Pair of pinnacles
Northern Italy, mid-19th century
Botticino marble, carved
They measure 33.1 inches in height x 17.7 x 17.7 (84 cm x 45 x 45).
State of conservation:
some visible cracks and various small gaps.
The two twin architectural elements of sculpted Botticino marble have a quadrangular base from which a chalice-shaped foot extends. Resting on this, a round pod-like element swells up to support a large pine cone. This is the main decoration: however, the other ornamental details enhance and embellish it, while exalting its position above, whether observed from afar or up close.
These aesthetic characteristics suggest that originally the pair of pinnacles were placed on columns or on architectural plinths, perhaps on the sides of a gate or at the end of a staircase at a noble palace with a certain level of importance; or as a decorative element along an avenue of some garden, such as at Villa Piaggio in Genoa, where the pine cones are arranged along the park entrance.
The use of the pine cone as an architectural decoration has ancient origins and derives from the complex symbolism which, from the representation of a divinity in a broad sense, gradually takes on the more specific meaning of fertility – linked to the phallic form – and therefore of birth and rebirth after death.
Present in many ancient cultures all over the world, the pine cone is used not only in architecture, but also in other decorative areas and over time it has become an esoteric symbol linked to the pineal gland, recognized as the seat of the soul and therefore as the highest degree of spiritual enlightenment.
In this way, the architectural use of the pine cone both on the doors and along the edge of the roof or on the sides of gates and stairways of patrician villas, has an obvious auspicious meaning.
The works presented here are made of Botticino marble, a metamorphic rock from the Mesozoic era.
The quarries are located in the province of Brescia and the best-known variety of this stone comes from that of Botticino: it has a light color and characteristic organic and inorganic inclusions which determine its homogeneous, compact and low-porosity composition. All this has favored its use in the creation of decorative outdoor elements of great value, since Roman times, as the Capitolium of the city of Brescia testifies.
Although the first certain information on the extraction of this marble dates back to the end of the sixteenth century, during the Renaissance period, there is mention of the existence of “master quarrymen” as early as the end of the fifteenth century. In the eighteenth century the extraction became professional and the demand for this product increased for use in large architectural works and noble palaces.
Cover Photo: Fabrizio Stipari