Not currently on display at the V&A

Return from the Market

Picture
1928 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

To find out more about the making of pietre dure, watch the video Making a Pietre Dure panel (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/videos/m/video-making-a-pietre-dure-panel)

The creation of pictures in hardstone, so called pietre dure (Italian for ‘hard stones’), work has been an art associated in particular with Florence from the sixteenth century onwards. There, artists specialising in stone mosaics were first commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici (reigned 1569-74). His brother and successor Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici (reigned 1574-1609) elevated the art officially through the court workshops, established in 1588. The presence of this important centre also lead to the foundation of numerous private workshops, drawing upon the large number of craftsmen trained at the Ducal workshops.
Pietre Dure artists always aimed at a niche clientele, few could afford precious pictures in stone. The first half of the twentieth century was therefore a particularly challenging period for Florentine pietre workshops: traditions of production and style held dear for centuries were challenged in a rapidly changing world. They responded with changes in technique, preferring less expensive Tuscan stones, as well as with a change of subject-matters and styles away from traditional motives. The most exciting works from this period share a realism and preference for rural subjects, celebrating the simple pleasures and harsh reality of a Tuscan farmers’ life at the time, amid the beauty of the natural landscape. It is hard to imagine a starker contrast to the romantic couples set against varying historic backdrops, which were the dominant subject of Florentine pietre dure makers only a generation earlier. The change in imagery is in part supported by a different palette of stones used for their creation: Tuscan limestone increasingly replaced marbles. The pictures therefore have softer colours and are more akin to watercolours than to oil paintings when seen from a distance.




object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Picture
  • Frame
Materials and Techniques
Pietre dure hardstone and marbles (white and bardiglio marble, onyx, gabbro, albarese) and gilt wood frame
Brief Description
Rectangular hardstone plaque, 'Return from the Market', Florence, 1928, by Mario Montelatici.
Physical Description
Rectangular hardstone plaque depicting a monk, two elderly men and a young woman with a group of animals on their way back from the market in a snowstorm.
Dimensions
  • Height: 66cm
  • Width: 92.5cm
Content description
The Return from Market illustrates the wintry journey of a monk, a young woman with a lamb and two elderly farmers with a goat, a sheep and a dog returning from market in the nearby hill town; one with the daily bread supply tucked under an umbrella which offers little protection from the gale. T
Style
Production typeUnique
Marks and Inscriptions
Inscribed '1928 ESEGUITO DA/MANO MONTELATICI/DI GIOVANNI ARTE MUSIVA/FIRENZE' (On the back)
Gallery Label
'Return from the Market' 1928 The hardstones have been carefully chosen to reflect the movement and mood of the scene. The grey bardiglio marble has white veins, which realistically evoke the stormy skies. White carrara marble has been used to depict the snow on the street. Florence, Italy; Mario Montelatici (1894-1974) White and grey marble, onyx, gabbro and albarese limestone(2009)
Credit line
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Object history
Provenance: Marjorie Merriweather Post. Donald Trump. Sale, Christie's, New York, 30/03/1995 (199)



Historical significance: Giovanni Montelatici (1864-1930) set up a joint venture in 1898 with Galileo Chini (1873-1957) who took on the role of artistic director of Montelatici's workshop in the Via Arnolfo, Florence. They won a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1900 where they displayed a large table bearing an inlaid picture of the Annunciation. Mario Montelatici was Giovanni's son.
Historical context
This work was part of a commission by the American heiress and patron Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1927 for Mar-A-Lago, her estate at Palm Beach, Florida. The subject is based on a painting by Stefano Bruzzi (1835-1911) that won a prize in the Parma exhibition of 1888 (now in the Bruzzi family collection, Parma). The workshop also supplied a round centre table and a large table for the villa's dining room. This picture and the tables were exhibited in the Montelatici workshop in Florence before being sent to Florida.



A photograph of the facade of the Montelatici workshop in Via Arnolfo, Florence is reproduced in Massinelli, The Gilbert Collection: Hardstones, 1999, p.14



Rachel Elwes, ‘Pietre Dure for an American Palace: A dining table for Mar A Lago’, Antiques Magazine, March, 2003, records that the dining room table was described by Mrs Post as ‘probably the most important thing in the entire house’ and bequeathed by her in 1973 for display at Hillwood, her home in Washington DC. Made by the Societa Civile Arte de Mosaico, the table took 17 craftsmen a full year to complete under the supervision of Giovanni Montelatici (1864-1930). The same workshop exhibited at the Paris 1900 International Exhibition a table with a scene in pietre dure of The Annunciation made with the assistance of Montelatici's partner Galileo Chini (1873-1956). The workshop also supplied Mrs Post with two round centre tables and this picture The Return from the Market, signed by Mario Montelatici and dated 1728. Elwes describes the mosaic decoration with the armorial crest of Mrs Post's then husband Edward Francis Hutton and the medallion for the Societa Civile Art del Mosaico –side by side at each end of the table, and the use of hardstones identified as red jasper, white oriental alabaster, yellow chalcedony and green gabbro. The Montelaticis' agent in NYC, Gommi had still not been paid for the table in 1930. The table was over 16 foot long with six extension leaves which added 12 feet to the total length. Elwes illustrates a photograph of Giovanni Montelatici at the cutting wheel in circa 1900.

Production
The Return from Market uses hardstones local to Florence, white and bardiglio Carrara marble, onyx, gabbro (an igneous rock named after a village in Tuscany, near Livorno) and alberese (from Pratolino) to illustrate the wintry journey of a monk, a young woman with a lamb and two elderly farmers with a goat, a sheep and a dog returning from market in the nearby hill town; one with the daily bread supply tucked under an umbrella which offers little protection from the gale. The bardiglio grey- veined marble brilliantly captures the storm-laden skies, whilst white marble recreates the heavy weight of freshly fallen snow
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
To find out more about the making of pietre dure, watch the video Making a Pietre Dure panel (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/videos/m/video-making-a-pietre-dure-panel)



The creation of pictures in hardstone, so called pietre dure (Italian for ‘hard stones’), work has been an art associated in particular with Florence from the sixteenth century onwards. There, artists specialising in stone mosaics were first commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici (reigned 1569-74). His brother and successor Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici (reigned 1574-1609) elevated the art officially through the court workshops, established in 1588. The presence of this important centre also lead to the foundation of numerous private workshops, drawing upon the large number of craftsmen trained at the Ducal workshops.

Pietre Dure artists always aimed at a niche clientele, few could afford precious pictures in stone. The first half of the twentieth century was therefore a particularly challenging period for Florentine pietre workshops: traditions of production and style held dear for centuries were challenged in a rapidly changing world. They responded with changes in technique, preferring less expensive Tuscan stones, as well as with a change of subject-matters and styles away from traditional motives. The most exciting works from this period share a realism and preference for rural subjects, celebrating the simple pleasures and harsh reality of a Tuscan farmers’ life at the time, amid the beauty of the natural landscape. It is hard to imagine a starker contrast to the romantic couples set against varying historic backdrops, which were the dominant subject of Florentine pietre dure makers only a generation earlier. The change in imagery is in part supported by a different palette of stones used for their creation: Tuscan limestone increasingly replaced marbles. The pictures therefore have softer colours and are more akin to watercolours than to oil paintings when seen from a distance.





Bibliographic References
  • Massinelli, Anna Maria with contributions by Jeanette Hanisee Gabriel. Hardstones: The Gilbert Collection. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd. in association with The Gilbert Collection, 2000. 329 p., ill. Cat. no. 75, p. 175. ISBN 0856675105. Rachel Elwes, ‘Pietre Dure for an American Palace: A dining table for Mar A Lago’, Antiques Magazine, March, 2003, pp.126-131
  • Massinelli, Anna Maria, with contributions by Iacopo Lastrucci. Painting in Stone. Modern Florentine Pietre Dura Mosaic. Florence: Inprogress, 2014, p. 107 (View of the La Musiva workshop in Florence with Giovanni Montelatici and his son Mario, seated in front of a wall of reproductions of paintings used as models for their mosaics, including a reproduction of Stefano Bruzzi's "Return from the Market"; p. 158, fig. 124.
Other Numbers
  • MM 296 - Arthur Gilbert Number
  • SG 322 - Arthur Gilbert Number
  • 1999.25 - The Gilbert Collection, Somerset House
Collection
Accession Number
LOAN:GILBERT.75:1, 2-2008

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record createdJune 26, 2008
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