Marcello Fantoni & Dante’s Inferno Studio Sculptures

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Marcello Fantoni, 1955 Dante’s Inferno, the Second Ring 26″, Signed

It is interesting to study the work of Marcello Fantoni and given the breadth of his work, a sole study of years would be required to grasp his legacy, but such time is rarely available to the collector.

We see Fantoni’s items listed in various locations for sale and no doubt so have you, with interesting shapes, textures, glazes and motifs. But have we considered the driving forces behind these images?

It is true that in the 60’s and thereafter a great deal of the work performed in the studio was of a commercial nature, but anyone with access to the many books written of Fantoni such as “Omaggio agli antenati” by Paglia Polistampa will become very aware that the reason for his success in the late 30’s and thereafter was driven by his incredible ability to communicate like no other ceramic artist. His pieces from his early years are so individual and were never subject generally to any form of mass production. We see where his work transcends from being an accent piece to a statement of an idea or moment in history.

In various books are his unique sculptures in various mediums – some truly monumental in scale – that very purposefully define moments often religious in nature. Fantoni was an intellectual man in a country rich with history.  We see faces and the human form depicted in such an array from realism so precise you would think the ceramics were cast off an actual subject to such surreal expressions that they require study and interpretation. Fantoni showed these gifts as an artist decades before performing work for Raymor and had been an international recognized artist for decades.

Original one of a kind studio work by Marcello Fantoni is exceptionally rare to come by, and should not be passed up if the chance arises.

(L) 18" Gossipping Ladies, 1954, (C) 26" Dante's Inferno, 1955 (R) 15" Vase for Raymor
(L) 18″ Gossipping Ladies, 1954, (C) 26″ Dante’s Inferno, 1955 (R) 15″ Vase for Raymor

Of particular note is his work for the sculptures of the “Satiro Innamorato” series which are exceptional expressing men and women with unique emotions and ideas coupled with glazes and sculpture rarely seen.  They are studio work, though not in the common sense in that they are each unique but follow a form or guide as to construction – however they were exceptionally limited in production.

It was due to the similarity we were attracted to a one of kind sculpture by Fantoni that recently became available. It is unique in many aspects in that it not only contains multiple figures (eight), but clearly shows them being blown around as if in a whirlwind and the subjects appear to be both male and female.  The piece was not part of any known series, and  so required further study to ascertain why it was created and what it was communicating.  The most interesting aspect we found is it’s design to be seen from all angles, and while other pieces from Fantoni depicting human form appear grand from all angles, this was different in that it was constructed with in mind that the viewer must circumnavigate the sculpture as each facet equally communicated an idea. There is no “back side” to this sculpture.

It is a one of a kind piece from his studio dating from 1955 and is completely unique. Signed by Fantoni , dated 1955 and “Firenze” appears representing that it was studio work and not for Raymor.di5

The glazes employed and the style of the figures suggest a strong connection to his “satiro Innamorato” or translated “satyrs in love” and after research concluded there was a connection in theme, however this statue differs in that no others were produced.

We have noted mentions of Fantoni’s work reflecting Dante’s Inferno, and while there are mentions, actual images of these pieces seem to be elusive with less than a handful known.

A study of Dante’s Inferno reveals an interesting discovery.  Within the literary work, as Dante and his guide descend into hell, they will come to see the 9 rings which portray in growing disturbance the sin & turmoil of those trapped in hell.

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The largest of the 8 figures seems to bear the burden of the turmoil as figures push against him on all sides.

Dante states the first true ring of hell is the second circle – that of “Lust”. He tells how these carnal malefactors are considered sinners because they have allowed their lust and appetite to sway their reason; and as punishment these souls are blown back and forth by the terrible winds of a violent storm, without rest. This is meant – as he writes – to symbolize the power of lust to blow one about needlessly and aimlessly.

We see this singular concept communicated in this sculpture by Marcello Fantoni, perfectly. This is a very large sculpture which weighs approx. 40 pounds, over 2 feet tall and more than 13″ wide at some points. The granite base upon which it rests almost makes this a floor sculpture at 3 feet tall.  A central black ceramic supports the 8 figures and it is very interesting to view how the figures are depicted.  On the top of the sculpture is one figure literally appearing to be heaved by unseen forces into a horizontal position, and then among the remaining figures we see the statue of a woman blown around the bottom. None of the statues depict smiles or any other emotions other than confusion.

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Bottom Section, A woman is helpless as unseen forces condemn her to be blown about.

It is interesting to note his particular use of forms in which the extremities are thrown around and abstract in nature and the purposeful use of texture and glazes to impart the “whirlwind” that is taking place as these unfortunate souls are condemned to the 2nd ring of Hell.

Top view. A poor soul is blown skyward in the turmoil.
Top view. A poor soul is blown skyward in the turmoil.

 

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