RARE ENZO BORGINI TRIBAL MASK FOR ALVINO BAGNI
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A very rare, African-themed, terracotta tribal mask with metal inclusions, designed in the 1960s by Enzo Borgini (b. 1934) for Alvino Bagni. Borgini produced many famous pieces for BAGNI CERAMICHE with metal elements: rings, tusks, teeth, horns, etc. Among them are some of the most sought-after collectibles in the company's catalog. Remarkable.
ALVINO BAGNI (1919–2009) was born in 1919 in the quiet hamlet of Lastra a Signa in the environs of Florence in Tuscany. His boyhood and adolescence were spent without his father who, as a communist, had been exiled under Italian fascism. Young Bagni took an early interest in pottery, a regionally important industry. He studied the basics of drawing and clay modeling under the tutelage of sculptor Torello Santini (1875–1946) and took a job in the workshop of Arnaldo Pugi’s ceramics factory in nearby Ponte a Signa. Bagni had a stint at Bitossi Ceramiche for a few years in nearby Montelupo Fiorentino, where famed ceramist Aldo Londi (1911–2003) took him under wing. In 1956 Pugi helped Bagni finance the opening of his own studio in Lastra a Signa, BAGNI CERAMICHE, where several family members were employed, including wife Gina. She would continue to work along side Bagni throughout his career. An order for 3,500 elephant-head plates bearing the slogan “I like Ike,” manufactured for export during the 1952 US presidential race, got things rolling for the studio. It proved to be a prophetic commission: a large majority of Bagni’s work would be for the US market.
In the 1950s and '60s Bagni established fundamental collaborations with Bitossi Ceramiche and with import companies Rosenthal Netter and Raymor, the latter being a dominant American firm. These relationships allowed Bagni to open a larger, better-equipped factory where he surrounded himself with highly skilled artists—Enzo Borgini, M. Mannori, Remo Buti, and Michelangelo Santonocito among them. Bagni produced a stunning variety of designs for Raymor including some highly individualistic studio pieces, perhaps representing the best of his work—featuring stripes, geometric patterns, and bold lava-type glazes. He was always experimenting and produced some truly radical glaze combinations and colors schemes. A case in point is the Sea Garden décor, an unusual mix of turquoise, blue, green, yellow, browns and blacks. Bagni often incorporated rings or other small metal pieces with his ceramic designs.
By 1980 BAGNI CERAMICHE had almost 100 employees and was internationally renowned for high-quality, artistic production and the use of innovative techniques. However, as the world increasingly opened up to global competition, the company found itself in financial straits. Tied as it was to an "artisanal" approach, it struggled to withstand the downward pressure on prices. Despite Bagni's noble efforts to save his factory and employees, BAGNI CERAMICHE closed for good in 1990.
Bagni returned to pottery with Nuove Forme, a venture founded with son-in-law Gianfranco Ghiretti in Florence in 1993. A natural evolution of his older company, Nuove Forme continued to research and experiment with colors and processes. It found its niche producing limited runs of virtually unique objects for the most discerning of buyers. Nuove Forme owns many of Bagni's historical designs and curates an enormous Bagni showroom—something of a museum of his work. Bagni retired for health reasons in 2001. He died in 2009 at age 90.
Maker – BAGNI CERAMICHE
Production Period/Year – 1960s
Designer – ENZO BORGINI
Design Period/Year – 1960s
Origin – ITALY
Styles/Movements – TRIBAL; MODERN; ITALIAN
Materials – CERAMIC
Colors – GOLDENROD, AVOCADO, SLATE
Condition – Excellent vintage condition. Minor wear consistent with age and use.
Dimensions – 5" W × 2" D × 10" H