile” (Le tre Venezie, 1942, p. 263).
In 1936 he inherits the chair of his master Edoardo Rubino at the Albertina and in 1937 after winning a competition among 56 artists, he achieves in Turin one of his best known works: the pair of fountains with two big marble sculptures depicting the Po and the Dora Rivers, with an outcome typical of the Italian 20th century Neoclassicism.
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Umberto Baglioni (Scalea 1893-Torino 1965)
“MIO FIGLIO”
Bronze
Circa 1930
Cm 16 x 24 h
Exhibited at the 18th Venice Biennale (1932), as stated by a label under the base.
References: Enzo Le Pera, Arte di Calabria tra Otto e Novecento, Catanzaro 2001, p. 21; Marco Vallora, Dal divisionismo all’informale: tradizione, visionarietà e geometria nell’arte in Piemonte 1880-1960, Mazzotta 2011, p. 233.

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