DescriptionA Graziella Laffi Silver Double-Walled Ceremonial Drinking Vessel, Lima, Peru, 1960-1970
Marks: G. Laffi, PERU
10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
57.97 troy ounces
PROPERTY FROM THE FAMILY OF GRAZIELLA LAFFI.
The vessel of Kero form with Palo Santo tree limbs in relief.
The most frequently cited reference to Graziella Laffi (Italian/Peruvian, 1929-2009) identifies her as the "Spratling of Peru," acknowledging her ties to the indigenous 20th-century Latin American art movement and her passion for the rebirth of Peruvian art. This fascination with the ancient heritage of her adopted country shaped the Modernist forms and decorative motifs of her work in silver.
Graziella was born in 1932 in Florence, Italy. Her father, Gino, a fourth-generation artist, was a silversmith and enameler. Following her family tradition, Graziella enrolled in master classes after elementary school, focusing on design and painting. She next attended Escuela de Bellas Artes de Puerta Romana for three years, where Gino taught, and then to the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, where she concentrated in architecture until the start of World War II.
In 1947, Graziella, then fifteen, immigrated with her parents to Peru, where family friends provided entry into society. Gino Laffi exhibited at the Centro Italiano, displaying silver, gold and enamel, made before departing Florence. He received high praise and opened a storefront at the center of Lima with a small studio and showroom for his Florentine-inspired work. Following this success, he created a large studio and showroom, Fábrica Laffi on Avenue Mexico. There Gino produced silver jewelry and small objects for the Lima tourist market, while Graziella learned her father's craft. The works produced in this studio differed from earlier production as Graziella supplied designs based on a Pre-Columbian-inspired vocabulary of hummingbirds, pelicans and fish.
Graziella soon had an all-consuming interest in the arts of ancient Peru and specifically on the Chavin and Moche cultures. For six years, she traveled extensively, studying these ancient civilizations and visiting museums, archeological sites and private collections. In the process, she collected a sizable body of metalwork, ceramics, and textiles (the textile collection was gifted to a museum in Florence, and the majority of ceramic artifacts were donated to Museo de Arte de Lima). The collection served as the inspiration for a body of masterworks created apart from her father, represented by ten lots in this auction, including hollowware and jewelry designs. This body of work is identified by Graziella's script mark, G. Laffi, as opposed to the block G. LAFFI stamped on pieces produced for Gino at Fábrica Laffi.
Graziella was an exceptional silversmith. She learned the metalworking techniques of the ancient Peruvian civilizations, refusing current technology. In a video interview with Laffi by Paloma Carcedo, an expert in Pre-Columbian techniques, Graziella explained that following many years of study and experimentation, she learned the techniques of the Peruvian goldsmiths: hammering, rolling and creating joints. Once developed, she created extraordinarily large vessels. Particularly challenging was mastering ancient Peruvian double-wall construction. This important feature gives her vessels great visual weight and presence.
Graziella also saw herself as an ambassador of Peruvian culture, promoting the rebirth of interest in Peru's ancient heritage throughout South America, the United States and Europe. She exhibited her growing collection of Peruvian artifacts alongside work created at Fábrica Laffi as well as her masterworks at a series of sites in Washington, D.C., and New York, including the American department store May Co. and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In 1989, there was an exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi ("Graziella Laffi: Argento e oro del Peru") and also displays at the Milan and Florence Biennale.
Graziella exhibited her work extensively, yet it was not for sale. According to her unpublished autobiography, Graziella intended the collection to be on permanent display at an institution in Lima. That plan did not come to fruition. In 2002 Graziella presented a necklace to Queen Sofía of Spain, and most recently, since Graziella's death in 2009, twelve works entered the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Never before have Graziella Laffi's masterworks been offered publicly. This is an extraordinary opportunity to bring her work into your collection.
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