Claudio Castellacci and Patrizia Sanvitale

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Fondazione Cologni, Marsilio has brought out in time for Christmas a special volume in its now historic ‘Mestieri d’Arte’ series, starting out from the image that the Foundation has adopted as its logo, Benvenuto Cellini’s famous Salt Cellar.

Its eloquent title translates as ‘The Spectacle of Beauty. From Benvenuto Cellini to Contemporary Craftspeople. Stories of talent, patronage and passion’.

The Salt Cellar is in fact a well-known masterpiece that the great Florentine goldsmith and sculptor made for Francis I of France: now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, from where it was stolen a few years ago in a sensational robbery but then fortunately recovered, the object is rightly celebrated as one of the greatest works of craftsmanship of all time.

The Fondazione Cologni has woven a marvellous tale around this great work, starting out from a literary pearl that relates its adventurous history, penned by the talented Claudio Castellacci and Patrizia Sanvitale, journalists and writers who have long been friends of the foundation. It was its president, Franco Cologni, who invited them to make it the heart of this book, avoiding self- celebration and telling instead a wonderful story where talent, art and high craftsmanship, patronage and great artisan workshops are intertwined... All themes by which the Fondazione Cologni has always set great store.

The authors have produced an engrossing narrative, rich in places, personages, works and objects of art, popes and princes, illustrious patrons, music, feasts and banquets, intrigues and plots... As gripping as an adventure story, as cultured as it is absorbing. 

Their elegant and limpid writing takes us on an exciting journey with Cellini from 16th-century Florence and its merchants, bankers and patrons to papal Rome, the sumptuous and perilous city of Clement VII and Paul III; from the refined magnificence of the court of Francis I of Valois, his French patron in love with Italy, to his return to the Florence of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the client for another of the restless and gifted artist’s masterpieces, the famous Perseus with the Head of Medusa...

To illustrate this story in an original way, the foundation turned to a historic example of Milanese excellence in the arts and crafts: the Compagnia Marionettistica Carlo Colla & Figli, a leading exponent of marionnettes theatre for three hundred years. 

The company’s repertoire is a very rich one: almost 400 different shows, ranging from opera to ballet, from the historical and popular romance to the fairy story. To represent this performance, with its miniature actors, visually and bring it to life in the pages of a book, the Fondazione Cologni has called on an important Milanese photographer, and long-time friend and collaborator: Laila Pozzo.

Finally the story of 25 years of work and passion on the part of the Fondazione Cologni, recounted in the essay by Alberto Cavalli and in the lavish appendices compiled by Alessandra de Nitto. A book that is also a little gem of publishing, thanks to the great pains taken over its typography and layout.