1864-1930 | Italian
The Shopping Bill
Composed by renowned Italian artist Giovanni Montelatici, this Florentine work of art depicts a humorous scene of a husband interrogating his wife about a shopping bill modeled after a work by Italian genre painter Pietro Saltini. While it has the appearance of a painting, the work is actually entirely composed of polished marble in place of paint. Each piece was carefully chosen for both its color and pattern to perfectly convey the mood and details of the scene, from the faux woodgrain on the shutters and stool to the contrasting light and shadow along the walls and table. Together, these luxurious marble pieces create a work of such cohesion as to have the perfect trompe l'oeil effect.
Few could afford such precious pictures crafted in stone, so pietre dure artists created pieces such as this on a commission basis for only the most important clients. The most desirable works from this period display remarkable realism and intricacy in their execution, with a preference for rural subjects and natural landscapes. It was these kinds of works in which the Montelatici workshop specialized, making Giovanni a highly sought-after artisan in his day.
Montelatici is often credited with revitalizing the skill of "painting" in pietre dure, an art that had fallen into a steady decline since the mid-19th century. In 1898, he went into business with Galileo Chini (d. 1957), an artist from Mugello, near Florence, and the two men exhibited jointly at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, winning a gold medal for their large table inlaid with a scene of the Annunciation. Following the success in Paris, Montelatici established a large workshop, known as La Musiva, on the Via Arnolfo, appointing Chini as its artistic director. The business flourished during the early decades of the 20th century, when Montelatici was joined by his two sons, Mario and Alfonso, and when foreign buyers were plenty. Inspired by the paintings and subject matter of the Tuscan Macchiaiolo School and Southern Italian artists, production encompassed a wide variety of themes, with particular emphasis on scenes of domesticity and rural life.
A comparable work by Montelatici of the same subject is featured in Anna Maria Massinelli’s book, Painting in Stone, p. 209.
Plaque: 11 7/8" high x 9 1/2" wide
Frame: 19" high x 16 5/8" wide