Musical putti

March 28, 2008 – 10:55

preliminary sketch for the decoration of an harpsichord

Carlo V. Mori will be posting on my blog while I keep up with work commitments.
When decoration gets labour intensive, writing about it seems like stealing time from the final goal. So I asked Carlo to write for me while I am busy painting. He wants me to show these sketches.

He says:
Admiring the creative endeavor behind the making of an artifact is a revealing world:
a field of observation capable of leading us to the discovery of artistic motifs.
The history of the evolution of decorative patterns is is deeply related to the artist’s re-interpretation of old formulas.

For example, take this procedure of decorating an harpsichord. As usual, the preliminary drawing is the first step. In this phase, the initial skill of the applied arts craftsman is a good rendering of the figurative elements.
Using a classic approach, these were originated long ago in art history.

The decorative approach here aims to accomplish a really convincing ‘antique’ look and feel. The final objects will appear to be centuries old. Gracefully adjusting the composition to the surface areas requires sense of proportions and familiarity with the ‘old masters school’.

The preliminary sketch of these musical cherubs among flowery scrolls shows a secure definition of shapes. This design will be transferred unto the surfaces of the object, in this case the harpsichord. Although the contour line is very clear, the final application of colors will reproduce the style of painting as observed on ancient pieces of furniture. Together with the slightly fading quality of old distressed paint. This procedure will never stop to impress my eyes. Because its accuracy relies very much on the authenticity of the materials used. The ingredients are just a part of the knowledge involved in the making of this object. The final product will be hardly distinguishable from an exact replica of an historic artifact. Rather then the application of a ‘faux-effect’ on a piece of furniture, this object will portray history through its most subliminal ‘tactile’ qualities.

The style can be traced back to many different centuries. The composition derives from the grotesques ornaments genre. Its interpretation imitates a 19th century approach. During the 1800′s all existing decorative styles from different centuries and civilizations were catalogued, and classified according to their originating cultures in a much more extensive and methodical way compared to how this process had been carried out in previous centuries. The fact that patterns were classified and reproduced in prints, and the consequent vast spreading of pattern books led to a newly increased facility of access to a variety of forms for artists. Moreover, one of the consequences of the ‘cataloguing’ that characterized this era happened to be a rather creative and free approach to interpretation of the patterns.

The ‘rigorous’ standard which became commonly predominant to most 19th century academic art had an influence on the high end decorative arts. This certainly raised the overall quality at all levels of production in a time when the dialogue among arts and industry included, in the last quarter of the century, the use of photography. Obviously, before this radical innovation the diffusion of printed materials had reached a considerable impact and a remarkable quality.”

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Harpsichord in Paris

September 13, 2007 – 17:17


I am just back from Paris where I spent a week in the studio of the world renowned harpischord maker, Marc Ducornet.


Besides enjoying the atmosphere of Paris, I was painting a soundboard of an instrument called a ‘muselaar’. To quote John W. McCoy’s info on the web:

The Muselaar was a characteristic Dutch variation of the small rectangular or oblong instruments collectively called “The Virginals” in English. Those called “Muselaar” had the keyboard shifted toward the right side of the front of the instrument so that the plucking point was near the middle of all the strings, resulting in a harp-like tone. In fact, the Muselaar is acoustically just a small metal-strung harp laid on its side and boxed in.


The soundboard decorated in the Flemish style is meant to be a feast for the senses:

“[on the soundboard] were painted a crowded garden of stylized flowers, fruits, vegetables, insects, birds, and sometimes food (such as cooked and beheaded crustaceans and peeled lemons), animals and people. All things that could delight the senses in a garden were included, and it is entirely possible that the soundboard was meant to represent an allegory of the five senses – the birds for sound, flowers for sight and smell, food for taste, and the keys themselves, and perhaps the furry caterpillar and other insects, for touch.”

Also resurrection symbolism:“The paired caterpillar and moth, often found on Flemish soundboards, were a commonly understood symbol of death’s liberation of man’s spirit from his body, which had been restricted to crawling the earth in life, but in “death” and rebirth could now soar freely. The goldfinch, often found as a resurrection symbol in vanitas still-life paintings, occurred frequently on soundboards.”

“The Historical Harpsichord” Vol. 4 Harpsichord Decoration by Sheridan Germann.

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Melanie Royals and Gary Lord

August 29, 2007 – 16:00

Showroom open house
In October the new Florence Art showroom will invite guests for a special presentation of various decorative works.
Melanie Royals and Gary Lord will lead a decorative workshop given to train students on a real large scale project:

the result of it will be the total refurbishment of Florence Art studio. Three teams of students will carry out different techniques on the walls; plus a large floor, designed by Melanie Royals, will be decorated with stenciled patterns on a special covering. Part of the decors will be made using special Safra finishes (Venetian Plaster, Cocciopesto and others) with ‘Modello’ stencils.
You are welcome to visit and see the finished work on October 19th from 6pm to 9pm.
Hope to see you there!

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Venetian Plaster workshop

August 29, 2007 – 15:23

Venetian Plaster, Marmorino, Grassello and other special finishes from the Italian tradition.
Course on polished plasters
Teacher: Carlo V. Mori.
Sept. 17-21.
5 days workshop (20 hours total) will provide a sufficient training to start making beautiful walls.
During the lesson students will be taught how to handle the tools of this craft (trowels and special ‘knife-spatulas’), chromatic variations, wax and emulsion finishes. The gestures of the procedures, called ‘calligraphies’, are also part of the basic teaching of a creative application of the lime and plaster textures. We will be using Safra products, a high quality brand of lime based materials and other wall paint products.

See the calendar on Florence Art site. You have to scroll down on the new page to see related dates.

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