A Rare pair of ‘arte povera’ Vases

A Rare pair of ‘arte povera’ Vases

Finely decorated with multi-coloured flowers, insects and leaves, this rare and unique pair of baluster-shaped wooden vases – with ovoid body and scalloped-edge – belongs to a category of objects and furniture traditionally catalogued by means of the term arte povera.
Arte povera, basically an equivalent variation of lacca povera (poor man’s lacquer), refers to a well-known decorative technique introduced in Venice during the 18th century, whereby sheets of engravings – often with Oriental subject (chinoiserie) – were coloured, cut-out and pasted onto furniture or objects and then covered with multiple coats of a varnish called sandracca (a natural resin) in order to produce a high-gloss finish very similar to a ‘lacquer’.
This Venetian technique – which became immediately fashionable and was therefore readily appreciated and imitated in different Italian contexts as well as in many parts of Europe – was initially used to decorate only works in wood, but later also applied to glass and metal artifacts.

'Arte povera' Vases, 18th century.

Beyond their actual uniqueness, these two very beautiful vases are particularly interesting and outstanding because the wonderful flowers adorning their surfaces are not merely cut-out from paper but from specific Genoese textiles called mezzari.
From the early 13th century on, the term mezzaro (from the arabic word mi’zar, ‘veil’ or ‘cloak’) indicates in Genoa – as well as in Corsica and Sardinia – either a cloth used by women to cover their heads or for home furnishings, in both cases as a part of the bridal kit.

L. Gainotti, Old lady with 'mezzaro'

More precisely, since 1750 the word mezzaro is used to indicate a flowered cloth, linen or cotton, printed with particularly vibrant colors in imitation of those Indian textiles that the Genoese already imported centuries before.

Genoese 'mezzaro'

The wonderful naturalistic ornaments adorning the vases presented here were most certainly realized by cutting out flowers, leaves and insects form those rich textiles which the Genoese upper classes used to hand down from generation to generation.

Wood decorated with arte povera technique
Northern Italy (Piedmont)
Second half 18th century
Cm 27 x 47 h

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