44, Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Studiolo Dantesco, study of a wall
Inscribed ‘LARGE FLOWER/TREE OF LIFE’, with other notes in pencil, 230x160mm.
Mackintosh has made a rapid sketch of the fireplace wall of the Studiolo Dantesco (1854-56) of Gian Giacomo Poldi-Pezzoli (1822-1879), designed by Giuseppe Bertini (1825-1898) and Luigi Scrosati (1815-1869).
The private residence of Gian Giacomo Poldi-Pezzoli, Via Morone 10 (now Via Alessandro Manzoni 12), together with his art collection, were bequeathed by him to the city of Milan in 1879. Mackintosh described it as containing ‘for its size the finest collection of art treasures I saw anywhere’ (Mackintosh, ‘A Tour in Italy’, Robertson, p.124).
Poldi-Pezzoli had the Studiolo Dantesco constructed in the style of the ‘fourteenth century’ to display some of his mediaeval artefacts and to celebrate Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). The ‘figures’ on the right represent Florentine artists contemporary with Dante. The ‘large flower’ and ‘tree of life’ would probably have appealed to Mackintosh as good examples of the adaptation of plant form to decorative purposes. Despite its attempt at a recreation of a fourteenth century interior, the room’s rich and varied use of different materials, its employment of flowing line, its references to Islamic design, its tilework, and the forms of its arches all look forward to art nouveau.