INNSBRUCK, Austria — Perhaps the most remarkable and monumental ceramic work by Lucio Fontana will be sold on November 30, 2016 at the Asta10/ Modern and Contemporary Art Sale, Inn Auction, Innsbruck. The following is the work’s catalog listing:
Commissioned by the oil tycoon Ettore Tagliabue for the swimming pool at his villa in Brianza, the Dolphin (1951) is one of the few monumental ceramic works Lucio Fontana ever made. The auction refers to its “graphic elegance” and “its delicate shades of red and black it is an example of the Master‘s creativity with this material as well as of his long-life commitment to exterior design for the Italian bourgeoisie.”
The pool included a second ceramic element, a mosaic underwater sculpture by Antonio Tomasini, perhaps also representing a heart, which is not on the sale. The project was profiled in a 1951 edition of Domus in an article by Gio Ponti.
Tagliabue acquired the villa in 1939 and after World War II its garden became a well-known meeting point for the international jet-set in Italy. The swimming pool, designed by the Italian rationalist Architect Giulio Minoletti in the form of two intertwined hearts, clearly served as emotional fulcrum of the villa. Fontana‘s Dolphin, emerging from the water, acted as the artistic crowning element.
“Elegance” may be curious choice for this Dolphin with its brutal, fierce depiction that is almost alien in its appearance. Most of Fontana’s knowledge of animals comes from his time in Argentina, where for two years he worked as a gaucho herding cattle in the pampas.
As a Fontana scholar the curious look of the beast intrigued me so I researched the dolphin in Argentina. What came up was a small, pink, cute, endangered species, the Franciscana dolphin of Rio Negro, Northern Patagonia. It is known for its longer than usual beak in proportion to its body length but this little charmer did not seem to be the model. Then I spotted a doppelganger image of Fontana’s dolphin. It turned out to be a humorous morphing of dolphin and crocodile and it is included here for amusement. Fontana had a way with theatrical transformation.
In addition to the Fontana there will be several significant ceramics on the auction by Fausto Melotti. For more information, contact Dr. Barbara Cortina.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of cfile.daily.
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One thought on "Collect | Garth Clark: Startling Monumental Fontana Ceramic Sculpture on Auction"
Fontana appears to have used a heraldic dolphin as his prototype. This isn’t unique in the ceramic world. For anyone wanting to see more ceramic heraldic dolphins: Carter, Stabler and Adams – the Art Deco ceramics manufacturer – made four magnificent relief ceramic panels of Poole’s coat of arms that feature fierce-looking heraldic dolphins. The panels are still on the stanchions of the Poole harbour lifting bridge. There’s another relief ceramic coat of arms with a different (but equally impressive) dolphin in Poole’s town museum.
Poole Pottery – Carter, Stabler and Adam’s successor – used to have a fountain in their showroom lobby. The centrepiece of this was a hand-modelled ceramic sculpture of a child riding a heraldic dolphin. I remember being entranced by this as a child in the 1970s, but have no idea where it went when the showroom closed.