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Giannino Castiglioni

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Giannino Castiglioni

( Milano 1884 - Lierna 1971 )


    Giannino Castiglioni

    Born in Milan in 1884, Castiglioni distinguished himself for his chiseling skills in the production of medals, as well as for his bas-reliefs and monumental celebratory sculptures. “A fine artist, harmonious in concept, elegant in form” (Vibì 1922, p. 380), he was a pupil of Enrico Butti at the Brera Academy and in the meantime worked in the Johnson medal factory, where his father was chief technician.

    Among his first and most significant medals, he executed one that commemorated Cavour in 1910. As a sculptor, Castiglioni made his debut a few years earlier at the 1906 Milan Exhibition with a plaster statue of Plautus, a Comic Poet, and won the competition to become the designer of the exhibition’s prize medal, establishing himself as one of the most popular Italian medallists of the early 20th century.

    Although this production was oriented towards a more official language, he did not fail to include floral and symbolist suggestions that were particularly evident in the bronze plaques presented at the Venice Biennales of 1907, 1909 and 1910, such as Vespers and Marriage. His international success in the field of monumental sculpture dates back to 1922, when he won a competition for the sculptural decoration of the Parliament Building in Montevideo. “The allegorical and, let us be frank, rhetorical approach – in a good and useful sense of the word – came from the need for a harmonious fusion with the stylistic manner in which the architecture of the Palace is shaped: Roman and Greek classicism…” (Vibì 1922, p. 380).

    The majestic decorative project, combining classicism and Art Nouveau influences, was widely appreciated by the critics and thanks to that Castiglioni was commissioned – in Latin America again – the base of the monumental bronze antenna offered by Italian residents to the city of Buenos Aires in 1926. In that same year, the sculptor won a competition for a completely different work: the statue dedicated to Saint Francis in Piazza Sant’Angelo in Milan. Castiglioni’s studio was a few steps away from the square, at 22 Via di Porta Nuova.

    Here he worked tirelessly on the project, which was immediately praised by Raffaello Giolli for its anti-monumental nature: “Instead of a monument, he made a fountain, simple and plain, like a large well curb, made of stone […]. On the parapet there is a small flock of birds, and on the other side Saint Francis is slightly bending towards the water, towards the birds. The monument then takes a life of its own, between the decorative touches and the naturalistic gesture”. (Giolli 1927, p. 380). The octagonal stone fountain depicts the episode of Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds and the bronze sculpture presented here is the model for the doves on the fountain.

    Despite the elegant patination, the work does not lose its naturalistic orientation that can be found in the different poses of the birds, and is combined with the refined characters of the inscription around the base: “God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains to drink” (from Fioretti di San Francesco, written by Ugolino da Brunforte at the end of the 14th century). After this work – very much loved by the Milanese – Castiglioni continued to work on various sculptures for the Monumental Cemetery in Milan. In the 1930s, he made a war cemetery on Monte Grappa and at Redipuglia. He then moved to Lierna on Lake Como, where he executed Life of Saint Ambrose – one of his last works – on one of the doors of Milan Cathedral, inaugurated in 1950. His sons, the Castiglioni brothers, designed the Arco lamp for Flos, a design icon in 1962.

    Elena Lago



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