Castellani (Est. 1840 – 1930) In December 2006, The New York Times reported that, “In 1984 Judith H. Siegel, an American living in London, read about in British Vogue about Fortunato Pio Castellani (1794-1865) in British Vogue. [He was] a fashionable Roman goldsmith who in 1814 began selling gold jewelry in the ‘antique’ style, which is jewelry inspired by ancient Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Byzantine civilizations.
“Ms. Siegel [then] began buying jewelry designed by Castellani, [as well as] by his two sons, Augusto and Alessandro, and by Carlo Giuliano, a Castellani pupil who ran the firm’s London operation from the early 1860s until 1874, when he set up his own business.”
The Times article added that “…Ms. Siegel is selling 150 of these pieces, in what is thought to be the largest collection of “archaeological” jewelry to appear at auction in decades. The sale [was held] at Sotheby’s New York … and was expected to bring in $3 -4 Million.”
It is no surprise that such sums were expected. In Rome, during the nineteenth century, three generations of the Castellani family created what they called “Italian archaeological jewelry,” inspired by Etruscan, Roman, Greek, and Byzantine antiquities being excavated at the time. Castellani jewelry consisted of finely wrought gold often combined with delicate and colorful mosaics, carved gemstones, or enamel.
The Castellani legacy began in 1814 when Fortunato Pio Castellani (1793-1865), the son of an Italian jeweler, began to apprentice in his father’s Rome workshop. By age 20, Fortunato was a manufacturing goldsmith in Rome. Castellani’s work during these first years was greatly influenced by the Russian craftsman Zwerner, who also worked in Rome in that time.
At first, the designs reflected the fashions of the day drawn from the French and English jewelry of the period. However, in the 1820s, Castellani began to develop the style for which he would become known. Also during the 1820s, he met his lifelong friend and collaborator Michaelangelo Caetani (1804–1882). Caetani, a famous archaeologist who later became the Duke of Sermoneta was a man of considerable wealth and influence
The two met at a lecture where Castellani discussed ways of recreating the look of ancient gold. According to jewelry historians, Caetani “gave Fortunato the idea to imitate and seek inspiration from ancient jewelers.”
Caetani was also a Dante scholar, historian, talented woodworker, and was familiar with jewelry manufacturing techniques. A favorite of Roman high society. Caetani had a large group of influential friends including Rossini, Chateaubriand, Stendhal, Liszt, Balzac and Witte. These influential artists from multiple disciplines became invaluable to Castellani’s growing business. While Caetani was never formally employed by the firm, his creativity and connections helped the Castellani prosper.
Caetani inspired Fortunato to produce jewels in antiques styles. In particular, Fortunato began to find his muses in the archaeological finds of the pre-Roman Etruscan culture. Prompted by multiple discoveries, Castellani mastered the skill of applying gold granular decoration to many of his designs. This made a huge impact since the technique was thought to have been lost with the ancient Etruscan civilization. Castellani’s creations prompted a revival of the Etruscan style in jewelry and also gave impetus to the designs based on Byzantine, Carolingian, and Renaissance art.
In 1836, archaeologists unearthed the Regolini-Galassi tomb, an important Etruscan discovery that yielded a large amount of beautifully preserved jewelry. Because of his expertise in the field and his connections with Caetani, Castellani became an advisor on the excavation. Much of the jewelry was decorated with granulation – tiny specks of gold applied to the surface. This technique was unknown to 19th century jewelers and Castellani’s work from then on reinvigorated this lost art.
Through extensive research, Fortunato found craftsmen – in the small town of St. Angelo in Vado – who were working with techniques similar to the Etruscans and he enlisted them to work for him in Rome. This jewelry was known as, “Italian Archaeological Jewelry.”
During the 1850s, Fortunato’s two sons, Alessandro (1824 – 1883) and Augusto (1829 – 1914) gradually assumed management of the firm and marketed Castellani’s archaeological jewelry with great success. Their clients were not only the local and international aristocracy but also educated tourists and artists visiting Rome.
Interest and involvement in Italian politics is also part of the Castellani family history. In 1848, the Italian political climate forced the firm to close temporarily. In 1851, when Fortunato retired, he passed management of the family business to his sons who continued to run the business successfully.
The Castellani family were always ardent collectors and, in addition to their commercial jewelry business, they dealt in and extensively restored antiquities. The Castellani’s main shop was immediately adjacent to the Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most prestigious locations that incorporated a museum of the family’s collection.
In 1853, Alessandro Castellani’s revolutionary ideas caused trouble with the Papal Government of the time, and he was imprisoned. In fact, from 1848, the political situation in Italy forced the Castellani workshop to close and no business was done in Rome for ten years. Both Alessandro and Augusto seem to have been in virtual exile during that period. Historians report that Alessandro was in Paris, and either he or his brother spent time in London.
While in Paris, Alessandro opened a store at 85 Champs-Elysees that later became the core of the Archaeological School of Jewelry in France. Alessandro became the foreign ambassador of the firm and gave lectures all over the world.
At the same time, assisted by his compatriot Carlo Giuliano, a business was opened in London’s Soho area. In 1863, the family opened a shop in Naples, traditionally a center for the reproduction of antique jewelry.
For the first time, the firm also displayed its work at international expositions in Florence, London, and Paris. The widespread acclaim that their pieces received increased demand for their style of jewelry and gave rise to imitators throughout Europe.
Americans first viewed the Castellani’s ancient objects and reproductions in 1876 at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition. The following year the collection was on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 1858, Alessandro and Augusto Castellani reopened the family’s Roman workshop. By now, they were both experts in the field of antique and classic jewelry and popularized the archaeological style which their father had pioneered in the first half of the nineteenth century. Augusto Castellani formed the famous collezione Castellani of antique jewelry, part of which forms the basis of the collection at the Villa Giulia in Rome.
The firm’s designs continued to especially and passionately popular. At the 1867 international exhibition in Paris, “nearly all” the jewelry exhibitors featured Archaeological-style jewels in their showcases.
In 1859, the poets, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett viewed some of the more important commissions given to the Castellani business. These included presentation swords commissioned by the citizens of Rome and originally crafted and intended be bestowed in gratitude to Napoleon III and King Victor Emmanuel II.
In addition to Napoleon III, the firm’s notable clients by then included Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert and her daughter, the Empress Frederick of Prussia. By the end of the 19th Century, no lady visiting Italy would consider her tour of Rome complete without calling at Castellani’s shop near the Spanish Steps in order to acquire one of the famous pieces of Italian Archaeological jewelry.
After the firm’s success peaked in the 1870’s, the Rome location was handed over to Augusto’s son, Alfredo (1856-1930) in the 1880’s. Until his death in 1914, Augusto busied himself with, among other things, attempting to “document the progression of the Italian goldsmiths’ art from pre-historical times to the present.”
He suggested eight time periods: primitive, Tyrrhenian, Etruscan, Sicilian, Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and modern. Though his categories are not accepted as complete today, it was one of the first modern attempts to divide the jewelry design history into eras.
In 1930, Castellani closed its doors when Alfredo, last in the line of Castellani jewelers, died. Alfredo had carefully cultivated the family’s legacy and arranged for the donation of the family’s important collections to the Italian state upon his passing.
When Alfredo’s brother Alessandro opened a branch of the family firm in London, he hired Carlo Giuliano (????- 1895) as an apprentice. Giuliano subsequently managed the London location until 1874 when he left to open his own firm. Born in Naples, Giuliano’s early work were creations of Revivalist jewels. It was fundamentally worked in the archaeological style often associated with Castellani.
Giuliano began signing his work with a monogram of C and G, which was very close to the one used by Castellani which was C and C. Later, Carlo Giuliano began using a much smaller mark suggesting that the relationship with Alessandro Castellani was no longer a close one.
The business run by Carlo Giuliano for the Castellani’s was a laboratory, and the jewelry created at the premises, were offered for sale through notable jewelers throughout London. Giuliano supplied several retail houses, among them C.F. Hancock, Hunt and Roskell, and Harry Emanuel.
By 1884, Giuliano was an established jeweler and had opened his own retail premises at 115 Piccadilly. His shop became very successful and, for many years, was patronized by the aristocratic, intellectual and artistic communities of the time.
During this period, Carlo Giuliano focused on the Renaissance as his source of inspiration. This gave his designs a more colorful palette and a softer effect to which English women were drawn. Giuliano soon started creating openwork necklaces of candy-twist enamel, to replace the severity of gold diadems and fringe necklaces. He used enamel which evoked French and Italian jewelry of the 16th and 17th centuries and, sometimes, necklaces and bracelets created in Moghul India.
Giuliano died in 1895, leaving a successful business to his sons Arthur Alphonse and Carlo.
In his will Giuliano left seventeen of his own greater works of art to the English Government along with enamel work from his stock that was to be selected by the South Kensington Museum (today the Victoria and Albert Museum).
In 1899, the box containing Giuliano’s work was stolen and only a few pieces remained of his collection. In 1900, Arthur Alphonse and Carlo Giuliano gave the Museum seven other items made by their father and the Museum also purchased a necklace made by the younger Carlo.
Some of the Giuliano’s clients included Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, King Edward VII and Queen Victoria’s daughter. In 1914, Arthur Alphonse shot himself and his death marked the end of business for one of London’s greatest leaders of art jewelry.
Castellani jewels tend to use simple geometric designs enhanced with patterns made of tiny gold granules, small blossoms, and filigree wire applied with absolute precision. Perfect, miniature mosaics, composed of the smallest, block-like tesserae imaginable, evoke the early Christian masterpieces of Rome, Ravenna, and Constantinople. Gems, cameos, and scarabs—either ancient originals or imitations—provide the focal point of some jewelry pieces, while others achieve their effect from a variety of enamel techniques rendered in a wide range of rich colors.
The firm is also known for having incorporated ancient, medieval, and modern intaglios and cameos, as well as Egyptian scarabs and micro-mosaics into its pieces. According to jewelry historians, the firm was the first to place micro-mosaics, often with Early Christian, Byzantine, and Egyptian designs, in archaeological style frames.
In 2004 – 2005, prior to the Christie’s auction, the Bard Graduate Center Gallery (BGC) presented an exhibition called, “Castellani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry.” It encompassed more than 250 objects from major public and private collections throughout the world and comprehensively explored the legacy of the Castellani firm.
For the first time a representative selection of Castellani jewelry from the National Etruscan Museum at Villa Giulia and the Capitoline Museums in Rome was seen abroad. It was complemented with pieces from the British Museum, the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Paris), and other public institutions and private collections. The co-curators of the exhibition were Dr. Susan Weber Soros, founder and director of the BGC, and Dr. Stefanie Walker, special exhibitions curator at BGC and a specialist in jewelry history.
Prior to the auction, Dr. Weber Soros said, “Castellani jewelry is not about the karats; it’s about the workmanship,” and Geoffrey Munn, managing director of Wartski Jewelers in London said [Castellani jewelry] “is neither a fake nor a replica. It’s a pastiche. It’s modern jewelry in the antique style.”