The Model Museum in Pietrasanta

wed 1 JULY 2015
The “Pierluigi Gherardi” Model Museum in Pietrasanta. In discovery of the birth of a sculpture 

Walking through the arcades of the sixteenth-century convent of St. Augustine in Pietrasanta, you are surrounded by a large number of “bozzetti” (scale models) and genres ranging from the twentieth century to the contemporary. Yet what is a scale model? what does it represent? It is the original idea, the design work, the work in progress of the sculpture which, once completed, is to be located in various parts of the world. Visiting this museum is at least an original experience, a bit like seeing a tree from the roots. It is a journey to the origin of the creative idea before it is fixed into the final shape of the work. An immersion in the languages of art, between sensitivity and cultural experiences of sculptors from different backgrounds and an unexpected discovery of the technical process and the precious work of local artisans. The scale model in fact pushes the viewer to understand the process of the birth of a sculpture, how, when, with whom and where the form was shaped. If you observe them, you can see that they may be in various materials, but mostly they are in plaster. Their sizes vary from a few centimetres to several metres, and they are called “bozzetti” (scale models) if they are on a different scale to the finished work and "models" when they are the actual size. They speak an arcane language and convey stories that are engaging and exciting because they conceal the lives of artists and artisans inextricably linked to art. If you have a little patience - each scale model is accompanied by a QR code that provides information – you can find out particular aspects about each one that enable you to better understand the sculpture and its links.A few examples. A scale model can tell you the moment of creation, what is imagined, what the artist thinks of shaping in the more noble material. The comparison between scale models of different artists concerning the same subject can show you the different style, design, balance, expressive force in dealing with a certain theme. By comparing them with the finished works, you can see the differences, coincidences, the different scale ratio, or what did not take shape in the sculpture and remained only in the artist's dream, perhaps due to the design changes requested by the client. Other plasters may carry marks of the work of sculptors and their artisan assistants. These are marks related to the given material, which are technical and operational, such as nails and points marked in the plaster to transfer the measurements to the actual work, or lines to highlight the shapes. You can also witness the different ways of working, with scale models that are simply “outlined” or with models that perfectly match the actual shapes and sizes. Moreover, a scale model may be thought of in any material or specifically for one – marble, bronze, terracotta, mosaic- and therefore may bear indications written in pencil, cuts for the shapes and so on ... The range is endless since every expression is generated through an original individual process involving different subjects and situations.So how did the Museum come about? In the early 1980s, the Danish art critic, journalist and photographer, Jette Muhlendorph, had the idea of forming a collection of plaster casts. The aim was to show Pietrasanta’s close links with the marble from the Apuan Alps and the art of sculpture, illustrate the design and creation of a work in bronze or marble from a scale model and promote generations of artists and artisans who practice sculpture here and document the indelible traces that they left. The first part of the museum was formed when, following the organisation of exhibitions on the work of artists in Versilia in relation to local laboratories, some sculptors and artisans donated the scale models and models on display to the town. At the same time, Documentart began. This is a specific photographic and documentary archive. In 1984, the Museum was officially established and in 2007, it was named Pierluigi Gherardi, the man behind the birth and growth of the Museum and other Cultural institutions belonging to Pietrasanta Council.The Museum is housed in the impressive St. Augustine buildings and its activity is part of the organisation of council-run Cultural Institutions. The number of aspects to be considered starting with a scale model give rise to ongoing research projects and events to show the results. It is a lively museum with an ever-growing collection - more than 700 scale models - and close relations with the artists and artisans of the town who generously participate in the life of the Museum. Given the confined spaces, the Museum exhibits to the public only a portion of its works and shows the entire collection virtually on the totem placed along the itinerary. The intent is always to promote and disseminate the most important artistic evidence of modern sculpture and consequently to investigate the figure of the artisan, the artist’s inseparable workmate. In a word, to add a piece to the construction of the "material" history of sculpture. The Museum houses the scale models of international sculptors from the beginning of the twentieth century to contemporary times – among others there are Bibolotti, Tommasi, Adam, Penalba, Papa, Gilardi, Vangi, Botero, Mitoraj, Cascella, De Saint Phalle, Pomodoro and Pepper – scale models from the traditional works – classical art, sacred art, funeral art – and a few examples of the artistic processing techniques - marble, bronze, mosaic, terracotta, clay models, plaster moulding. The Ideal continuation of the museum outdoors is the International Park of Contemporary Sculpture, consisting of monumental works in public spaces. The extensive itinerary winds through the streets, squares and gardens of the town and, along with the artisan workshops, the numerous galleries and large seasonal exhibitions on Piazza del Duomo and the Church of Saint Augustine, gives the town a typical connotation and hence the name of the "little Athens" of Versilia.
by Chiara Celli