I’m delighted to share with you a guest post by JoAnn Locktov. JoAnn is sharing stunning photographs by talented architects in her new book, Dream of Venice Architecture. You know I’m smitten with Venice and welcome any opportunity to visit with clients, meet with our Antiques Diva® secret sources, or just stroll along the canale or savor a macchiato and work at a small café and relish my surroundings. Our Venice Diva Guides Orseola & Chiara have opened many Venetian doors for me, the architecture at the Fortuny Museo is a favorite of theirs. The lovely photos and charming commentary in Dream of Venice will transport you to this special city. If you haven’t been, you must schedule a trip to Venice very soon. And if you haven’t visited recently, you must return. Until then, I invite you to Dream of Venice Architecture.
Venice. Venezia. La Serenissima. The city has inspired artists, musicians, writers, lovers, and poets for over a millennium. The beauty of Venice is well documented. Originally through painting and verse, and now through photography, movies and if we’re lucky, our own eyes. But have you ever wondered what makes Venice so mesmerizing? Can we attribute her appeal to one element? Is it the Lagoon light, the dancing reflections, the patina of age, or the subtle hues of salt-washed color?
Venice is an urban oasis. The natural water that you find everywhere, is delineated by the construction of palaces, churches, boatyards, gardens, and bridges-some iconic and many that are humble. We wanted to know if this city that originated over 1,500 years ago could still be relevant to our contemporary lives. This is what we found out. Come take a passeggiata with us and wander through the memories of architects, architectural writers, and the evocative images of the award winning filmmaker and photographer Riccardo De Cal.
All photos and excerpts from Dream of Venice Architecture
Published by Bella Figura Publications
For so many people, cities are captured by the visual memory of an iconic panorama but for me Venice is a wholly visceral experience where what we see is so much less than what we perceive or feel. In Venice, there is all at once the sound and smell of the water, the chiaroscuro of confined passageways that give way to expansive campi, the constant rise and fall of crossing so many bridges and the twisting irregularities of its labyrinthine streets. A place of great intensity; I know no other city where one must navigate by way of intrinsic memory rather than conscious understanding.
Annabelle Selldorf, FAIA
Every entrance has a four-digit number, always applied onto the frame in a uniform stenciled typeface. A few years ago I happened to be passing by the house numbered 1937, which featured a particularly distressed and ominous-looking door. Suddenly I had a strange vision that the horrific memories of the year 1937—Guernica, Kristallnacht, Stalin’s Great Purge—are hidden behind that locked portal. It took a good half-a-bottle of wine before I could let this disquieting fantasy go. Yet ever since, I cannot rid myself of an impression that every Venetian door represents a particular year; that the city is, in fact, a museum that contains all human history and all our future as well. This would of course explain why the doors are so mysterious and forlorn: why they are always locked; why nobody seems to be ever entering or coming out.
Venice may be too hot, too cold, too humid, too crowded or too easy to get lost in, but “her streets, through which the fish swim, while the black gondola glides spectrally over the green water” — as Hans Christian Andersen eloquently stated — release us to imagine alternatives to the general standard of urban living. Venice is not on the sea but of the sea, eclipsing the tale of Atlantis with a modern mythology both repeated and rewritten with every tide.
Just inside the windows, several pet bird cages were hung above a grand piano, and these, plus the lure of crumbs from the damask-covered tables where guests were eating their morning brioche, attracted small flying birds from the square. As we sipped our coffee, birds darted through the windows, soared around the ceiling twenty feet overhead, then hopped and chirped about the rug at our feet. It was pure enchantment. Those first few days in Venice were one of the transformative experiences of my life.
Venice: the ageless city. How can we take measure of her to a finite time, she who is crystallized by the juxtaposition of styles, of forms, of places, of spaces…
When you walk through Venice at night, in the silence, in the darkness, the canale fills you with anguish, fear, anxiety, dissatisfaction, as if you’re seeing a sleepless dormitory town, full of ghosts and dark clouds…
Inside the places on the ground floors you imagine unmoving ghosts reclining on large tables surrounded by chairs with the light filtering through from the outside—thus faint, so very faint, in the depths. The gondolas are moving slowly as the water laps the shore; the silver blades almost black and you think they are open funeral carriages ready for the reclining ghosts in the rooms.
When I hear the voice of Venice, my mind wanders into that nebulous space where time momentarily stops and I am quietly propelled into an intimate dialogue with my own free floating thoughts. The voice of Venice thankfully reminds me that there is an arena in which fantasy and reality can collide, coexist, and comfortably accommodate contradictions. Venice, for me, is a metaphor for unexpected creative possibilities. This notion never fails to captivate me.
Louise Braverman, FAIA
For the architect, the recognizing of a city is nearly always expressed through emerging elements: a bridge, a monument, a tower, a neighborhood or a geometric structure. In the end, nearly all of us reason like collectors of snow globes, those that are found in all souvenir shops, and show the stereotypes of different cities.
It is rare that landscape is used as the substantial element of a city, its GEOGRAPHY. But Venice is the exception.
For all its floating qualities, Venice is heavily laden with history, stone, and gravity. Though its marble monuments aspire artfully upwards, they are ultimately more preoccupied with down than up. One counterpoint to all this weight is the prominent windvane poised lightly atop the Punta Della Dogana. This figure of Fortune, presiding over the Bacino’s daily ballet of watercraft, pirouettes between architecture and flight. It has for centuries signaled the comings and goings of Adriatic weather that tints this city’s beguiling atmosphere. For some, perhaps, it pivots to the ebb and flow of dreams as well.
Max Levy, FAIA
The main facade of the Fortuny palazzo faces the Campo San Benedetto. It is adorned with the characteristic ogee arches of Venetian Gothic, a classification of the Gothic architecture that originated as an ecclesiastical style in northern Europe where it can be dour and forbidding. Venetian Gothic is neither. Adapted to residential construction and suffused with Byzantine and Moorish influences, it is light, graceful, and whimsical—almost feminine. The right setting for the fashion maven who was known as the “Magician of Venice.”
Palazzo Fortuny, Orseola and Chiara’s favorite
Ciao, and pleasant dreams of Venice
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®
If you’re not already familiar with legendary Manhattan-based interior design John Douglas Eason you’re going to thank me for this introduction! John Douglas Eason is not only one of the nicest (and most attractive) men I know he’s also one of the most sophisticated. If you’ve visited some of the grandest homes in Greenwich, Connecticut, without a doubt you’ve encountered John’s designs. Some of the best homes in America have John’s touch. At the core of John’s work lies a sophisticated modern sensibility, tempered by respect for traditional design. This can be seen in his strong, structured interiors saturated with texture and softened with organic forms and unexpected colors. John’s deep knowledge of fabrics, finishes, furniture and furnishings, from contemporary to historical, is leveraged in every project. Sourcing at international art and design fairs as well as hidden New York showrooms and secret sources, John brings a wealth of knowledge and resources to every home he designs.
Last week while traveling with John on our special Hamptons Antiques and Design Inspiration Tour (now taking reservations for our July 2018 Antiques Diva® Hamptons Group Tour – private Hamptons tours are available April through October) we were chatting about what a great time we had last year antiquing in Italy. Amidst the antiquing we took an extra day to soak in some design inspiration, visiting one of Milan’s best-kept secrets – Villa Necchi Campiglio, formerly a private home, and now a museum open to the public.
The villa was built between 1932 and 1935 for the wealthy Lombard industrialist family made up of Angelo Campiglio, his wife Gigina Necchi, and her sister Nedda Necchi. It is situated in a very well-to-do part of Milan and was designed by Italian architect Piero Portaluppi. Both architect and client paid close attention to detail to create a house that would be the backdrop to a life well-lived in Milanese high society.
I asked John to share his design inspiration from our visit to Villa Necchi Campiglio:
My fondest memory of the Villa Necchi Campiglio, other than the company I was traveling with of course, is those fabulous nickel and brass pocket doors leading out to the terrace. I also was captivated by the attention to the details, the intricacy of the that was repeated through the entirety of the house. It was on the pocket doors, the radiators, ceilings & stone floors! There was a most amazing track system for those infamous pocket doors that became seamless as it recessed to the height of the floor when the doors were opened. Recently I posted a photo from our trip of those nickel and brass pocket doors to Instagram and they immediately became one of my most popular IG posts to date. So memorable are they that I don’t recall anything from the movie “I Am Love” except for those phenomenal doors. This was the sole purpose that I so willingly tagged along for our group tour just to see a pair of pocket doors, and they did not disappoint. Much to my pleasure the attention to detail that abounds in the remainder of the house does not either!!
Let John’s design inspirations inspire you! Follow John on Instagram: @johndeason.
Watch I Am Love and see if you can spot John’s design inspiration!
When you’re in Milan, you simply must visit this inspirational house museum – it’s one of Milan’s best-kept secrets – a lesson in architecture and design as it successfully mixes impressive 19th-century style with progressive 20th-century design. Perfection!
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®
Antiquing in Parma at Italy’s Premier Antiques Fair
Fancy meeting up with a group of fabulous designers, delightful dealers, (antique dealers, of course), magazine creatives, gracious guides, and one Diva extraordinaire to #shopeatplay in Italy for five days. Well, that’s exactly what Laurent and I did last month during Mercanteinfiera, Italy’s largest antiques fair held in the historic and gastronomic city of Parma, Italy, famous for its Renaissance and Romanesque architecture and prosciutto, parmigiano cheese and Lambruscu.
Twice a year, Toma Clark Haines, the Antiques Diva, and her Diva Guides take a VIP group of mostly interior designers and antique dealers on a trip that can only be described as an “antiques lovefest” because not only did we fall in love with the beautiful Italian antiques we saw, but we also fell in love with the people and places of Italy as well as everyone in our group. (While The Antiques Diva & Co NORMALLY only does one on one customized antique buying tours, a few times a year they work with 3rd parties to put together special VIP Group Tours; Mercanteinfiera is one such occassion. We were lucky enough to be part of that group!) What we thought would be a “look see” turned into an outright buying trip filled with more food, fun and friends than we could have ever imagined!
buy directly off the trucks as dealers
were unloading and setting up
The nine-day shopping extravaganza, which attracted more than 50,000 purveyors of antiques and designer finds from around the world, opened to the public on February 25th, but as VIP guests of the AD&CO we were fortunate enough to have early access during the pre-trade and trade days. This allowed us the ability to buy directly off the trucks as dealers were unloading and setting up. It was a bit crazy with everyone heading in different directions, dodging doggies and dollies (the furniture moving kind), but it provided us first dibs on the crème de la crème of Italian antiques and wares of over 1000 dealers.
Dealers are set up in five different pavilions selling a mixture of styles and periods of antiques and vintage furniture, jewelry and fashions, lighting (lots of lighting), art and accessories. Because Toma was in full-on Diva mode and making history in London at the House of Lords with the first ever Facebook Live post at the Houses of Parliament while speaking at the 9th Annual LAPADA Conference, she wasn’t able to join us the first day. We were in very capable hands, though. Her amazing Diva Guides, Orseola Barozzi Rizzo and Chiara Zanella, took charge and managed to navigate our large group through the multitudes of shoppers. They made sure that we each found what we were looking for, whether it was an 18th century Baroque Italian painted cassapanca or the nearest ATM. They also made sure we could communicate properly. Everyone in our group was from the South, and we could all be heard asking “quanto costa?” in our best southern accents!
A Few Vendor Booths at Mercanteinfiera
Our Goal: A Large Monastery Table
Since Laurent and I had one goal in mind, to find a large monastery table, we were thrilled to find not one but two 18th century tables almost immediately – and decided we best take them before someone else did. One table was fourteen feet and the other was twelve feet – hard-to-find sizes, at reasonable prices and both in excellent condition. We had already arranged to have our “collector” there just in case, so we immediately called him and let him know we had made our first purchase of the day. He would be collecting any items we purchased and taking them to our warehouse in Nantes, France. When Laurent goes to France in April to make a container, he’ll add the pieces from Italy with what he buys in France to be shipped back to our shop in Birmingham, Alabama.
A few things you need to know about Laurent. He’s been importing antiques for 25 years and has his own sources and does his own containers, usually four to five a year. So he was really reluctant about buying anything during this trip. He thought everything would be way over priced, and many things were because it’s a very high-end trade show, but once we started shopping, we realized what a wonderful opportunity we had been given.
even established antique dealers, set in their ways,
can really benefit from one of AD&CO’s many tours
In the two days that we attended Mercanteinfiera, we were able to purchase some incredible Italian antiques and were also able to find sources and make contacts that we will use in the future. Without the AD&CO, none of this would have been possible! We can’t thank them enough! It just goes to show even established antique dealers, set in their ways, can really benefit from one of AD&CO’s many tours. We plan on taking another tour in either Belgium or Sweden as soon as we can. Time is precious. And the time saved having Diva Guides with us to make introductions, translate and negotiate when necessary, and take care of the small details (like reading a menu) made all the difference in the world. Our imaginations could not have dreamed up anything more perfect. The energy, creativity, ingenuity, experience and the professional and personal attentiveness shown to us by Toma and her Diva Guides made this buying trip a truly magical journey.
Dear Diva Readers,
hen a client who is a fashion designer in India booked an Italian Vintage Fashion Tour he asked our advice on some extra things – post tour – to do while traveling in Florence. Naturally my locally-based Diva Guide Susan had a plethora of fashion shopping tips in Florence for both a designer seeking inspiration as well as for mere shopping mortals simply wanting to drop some dough!
Take a step back in Fashion History by visiting some of Florence’s famous fashion museums! The Gucci Museum is worth a visit as well as the Ferragamo Museum. For something different visit the costume gallery in the Palazzo Pitti which houses fashion from the 17th to 20th century. The Palazzo itself is beautiful immersed in the Boboli gardens on the Oltrarno which is the south side (or “other side”) of the river.
Naturally you’’ll want to stroll along Via Tornibuona as this is where the well-known fashion designers such as Prada, Loro Piano, Pucci, and Cavalli have their shops. And if you’re a bargain hunter like I am, plan a trip to the Designer Outlet Mall in Val di Chiana. Your hotel in Florence could organize transport – it’s only 40 minutes outside of Florence and for serious shoppers it’s worth the trip! Note to readers – it’s where I’ve personally bought a slew of my Italian purchases over the years from a fantastic pair of Tod’s for 35 Euro to Gucci sandals for less than 50E… Hmmm, if I keep writing this list of shoe purchases this will be a long, long list! Suffice to say, if you’re looking for Italian fashion and a bargain then this is the THE place to go.
For women’s fashion you must visit Luisa via Roma, Via Roma 19-21r, in Florence. This is on the same street as Eredi Chiarini at n° 16 which is a fabulous men’s fashion store. Playground, Via Don Giovanni Minzoni, 31/A should also be on the must shop list list.
Perhaps my favorite ambiance for shopping in Florence is at the Farmacia Santa Maria Novella. This beautiful old chapel is the original store and it still belongs to the nuns who create these wonderful perfumes, potions and lotions. Nearby is Frasi, a great men’s shop in Via Dei Federighi 7/R, above all for ties and accessories.
Leather shops abound all over Florence – watch this space, we’re helping a purse designer shop Florence soon so we will have a slew of tips to share with you from that trip – but if you’re looking for leather shops it is pretty much guaranteed wherever you are in the city you will find them. It’s hard to mention one leather shop above the others.
Nothing says Diva like a fabulous hat… and Borsalino in Via Porta Rossa at 40 r has a sensational selection. Another historic desitination is Casa dei Tessuti in Via dei Pecori, 20-22-24r. This shop is very old fashioned from the outside but they have a huge variety of high quality clothing textiles, and custom made suits, shirts, etc. They embody a total respect of the tradition of hand-made goods, and for fashionistas handy with a needle and thread they also offer basic courses on tailoring and costume history.
Paolo Romagnoli is located on the narrow street of via Parione at 54/r, A little tailors shop that makes suits and jackets, pants and skirts, shirts and even belts and ties. Prices range from 120E to infinity.
Last but not least… why yes, we at The Antiques Diva & Co tend to be fashionistas… let’s not forget our CORE BUSINESS is Antique and Vintage Shopping Tours so I would be positively remiss if I neglected to mention a few of the designer vintage stores in Florence! Ceri Vintage in via dei Serragli, 26r; just west of the Santo Spirito area is one of my favourite streets for finding antiques and midcentury! Last but not least – consider Pitti Vintage at Borgo Degli Albizi, 72r and Nadine, Lungarno Acciaiuoli 22r must shop destinations for the vintage fashion shopper.
Now before I love you and leave you… I would never leave you hungry. I’m certain if you’re like me you have folders bulging with a slew of restaurants marked for your trip to Florence but knowing of a few more places to nosh is always nice when traveling abroad. You can combine fashion and a bite to eat when visiting the department store Mercato Centrale – go to the top floor for a fabulous view and taste of everything Italian. Trattoria ZaZa in the market square outside is also great. La Menagerie http://www.lamenagere.it in via Ginori is perfect for lunch, brunch or supper but does get busy – you may need to call ahead to book a table. On the other side in San Ambrogio is Il Cibreo offers both a bistro and restaurant. South of the Arno are some smaller fun restaurants in the antiques district … Go out and explore… It’s really hard to eat badly in Florence. And when the day is done remember there are also a bunch of roof bars to sit enjoying cocktails and the view while reflecting on your purchases! One of my favorites is along the Arno river at the Hotel Continentale vicolo dell’Oro 6r.
The Antiques Diva & Co (with help from Tuscan Antiques Tour Guide Susan)
Dear Diva Readers,
hen clients come on tour to source antiques, it’s important that they do a little homework before crossing the pond. While we’re always happy to share our knowledge knowing for yourself what you’re looking for and what you’re looking at are important as you embark on the hunt – this knowledge will give you confidence in buying overseas whether our Diva Guide is taking you to the countryside to visit antique warehouses, city flea markets, or both. In Italy, Diva Guide Susan often takes clients all over Tuscany, scouring shops, markets, warehouses, and private residences for everything from ancient pieces to Mid-century modern. When looking at typical Tuscan antiques from the 18th and 19th century however, there are really three main styles to recognize. I asked Susan to explain a bit about those styles here on the blog.
Italy, as a peninsula, is an ancient country but in fact it was only united as one country in 1861. Up until that time is was ruled by various dominions, including those of neighbouring countries; France, Austria, Spain and naturally the customs and styles of these dominions were influenced by their rulers.
Even though Tuscany is a central region of Italy, Lucca, Florence and Siena each have distinct regional styles of furniture, in particular those of the 18th and 19th century. Nobel families dating back many generations were prominent in each province but there was also a burgeoning wealth from the textile industry in Lucca, banking in Siena and foreigners in Florence which further influenced the demand for important pieces.
The Lucchese Style
With the growth of the affluent middle classes large villas were built during the 18th and 19th century around the Lucca area, and many of these were silk and textile merchants. With new grand homes being built, the demand of larger proportioned and more elaborate furniture grew. More exotic woods were also available such as mahogany and fruit woods. Much of the 19th century Lucchese style was influenced by Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister and Princess of Lucca crowned in 1805. At the time, in fact, to adapt their homes to the evolution of the Empire style, the family commissioned local artisans to create furnishings in the main inspired by the French style, though suitable to the local taste. These “corrections ” in effect created a new style, best in features and lighter in the forms. While making clear reference to the Empire, still the variation is recognized as Lucchese style.
The Siena Style
Siena did not fall under the same influences or dominations that Lucca or Florence did, being that it is a little further south. From ancient Roman times as a city, it has always enjoyed wealth, with large agricultural estates and summer houses for the wealthy city dwellers. Much of Siena was built on banking; in fact the first banks were introduced in the medieval period, as lending institutions along the old pilgrim’s path. Little has changed in Siena since that period, which is still strongly felt. The Palio horse race which takes place twice a year has changed little since its introduction. It was then that the city was divided into what are known as contradas, and it remains so to this day which has kept it a closed society. More local woods were used for furniture, such as cherry, chestnut and oak. The pieces, although large in proportion to the house or room were more functional than decorative. Furniture from Siena was a little heavier in style to that of Lucca.
The Florentine Style
Florence too has been influenced by many rulers and styles. Although there is much wooden furniture, perhaps one thing to look out for is its beautiful decoration. These Florentine artisans are still appreciated today for their delicate handwork, finely painted pieces and gilding. The latter a much softer colour with the gesso beneath than its southern counterparts. Decoration and colours tend to be more neutral and softer than those in Venice, but no less lovely and are most sought after.
As you make your way through Tuscany, you will be able to pick up on the different styles of furniture and decoration. With a keen eye, you will know exactly what you are looking at and be able to speak intelligently to dealers about their inventory. As anyone in the antiques industry knows, part of the joy of antiquing is knowing the story and history behind each piece. Hopefully this blog helps you distinguish between Italian styles!
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
roof tiles to sculptures and decorative pieces, the Italians have used their natural resources along with an artistic perspective to craft exceptional products which are known worldwide. Perhaps the most popular terracotta items associated with Tuscany are the pots and jars which often grace Italian gardens. Originally, these were created from the rich clay of the surrounding hills for agricultural use. They were used for storing water and olive oil, and after being left exposed to the elements, these pots developed a rich patina which makes them perfect decorative items today whether you own a Tuscan villa or a ranch home in suburban USA.or hundreds of years the best terracotta in the world has come out of Tuscany. From floor tiles and
Italian terracotta pieces from Impruneta and Siena are arguably the best, as the land in these areas is naturally rich in iron, copper, calcium, and aluminum. Clay from Impruneta is a rich red color blue to the concentration of iron in the earth, while the crete Sienese is a softer yellow color due to the gray clay in that area.
Terracotta has been made from the earth in these Tuscan hills since Etruscan times—before Christ—and the tradition continues today. The hard gray earth is mined, then ground into a powder which is mixed with water to make the coarse bodied clay. After it’s put through the firing process which helps it withstand extreme temperatures, the clay develops a pale terracotta color. Clay from Impruneta is higher in iron than clay from Siena, and the resulting terracotta from Siena is more refined which gives it a smoother texture. Although terracotta from both regions can withstand cold temperatures, it is wise to shelter them in extreme winter climates where temperatures drop below 10 degrees fahrenheit.
Traditionally, olive jars are glazed on the inside and have a very distinctive shape. The large oval bodies taper at the base, which allowed the jars to be stored upright in clay or metal rings and also in wood braces aboard ships when they were being transported. Many of these olive jars also have handles at the top. Olive oil must be stored in a cool dark place in order to preserve it, therefore the jars made perfect sense. Since they are fashioned from fired-earth, they make ideal planters today and that is what many people use them for. Due to their shapely bodies and lovely patina, they can also stand alone in a garden, grouped in threes or flanking a pathway.
When searching for antique terracotta pots it’s important to note any details or markings. Antique pots usually have the name of the kiln and the estate for which they were made, often with the family crest!
Decoration on large pots are rare as these were created as functional pieces, but the agrumi pots are often adorned with swags. These pots were traditionally placed on pedestals in formal gardens during the summer, then rolled into the “limonia” during the winter.
When clients come on an Antiques Diva Tour in Tuscany, they often find terracotta pots to use indoors as well. Large or small, simple or ornately sculpted, these pots make perfect decorative accents. Our Diva Guide can also take you to small potteries which dot the Tuscan countryside between Florence and Siena. These artisans often have original molds which they can make replicas from, giving you the option to purchase matching sets of pots which can be harder to find if you’re looking for antique pots. However, several of our antique sources have antique pots from Italian estates just waiting for a new home. Their crusty exterior, aged by years of use and exposure to the elements make these vintage and antique pots all the more desirable!
When a Tuscan estate goes up for sale, there is often a house-clearing sale. This is the best time to find antique terracotta jars and pots! They are often tucked away in corners of the villas or stored in out buildings and haven’t seen the light of day in years. These forgotten treasures can be plucked from obscurity and given new life by the discerning customer with a keen eye. But how can you find these house-clearing sales and what do you do if you are only in Tuscany for a few days? And most importantly, how do you get these pieces home? That’s where we come in. Through our Buying Service, we can help you source these pieces and liaise you with a shipper to get them home sweet home. Our Diva Guides are constantly on the go, shopping in stores, warehouses, private estate sales, and flea markets, covering urban and rural areas, and can take your shopping list with them, being your eyes and ears on the ground. Whether you’re searching for a few pieces or want to fill an entire container, we’ve got you covered.
Ciao for now,
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
ho doesn’t dream of antiquing in Tuscany? Between the landscape, the food, and quite simply the Italian style it’s no wonder why Italy is one of our top tour countries! From hidden specialty shops to warehouses in the countryside, our Diva Guide can map out a custom shopping route to suite your needs. One of the surprises clients experience on a Tuscan Antiques Diva Buying Tour is when stop off for a quick visit to an Italian consignment stores to hunt for vintage and antique treasures. The “Mercantini,” as they are known in Italian, are often ideal places to find unique antiques at unbeatable prices. Yep – we’re talking about SECOND HAND STORES! This is the equivalent of Charity Shops in the UK or Goodwill stores in the USA!
When we take clients to Mercantini, we never know what they’re going to find, as the inventory changes almost daily. You can either breeze through in a couple of minutes or you can find yourself sifting through treasures for hours. In the USA of course, there are certain second hand stores that are better than others—theres one a friend goes to in DC that is INCREDIBLE – and same holds true in Italy. The quality of inventory can depend on the location, the patrons, and the set up of each individual store, so one has to know which ones to go to and the way in which they work. That’s where our Diva Guide comes in.
Most of the pieces at mercantini are on consignment. However the owners of these shops also do house clearings, which means they have first access to estate sales. Like everything in Italy, these stores are local, and that’s why who and where you (or don’t as the case maybe) place your trust, relationships and reputations are all important.
It’s also necessary to understand how the pricing structure works in these stores. Because they’re always getting new inventory in, it’s crucial that they keep items moving, which means they are motivated sellers! On each piece you will see a label with the date when it first hit the sales floor. After two months the price is discounted by 10%. If you have the patience or courage to wait three months then the discount can be up to 50%. But of course waiting means risking losing the piece. However our Buying Service allows you to think about items and purchase them at a later date…but as any antique lover knows, if you love it, buy it now!
When it comes to the type of items you can find at the mercantini, the sky really is the limit. Shelves filled with wonderful old linens, old fashioned cotton woven towels with knotted fringes, heavy bed linens that probably were prepared for the wedding trousseau and were never used can be purchased for a steal! We’ve had clients purchase antique books from the 17th century and have also sourced antique china sets. Antique furniture, Italian ceramics, wonderful lighting (including mid-century) are constant finds. In fact, mid century pieces including furniture are undervalued in rural areas, so they can be purchased for a song.
No matter what your taste or style, stopping off at an Italian consignment store can prove to be an exciting and fun adventure – the last time I went to I spent 15E and came home with 3 Venetian trays. a gorgeous vase, some early 19th C leather bond books in Italian! What loot! We often take clients to these stores in between appointments with antique warehouses in the surrounding areas. After all, sometimes the dealers from the more metropolitan areas in Italy shop these rural consignment shops to find their own inventory. Why not get to it first?
If you’re planning trip to Italy and would like to book an Antiques Diva Buying Tour, email us email@example.com. We’d love to custom plan a shopping route that’s perfect for you!
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
Piraneseum.com. Piraneseum trades in antique architectural mementos, including paintings, drawings, prints, and models spanning the 17th through 19th centuries. The subjects of many of these objects are Rome’s ancient ruins. Interestingly, this subject seems, in some ways, as current today as it did two hundred years ago. In today’s blog, Lucia shares some insight on how all roads seem to lead to Roman ruins.am delighted to share a guest blog today by Lucia Howard of
What do the fusty, musty, dusty artifacts of the past tell us of the present, or our future? If History does not precisely repeat itself, does it offer any hints or tips?
Piraneseum, named after that sublimely volatile genius etcher of Roman architectural ruins anddecay, trades in the fustiest, mustiest, dustiest, objects – souvenirs of the Grand Tour. These mementos – 17th and 18th century paintings, drawings and prints of ancient ruins (fig. 1); 19th century bronze and marble models of collapsed temples and broken monuments (fig. 2); and splendidly-realized 18th and 19th century decorative arts (fig. 3) – often share a single focus – ancient architecture brought low. Two hundred years ago, what was the appeal of these mementos? What shall we make of them now?
In the 18th century, the Grand Tour (the name given period European travel by a late 17th century Italian guidebook) was primarily a British and French activity undertaken by the most privileged. By the middle of the following century, though, and the opening of rail lines from throughout Europe to Rome, the Tour became a more popular proposition, the forerunner of an eventual tourist industry.
By the mid-18th century, England and France were at summits of their respective empires, though there were clouds on their horizons (and quite a bit closer). What did these countries’ high-born visitors to Rome think, on viewing first-hand both the extent of the ancient city’s vast architectural achievements, and their thoroughgoing, catastrophic undoing? Period responses to the spectacle of the shattered remains included astonishment both that History had taken such a turn, and that humanity had, somehow, survived.
Might this have seemed, as the late Berra observed, “like déjà vu all over again”? Grand Tourists’ focus, even fascination, with Roman ruins speaks both to the suggestive, Romantic power of the place, and, we believe, those visitors’ apprehensions over the future. At the very least, Rome offers high-flying civilizations a cautionary tale.
With the spectacular rise of Italian tourism in the 19th century came, of course, the need for souvenirs. (Which came first – the tourist or the souvenir?) While these mementos are of many varieties, a predominant type features imagery of the ancient ruins of the Eternal City. The market for this species of imagery was robust and, by the 19th century, longstanding.
Even the Roman Church got into the souvenir business. Its Vatican Mosaic Studio (fig. 4), organized in the 16th century for the purpose of reproducing, in more enduring materials, the Papacy’s collection of then deteriorating old master paintings, pivoted, early in the 19th century to the production of micromosaic views of Rome. These included the range of ruins, though, naturally, an oft-recurring image was Piazza San Pietro.
We are partial to the extraordinary variety of very wonderful souvenir architectural models fashioned in Rome and Italy throughout the 19th century (fig. 5). Subjects include nearly every ancient, ruined, Roman landmark.
These appeal in every way, especially arches, temples, columns, tombs, obelisks, and assorted statues, as they bring irresistibly to mind the pleasantest times passed in the Eternal City. Their profuse charms and interest as objects run even to their materials – often colored, figured, highly-polished marbles and alabasters, almost none of which were quarried in Italy. No, the stones from which these 19th century tourists’ mementos are fashioned were largely brought to Rome from the edges of the Empire (Greece, Egypt, Tunisia), in the time of Augustus, 2,000 years ago; and originally formed part of the city’s architectural fabric. After serial sackings leading to its fall, the ancient city’s ground was reported to be covered in shards of colored marble; the eventual material of these souvenirs. Thus the remarkable fact of these models of architectural ruins being made from ruins themselves!
As these objects lull and intrigue us, cause our minds to run to Rome, they’ve very much more sober aspects, as well; reminding both of what the city once was, and what befell it. Grasping its souvenirs, we very literally hold in our hands the corpus of the Eternal City.
Today, the American Century expired, Rome provides U.S. visitors something very similar to that offered the English and French more than two hundred years ago – the pleasures of the place, wrapped in its admonitory history. The causes of Rome’s fall – political corruption; far-flung, ruinously expensive military adventures; an ever less productive economy; civil chaos of every stripe; even, say modern historians, environmental degradation – resonate. And as we take in the grandeur of the ancient ruins, the scene spread before us acts simultaneously as a picturesque architectural canvas and, for the observant, a crystal ball.
If architectural souvenirs provoke our memories and inform our views of the present, what of the time ahead? Can there be souvenirs of the future?
Among the most provocative models, is an exquisitely-wrought, cast bronze replica of the obelisk in Central Park, New York, cast by Tiffany & Company in 1881 (fig. 6). Fashioned of red granite from Aswan, it was first installed in Heliopolis 3,500 years ago, on the order of a Pharaoh (Thutmose III, son of Thutmose II). Fifteen centuries later, in 12 AD, Egyptian dominion vanquished and Rome’s ascendant, an Emperor (Caesar Augustus, adopted son of Julius Caesar) directed the shaft be floated down the Nile to Alexandria, capital of the then Roman province, Aegyptus. In 1880, financed by a new species of potentate (tycoon William Vanderbilt, son of Commodore), the Needle set sail for Gotham.
Should New York’s Needle (a landmark, by the way, unrelated to the Queen of the Nile) yet again demonstrate expectation-defying get-up-and-go, it likely won’t be in Egypt’s direction, but the other way. History points in the direction of Beijing, not Alexandria or Heliopolis. And after some centuries decorating Tianenmen Square, where next?
In these ways and others, by example and by lesson, many 19th century architectural mementos seem quite up to date – offering the golden-hued satisfactions of memory while reminding of the past’s portentous presence within our glittery, onrushing future.
Thanks so much Lucia for sharing this interesting piece with us! Now I’m in the mood to shop for Grand Tour antiques…and to travel to Rome!
Until next time,
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
n most people’s minds, the phrase “Antiquing in Tuscany,” conjures up images of rustic Italian furniture, perfectly patinated terra cotta pots, hand forged wrought iron, and some of the best architectural salvage on the planet. However savvy Mid Century Modern lovers know that mid 20th century pieces also abound in Italy if you know where to look. Just as Italy revived its position as a fashion mecca in the 20th century (think Florence and Milan), so too it produced some of the greatest mid century furniture that is still highly sought after today. Though of course there are the well known names; (Paolo Buffa, Ico Parisi, Osvaldo Borsani etc…), that are sought after , it’s not neccessarily the names that count. There are so many unknown or lesser known furniture designers that possess the same quality, design, style & panache that Italy is known for– but it’s all in the detail!
If you’re looking for mid century pieces, Florence is the place to go. When we have clients who are mad about mid century, we recommend that they stay in Florence and spend at least one day exploring the shops in the city and another day or two with our Diva Guide in the countryside. There are some extraordinary stores in the city that offer the best of the best vintage inventory. Dashing from shop to shop through tight streets and alleyways is always a thrill, and learning about specific pieces from the very knowledgable dealers is a treat any enthusiast would love.
As with anything however, prices in the city are higher than in more rural areas. In fact, many high-quality dealers in Florence source their inventory in the countryside… and we know where their sources are! That’s why we always recommend taking at least one day with our Diva Guide to go to these sources, as she knows exactly where to go to find the best pieces at the best prices!
After driving a short distance outside of Florence, there are several exits off the main highway that lead to different mid century shops and warehouses. Many of these places are by appointment only and have new inventory constantly coming in. These are the dealers who specialize in house-clearings and have first access to estate sales so their stock is often fresh and unique!
If Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn shared a house, this is where they would shop! Everything from vintage chairs upholstered in velvet with sexy silhouettes to ultra modern plastic furniture can be found in these off the beaten path warehouses. If you have a thing for buttery leather upholstery and brass feet, then this is where you want to be! Rows upon rows of sleek dining chairs from the 1950s-1970s fill attics and basements while chrome and brass light fixtures illuminate the space.
Mid century mirrors are quite popular right now and there is no shortage of them in Italy. Minimalist shapes with an organic feel, mid century mirrors blend well into most interiors. Brass frames in the style of Gio Ponti abound and polished wood or lacquered frames are all popular choices.
It’s also good to note that if you’re looking for something specific, these dealers can most likely find it. Our Buying Service allows you to give us a list of what you’re after and we’ll canvas all our sources until we find the pieces you want, then send you photos, information, and prices. This is an excellent way of getting first dibs on unique pieces that otherwise would probably have ended up in the shops in Florence for a much higher price!
If you would like more information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour or on our Buying Services, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
hen clients come on an Antiques Diva Buying Tour, they often want to purchase items that will add to a collection and pieces that they can decorate their homes with. Whether we’re whisking them from shop to shop or perusing an outdoor flea market, we often come across intaglios in Italy as well as France and Belgium – they can be a wonderful collector’s item as well as decorative!
While they can be made in a variety of materials—including plastic— the most popular antique intaglios are fashioned from stone, coral, shell, fine metals, and glass. They were created when artists carved down into the material to hollow out a recessed image. Just as form meets function with many antiques, intaglios once served a practical purpose. When brushed with wax or ink, the intaglio was used as a seal, identifying the sender of a letter or document.
In ancient times, intaglios were made from gems. The word “glyptic” refers to the art of carving small gem stones which could be mounted in rings. When a letter was being sent, the sender would dip their glyptic-intaglio in wax, acting as a distinctive personal signature once the wax hardened. A finely carved intaglio meant that forgery would be more difficult. The recessed cut surfaces of these intaglio gems are often very well preserved and reveal that artificial methods such as heat, sugar, and dyes were used to achieve varying colors in the gemstones.
Intaglios have been used for thousands of years and in ancient cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, carved gems in Greece often depicted geometric animal poses. By the 6th century BC, gem carvings incorporated more human and divine figures, always very detailed. In the 5th century relief carvings—similar to cameos– became popular and people began wearing them as jewelry. However intaglios have had many renaissances throughout the world, and are often associated with Italy, France, and England. From the 14th century to the early 1900’s intaglios were widely used through Europe. Many of the collections found today have been mounted and framed and are used as decorative items.
Today intaglios can be used as decoration or even to make one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. However you choose to use them, owning a piece of history is exhilarating! The story behind each unique intaglio shows just how fascinating antiques can be. If you would like information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour, email us at email@example.com.
The Antiques Diva®