Artigiamo in the city - Rome, Via Margutta
Strolling through the historic center of Rome, between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, in the Campo Marzio district, you will be catapulted into what is called "The Street of the Artists", a name given to Via Margutta both because in ancient times it was the street of artisans and because of the presence of the many artists who have stayed there since the early 1900s. It was in fact home to important painters such as Augusto Mussini and Gregorio Maltzeff, even housing an atelier of the Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova.
It is no coincidence that we find here the "Fontana degli artisti" (Fountain of the Artists), built in 1927 to a design by architect Pietro Lombardi, in which, the two central masks, one sad and one happy, symbolize the alternating moods of the artists, these rest on brackets attached to painter's easels, gushing their faint jet of water into two small basins below.
In the 1950s, after some scenes from the film Roman Holiday were filmed on this street at number 33, it became an exclusive street, the residence of famous people, including director Federico Fellini, actresses Giulietta Masina and Anna Magnani, painter Giorgio de Chirico, sculptor Nicola Rubino and painter Novella Parigini.
Today, many of the artisan stores, unfortunately, have been replaced by clothing brand boutiques and trendy restaurants, and very few art businesses and a few art galleries remain open.
Telling us how this metamorphosis took place, around the 1990s, is Maestro Sandro Fiorentini, owner of one of the few surviving workshops, the MARMORARO, at No. 64.
This enchanted place, gleaming with Carrara Marble's own luster, transports us on a journey that began in 1961 when father Enrico decided to open to the public.
But what does the MARMORARO actually do?
It is taratta of an ancient craft dating back to the Renaissance era and the opening of the first University of Marble Makers, which has allowed remarkable developments in the creation of works, now famous in every part of the globe. Specifically, the workshop allows people to purchase marble "post-it notes," with motivational, sympathetic, allegorical and sometimes punchy phrases, ideal for hanging in their homes or decorating their gardens.
All of the tools on display, no longer used today, are a testament to the centuries of work that brought this profession to a pinnacle of success that gradually, with the new market and the closure of many workshops, is fading.
Master Sandro, who has a degree in Architecture, from an early age had the opportunity to observe his father's and uncle's hands, without ever actually setting to work but only using his good eye to learn, so that when his father died 8 years ago, he decided to carry on this family and artistic tradition that will most likely unfortunately end with him, since as he tells us it will not be carried on by his sons.
Basked in how that magic that made this street come alive has vanished within a few decades, I stopped to chat with him, asking him how it came to this point.
Very sincerely, he replied to me that today's market demands, the curiosity of the antique, the very taste of people, both greatly changed over the years and the continuity of family traditions not pursued by the children of the old artisans, have thus led to the closure and disappearance of so many of these precious places.
What is certain is that our country's tradition, recognized all over the world but not celebrated in Italy as it should, leads the few surviving workshops to a very high risk of closure and with them the disappearance of knowledge and traditions that represent our splendid cultural and artistic heritage.
It is precisely for this reason that "ARTIGIAMO IN CITTA" has decided to tell and make known our master craftsmen in order to return to shine by its own light what has for centuries been an integral part of our know-how that has made us so great in the world. A column, this one, that we will publish the 2nd week of each month, starting in Rome to explore other Italian cities later.