From the Riace bronzes to the present day
The story of the casting of works of art told by Ferdinando Marinelli.
The “Vincenzo Meucci” room of the municipal library “Ernesto Ragionieri” in Sesto Fiorentino was filled with students of the artistic high school for the conference entitled “Antonio Berti and the Marinelli Foundry” held on Saturday 9 April at 10.30.
The event was included in the program of “The journey of art” – seven meetings to get to know the men, places and techniques that make art live today – organized by the Municipality of Sesto Fiorentino and the La Soffitta Spazio delle Arti group in Colonnata on the occasion of the great anthological exhibition “Antonio Berti (1904-1990)”.
The meeting was introduced by the manager of La Soffitta Spazio delle Arti and president of the “Antonio Berti” Association, Francesco Mariani, who underlined the commitment of the organizers not only for the exhibition and conferences, but above all for the project of restoration of Antonio Berti’s studio, still full of sculptures, which is intended to be made accessible to visitors and students.
Professor Domenico Viggiano, curator of the exhibition on Berti and president of the “Antonio Berti” Foundation for sculpture, then summarized, for an audience composed mainly of children, who Antonio Berti was, underlining that “he must be considered as the best portrait painter of the twentieth century” and, recalling the years in which he was his pupil, the great qualities of the master as a teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts.
The word then passed to Ferdinando Marinelli, owner of the homonymous foundry which cast most of Berti’s bronze works.
The history of the company is now more than secular: in 1905 in Florence, Ferdinando Marinelli sr. At the age of eighteen he started his own business as a caster, after having learned and perfected the stirrup and lost wax casting techniques. In 1919 he took over the premises of the Gabellini di Rifredi foundry, where he founded the Ferdinando Marinelli Artistic Foundry. The Foundry then quickly became one of the most important in Florence and Italy. In addition to making replicas of classical statues, Marinelli worked with the major Tuscan sculptors of the first half of the twentieth century.
Today the grandson, Ferdinando Marinelli jr., Continues the same business with great passion and success. And he told in detail how the works of art come to light using the lost wax technique.
The procedure is long and complex: all the phases are manual and expert and highly skilled craftsmen are required to carry them out and to avoid errors that can compromise the casting. In summary, it is a question of creating a wax model of the work, closed between two forms of refractory material: an internal one, called the core, and an external one also called a mantle. Through a process of firing the molds, the wax is melted and a cavity is formed into which the molten bronze is poured. Once the bronze has been freed from the mantle and the soul, a work of cleaning, chiselling and patination begins, also exclusively manual, which can last for months, depending on how big the work is.
“The casting of bronze for works of art is an ancient technique – commented Marinelli – widely used by Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. In particular in the Greek world the foundries were very active so much so that they made parts of the statue even in series. Then they disappeared a bit to re-emerge in the Renaissance, at the time of Giambologna. Bronze is an extraordinarily resistant material, just think of when the Riace bronzes were found: despite the centuries at sea, once cleaned they were perfect ”.
Many works by Berti born in the Marinelli Foundries were shown, including Don Facibeni and Mazzini, which are part of the urban furniture of Florence. At the end of the exhibition a nice debate developed with many questions from the audience.
At the end of the meeting, Francesco Mariani invited the students in the hall – from III A and III B of the Liceo Artistico of Sesto Fiorentino, associated seat of Porta Romana – to visit the exhibition on Berti in the two rooms in which it is housed: at the “Centro Antonio Berti “in via Bernini (a few meters from the artist’s studio) where the most beautiful sculptures of the production from the Thirties to the Eighties are exhibited and La Soffitta Spazio delle Arti, on the top floor of the Circolo Arci-Unione Operaia di Colonnata, where you can take a journey through the most intimate creations of the author (sketches, drawings, sketches, paintings) enriched by photographic documents and correspondence with illustrious characters of the last century.
The exhibition will remain open until May 31st with hours 16-19 from Tuesday to Saturday and 10-12 and 16-19 on Sundays; closed on Mondays.
THE CEILING SPACE FOR ARTS – Casa del Popolo in Colonnata
Piazza Rapisardi, 6 – 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (FI) – Tel. (+39) 055 442203