Japanese carved shells

Vangelli GalleryVangelli GalleryShell_01

Carved shells representing a peony and a carp fish.

Probably Japanese

1920 – 1930 ca.

cm. 54 x 28 x 22


The peony (牡丹, Botan)  is in Japan a symbol of masculinity, bravery, wealth and prosperity. This symbolism likely stems from the fact that only wealthy people could afford to care for peony bushes and trees. The peony is also the traditional flower symbol of China and the Chinese name for the peony is “sho yu”,which means “most beautiful”.

The carp is in Japan in known as “Koi” (鲤) which is a homophone for another word that means “affection” or “love”; koi are therefore symbols of love and friendship in Japan. The koi is also an often recurring symbol in Irezumi, the Japanese art of traditional tattooing.  The Koi as a symbol is very masculine. When a son is born in Japan, flags with Koi fish images are displayed. Nowadays, Koi tattoos are popular amongst men as well as women.



Domenico Del Pino (Genoa, 1793-1851)

A 22953

Domenico Del Pino (Genoa, 1793-1851)

Portrait of the maire of Piedicavallo, about 1810-1814

Watercolour on paper, cm. 48 x 33

(on the letter) “A Monsieur / Monsieur le Maire / de / Piedicavallo”
(below, center) “Dessiné par Dom.que Del Pino”

The amazing watercolour portrait of the maire of Piedicavallo is first-rate work of Domenico Del Pino, artist of undoubted quality on which we have little biographical information.

In the early decades of the nineteenth century Del Pino was part of that lively group of designers and engravers, attracted by the Ligurian Academy of Fine Arts and devoted to the illustration of weekly books and guides that provided site views for a great part of the city of Genoa, giving a fundamental contribution to the creation of the iconographic heritage of the city. In some cases his signature is followed by the words “designer of the Genius of His Majesty”, which gives us an idea of his role in the army as a professional player of military maps and fortified buildings. A large number of albums regarding relevant reliefs and technical designs of military placements in the port of Genoa are attributed to him.

The watercolour prints of the views of Genoa which he executed with the collaboration of engraver Giuseppe Piaggio, brightened up by sketches of various kind, were published in 1818, after the start, in 1816, of the publication in issues of the Pomona italiana of Giorgio Gallesio, a monumental work on fruit trees that Del Pino illustrated in collaboration with a team of artists headed by Alexandre Poiteau.

His involvement in the important publishing adventure, that engaged him until 1832, was obviously due to Niccolò Palmerini, a Florentine engraver, pupil and first biographer of Raffaello Morghen, who took part in 1817 in the Società della Pomona, as co-financier and artistic consultant with the task of ensuring the artistic initiatives of the best naturalistic painters and most skilled engravers of the period.

Regarding the antiquities market, the portrait of Palmerini performed by Del Pino and engraved by Giuseppe Piaggio offers an interesting parallel of the Portrait of the maire of Piedicavallo here exposed, executed in unknown circumstances but surely over a period of years ranging from 1810 to the collapse of Napoleonic regime and the return of the Savoy Family in Piedmont in May 1814.

In the Annuaire Administratif (annual reports) of the Sesia Department for the year 1810, the maire of Piedicavallo, a small mountain village of Valle del Cervo, nowadays almost uninhabited, is in fact documented for the first time. The person in concern is Jean-Baptiste Rosazza, born Giambattista Rosazza Vitale (1777-1848), well-known entrepreneur and builder of fortifications and trenches, activities that can easily place him in connection with the “designer of Genius” Domenico Del Pino. The dating is also confirmed by some signs easily recognizable in the style of that period: the Murat whiskers, cobalt blue frock (royal blue to be exact) with the imperial eagle on the silver buttons, ruff well tied under the neck and the maire’s armband with the French flag.

The attention given to every detail typical of a skilled designer – note for example the wedding band on the finger, the gold circle ear ring and subtle gradations in the colour of the flesh – the sober colouring and precise layout guarantee a greatly formal elegant outcome.

Alessandra Imbellone

Relief with a pair of deities from Palmyra

IMG_5690-701 - definitivo

Relief with a pair of deities from Palmyra


Half of the second century. A.D.

60 x 46 x 20

On the  relief, presumably  a sacred shrine, are the busts of two divinities, On the left Helios is depicted with a 11 ray crown and diadem, the body is dressed in a light robe buttoned over his left shoulder. On the right there is the bust of a bearded god, with flowing hair, which behind the ears fall in a tuft over the shoulders. The figure is draped with a garment, while behind him we can see  a rod or a thin sceptre:  it should be Zeus. For both we can notice  a rather soft and naturalistic rendering of the clothes, locks of hair and beard.

The two reliefs have many similarities and comparisons with the works of the Palmyra area (for example the male portrait Sadurska A., A Bounni, Les Sculptures de funéraires Palmire. Rome, 1994 p. cat 2 16 Fig. 61) In reality they are not stylistically all noticeable features of the latest  large-scale Palmyrene production (end of II – III century d. C.)  as for the angular eyebrows slanted and huge eyes with deeply incised irises and pupils,  a certain stereometric stylization of the head but have more natural details that are closer  to the greek-roman sensitivity.

For this reason they can be considered  more ancient  (than mid II century AD if not preceding)  compared to the more popular production, of  the Severus era, and following (for example, during the reign of Zenobia), and maybe  they belong to sculptural works produced in an area even more Romanized,  in the province of Syria, and under the cultural sphere of Palmyra.

Giandomenico Spinola