Flower vase holder in the shape of a caprifig tree
Wrought-iron and glass, 188 x 62 cm
“I think the stars are made of iron”
Alberto Gerardi descended from a family of blacksmiths who for several generations worked in the forges of Rocca Antica, a small town in Lazio. As a youth he attended evening school, learned the trade in his father’s workshop and concluded his studies with the course in Plastic arts and Architecture at the Museo Artistico Industriale in Rome where his teacher was Duilio Cambellotti, of whom he became a favourite pupil and collaborator.
His variegated artistic training enabled him to range from works in wrought iron to sculptures in bronze and marble, from the embossing of copper and silver to engraving and drawing.
Two different inspirations animate his works in wrought iron; the first still echoes the style of the international Art-nouveau and has a decisive naturalistic imprint: branches and leaves shoot up to envelop lamp-holders or flower-bowl holders; the second is represented by works of “Franciscan” simplicity.
In 1921 Gerardi participated, along with Cambellotti, Vittorio Zecchin and Romeo Berardi, in an exhibition organized by Maria Monaci Gallenga, a famous couturier, entrepreneur and enthusiast of Italian decorative arts, an exhibition held in her gallery located in the modern Via Veneto in Rome. In the same year he took part in the First Roman Biennale with at least six works.
In 1923 two events confirmed his reputation: a one-man exhibition at the Pesaro gallery in Milan with catalogue presentation by the architect Ugo Arata and participation in the first Biennial of the Decorative Arts in Monza. Also in 1923 he was appointed to the chair in iron working at the Museo Artistico Industriale, a post he was long to hold, transmitting his knowledge to a numerous group of students. In 1928 he made the chiselled bronze bas-relief of an eagle, which later became the colophon of the Enciclopedia Treccani.
In the ’30s his work evolved and he devoted himself more and more to drawing and engraving, his hammered iron or copper vases and lamps, of tapered elegance, without decoration, took on impressive stereometric shapes. A famous work of 1935 is the iron and silver crown enclosure for the Sacred Rock in the Basilica of the Agony in Jerusalem.
Many of his works are held in Milan by the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci as part of the collection donated by Guido Rossi.
It is interesting to note that in the work in question the branches are studded with buds, a naturalistic element that contradicts the whole ideation that is instead accentuatedly stylized. The shape of the leaves recalls that of the caprifig (wild fig) repeatedly mentioned by Homer in the Iliad.
Similar trees were exhibited at the Roman Biennale of 1921 and shown in a period photo at the sides of the fountain of the veranda of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni; the success of this work is also evinced by the appreciation of other contemporary artisan/artists, so much so that a small tree is also present in the famous living room of the sculptor Giovanni Prini in a period photo of 1926.
The yellow glass bowl supported by branches of caprifig has a fluted bottom got with moulded ribs and is the work of the great Venetian master glassmaker Vittorio Zecchin who produced it in different colours and sizes in that same year, 1921.
Maria Paola Maino
G. U. Arata, Ferri battuti e ferri sbalzati di A. Gerardi, Edizioni della Galleria Pesaro, undated but 1923
C. Maltese, Alberto Gerardi, De Luca editore, Rome 1964
Alberto Gerardi, exhibition catalogue edited by R. Zuccaro, De Luca Editori d’Arte, Rome 2008
I. de Guttry, M. P. Maino, Metalli liberty e déco, Collana Antiquariato del ‘900, 24ore cultura, Pero (Mi) 2013
Galleria Pesaro. Storia di un mercante creatore di collezioni, exhibition catalogue edited by A. Madesani and E. Staudacher, Galleria Maspes, Milan 2017, pp. 69, 212
Vittorio Zecchin: i vetri trasparenti per Cappellin e Venini, exhibition catalogue edited by di M. Barovier and C. Sonego, Skira editore, Milan 2017