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The Treasures of the Fondazione Buccellati

From Mario to Gianmaria, 100 years in the history of the goldsmith’s art

12-02-2014 | 02-22-2015

The exhibition will present a selection of over one hundred pieces, including jewellery and works in gold and silver, designed by Mario and Gianmaria Buccellati. Two of the most famous names on the global jewellery scene, they are heirs to the illustrious Italian tradition that reached its apex in the Renaissance with Benvenuto Cellini, one of the greatest artists of all time.

It was indeed precisely following the Renaissance canons that Mario Buccellati – defined as the “Prince of goldsmiths” by his friend and comrade Gabriele d’Annunzio – created his works, with an interpretation that was totally personal, unique and easily recognisable. He indeed has the merit of having made known the ‘Buccellati style’ which became a legend in the world of jewellery, esteemed by the members of royal families, pontiffs and the cultural elite.
The show opens with a tribute to Mario Buccellati (Ancona, 1891 - Milan, 1965). Some of the most precious pieces designed by the founder of the brand will be on display, such as the bracelets, brooches and tiara worked in ‘tulle’ or ‘honeycomb’ design, the hallmark of the Buccellati firm, where the delicacy of the perforation is set off by the inset diamonds and precious stones.
Mario’s bond of complicity with the great poet is illustrated by a bracelet of twisted silver decorated with five lapis lazuli stones, contained in a case signed personally by d’Annunzio, by a necklace of yellow gold decorated with a beryl and rubies, offered to Eleonora Duse as a “precious albeit bizarre jewel” to be worn as a “waist garland”, and by other objects such as jewellery boxes and cigarette cases engraved with the poet’s favourite mottoes and images, as well as a pillbox inscribed with one of  d’Annunzio’s favourite sayings: “I have what I have given away”.
The study and mastery of the ancient techniques and secrets of silver-working led Mario Buccellati to faithfully reproduce six goblets from the treasure of Boscoreale, the archaeological site close to Pompeii where the Villa “della Pisanella” stood before it was buried by the lava following the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. The most striking elements here are the relief decorations, embossed from the inside and strengthened by hammering from the outside.
The itinerary set up inside the Florentine museum continues with a section devoted to Gianmaria Buccellati (Milan, 1929). He was precociously talented, designing his first jewel at the age of twelve, so that his father encouraged him to continue in the family tradition. However, as Gianmaria himself confirmed: “My father didn’t teach me the work techniques, just as I didn’t teach them to my son. What takes place is the transmission of thought, the vision, the work experience and the absorbing of tradition.”
“I wanted to ‘steal’ my father’s secrets,” he continues, “so that I could add them to my own and in this way acquire an identity different from his. Each of us proceeds according to his instinct, while also having assimilated the principles and the techniques of our history.”
The location chosen to host the masterpieces of Gianmaria Buccellati is particularly evocative of his personal artistic career. In 1968 he visited the Museo degli Argenti, where he admired the famous vases in semi-precious stone that had belonged to Lorenzo de Medici, the jewels of the Electress Palatine and the other splendid objects made of gold and silver from the treasure of the Medici family. And it was here that Gianmaria Buccellati got the inspiration to devote himself to the realisation of works which, while they rivalled those of the Medici in richness and splendour, were at the same time the expression of his own technical and formal research.
This is what led to the creation of the ‘Precious Objects’, as Gianmaria himself defined them: one-off pieces such as goblets, vases and boxes belonging to his personal collection, which he himself designed and made. These articles illustrate his strong links and ongoing rapport with the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo culture of Italy and the rest of Europe. Outstanding among them is ‘La Coppa dell’Amore’ (Love Goblet, 1975), inspired by a Rococo motif, where the elegance of the female forms underscores the loftiest image of the spirit of love. A stunning piece of antique red jasper is adorned with ruffle motifs, while the figures of Venus and three cupids created using the lost-wax casting technique, appear to ripple in the water and the air.
The respect nurtured towards the Renaissance and Medici techniques, first by Mario Buccellati and later by Gianmaria, is also illustrated by other stunning pieces, such as the ‘Scrigno Mediceo’ (Medici Casket), a precious decagonal box that was the first object conceived and created by Gianmaria Buccellati for his collection. Here he uses motifs of classical inspiration and particularly original volumes which hark back to the famous architectural canons of the Renaissance, to the decorative design evoking the details of the marble or wood panels and pilaster strips of the time, through to the essential colours of the gold, the steel and the brilliant-cut diamonds.
The gold decorations, pierced and shaped with the most elegant engraving, are set upon plates of steel burnished to a gunmetal colour, which are in turn set into the frames that form the shape of the casket. All the frames are modelled with a leaf pattern, while in the centre of the lid is a large rose studded with diamonds that balance the diamonds set into the small roses that complete the decoration of each of the panels.
Gianmaria Buccellati was also influenced by the purity of the neoclassical forms. An example of this is the ‘Cratere delle Muse’ (Crater of the Muses, 1981), a jade goblet celebrating the nine deity patrons of the arts in Greek mythology. There is a particularly intense colour contrast between the green of the block of jade and the yellow gold of the stand and rim, studded with over 2,000 cabochon sapphires set in silver, with the names of the muses engraved in the gold band around the inside of the rim.

Curated by

Gianmaria Buccellati
Rosa Maria Buccellati
Riccardo Gennaioli

Exhibition Management

Maria Sframeli




Wendy O’Hara
Brigita Songailait˙e
Swiss Luxury Culture Management SA

Ticket prices

Full Price: € 7,00
Reduced: € 3,50


8.15 – 16.30

Closed on the 1st and the last Monday of each month, New Year's Day, May 1st and Christmas Day