Castellani

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Micromosaic and Gold Brooch by Castellani, c.1880. Image Courtesy of Wartski.

CASTELLANI (1814 - 1930).
Castellani was the Italian jeweler initiating the archaeological revival movement in the mid-nineteenth century. Castellani’s founder, Fortunato Pio Castellani, opened up shop in Rome in 1814. In 1826, he met his lifelong friend and collaborator Michaelango Caetani at a lecture where Castellani was speaking about how to recreate the look of ancient gold. According to jewellery historians, Caetani “gave Fortunato Pio the idea to imitate and seek inspiration from Ancient jewellers.”[1] Caetani was a Dante scholar, a historian, a talented woodworker and an artist familiar with jewellery manufacturing techniques. He was also a darling of Roman high society. Though Caetani was never formally employed by the firm, his creativity and connections helped the Castellanis to prosper.


Castellani Granulated Bangle Bracelet.

By the early 1830’s, Fortunato Pio had begun making archaeological style jewellery. In 1836, when the Etruscan Regolini-Galassi tombs were opened, papal authorities invited him to study the jewellery there. In the 1840’s and 50’s, he and his sons, Alessandro and Augusto, were also given access to the huge collection of antiquities acquired by the director of the papal savings bank, Marchese Fiolanni Pietro Campana. While now dispersed, the Campana collection was then complete and at the Castellanis’ fingertips. They realized that the ancients created their designs by adding detail to the metal rather than carving, punching, cutting and otherwise deforming the metal to create an effect. They were able to recreate the look and feel of these Ancient pieces using granulation, wirework and other old-style gold working techniques. Such techniques had been lost for centuries until the brothers discovered a remote area of the Appenines where the ancient techniques for jewelry making were still being practiced.

Castellani Cruciform Pendant c. 1865 and Stylized Lily Brooch c. 1860. Photo Courtesy of Christie's

The firm is also known for incorporating ancient, medieval, and modern intaglios and cameos, as well as Egyptian scarabs and micro-mosaics into their pieces. According to jewellery historians, the firm was the first to place micro-mosaics, often with Early Christian, Byzantine, and Egyptian designs, in archaeological style frames.[2]


In the 1860’s, Castellani vaulted into fame as popular fascination with archaeological finds grew. Exiled from Rome due to his political views in 1860, Alessandro (the older Castellani brother) busied himself with marketing the firm’s jewellery abroad. First setting up shop on the Champs Elysées in Paris, he lectured widely on Ancient jewellery and socialized with Parisian high society, even gaining a presence with Napoleon III, to whom he presented a collection of Castellani jewellery. Alessandro also organized the firm’s first displays at international exhibitions: Florence (1861) and London (1862). In 1862, he left Paris after having an affair with, and impregnating, a married woman. He moved to London and, shortly thereafter, to Naples, where he set up his own jewellery workshop.[3]

The firm’s designs continued to be wildly popular. At the 1867 international exhibition in Paris, “nearly all” of the jewellers featured Archaeological-style jewels in their showcases. [4] The firm’s success peaked in the 1870’s. In the 1880’s, the Rome location was handed over to Augusto’s son, Alfredo. Until his death in 1914, Augusto busied himself with, among other things, attempting to “document the progression of Italian goldsmiths art from pre-historical times to the present.”[5] He suggested eight time periods: primitive, Tyrrhenian, Etruscan, Sicilian, Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and modern. Though his categories are not accepted as exhaustive today, it was one of the first modern attempts to divide the history of jewellery design into eras. In 1930, Castellani closed its doors when Alfredo, the last in the line of Castellani jewellers, died.

Castellani

Castellani.svg

Castellani
UK
London & Rome
e. c.1816

Specialties

  • Goldsmiths & Jewelers working in the archaeological style.
  • Specialized in goldwork, not precious stones.

'1814 Castellani apprenticed with his father in Rome. 1826

  • Began production of gold jewelry based on early Roman excavations with filigree.

1836

  • Advisor at the excavation of the Regulini Galassi tomb with an historic cache of Etruscan metal work.
  • His passion turned to deciphering the secrets of these ancient goldsmiths.

1848

  • Closed temporarily due to the Italian political climate

1851

  • Fortunato Pio Castellani (1793-1865) retires.

1858

  • Alessandro and Augusto Castellani re-opened the workshop

1862

  • International Exhibition, London
  • Featured their Etruscan style jewelry with granulation.

1860s

1930

  • Closed after the death of Alfredo.


Castellani Jewelry Mark.jpg Castellani Jewelry Mark with Signature.jpg

Notes

  1. Walker, 37
  2. Rudoe, 153.
  3. See Giuliano article for a discussion of possible business ventures in London
  4. Munn, 85
  5. Walker 69-70.

Sources Consulted

  • Castellani, M.A. Jewellery of the Ancients, A Memoir. [1]
  • Soros, Susan Weber & Stefanie Walker, ed. Castellani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.
This book contains thirteen informative articles written by various art history and jewellery design :scholars. It also contains beautiful photos the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative :Arts, Design, and Culture’s Castellani exhibit. Highly Recommended.
  • Munn, Geoffrey C. Castellani and Giuliano: Revivalist Jewellers of the 19th Century. New York: Rizzoli, 1983.
Not as informative or thorough as Soros & Walker collection.
  • Rudoe, Judy. "Micromosaics and Their Sources," in Castelliani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

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