Fonderia Artistica Ferdinando Marinelli
History & Highlights
As early as 1929, Marinelli Foundry was present internationally. It produced the monumental sculpture ‘La Carretta dei Pioneri’ (‘The Pioneer’s Cart’) carved by the Uruguayan artist José Belloni. It may still be seen today in Montevideo. In 1932, the panels of the immense staircase at the entrance of the Vatican Museums by Antonio Maraini were cast. A more recent achievement is the ‘Warrior on horseback’ in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, inaugurated in 2011 and the work of the sculptor Valentina Stevanovska.
The history of the Fonderia Artistica Ferdinando Marinelli begins in 1905 with the opening of a small shop on Florence’s Via de’ Giudei (today’s Via Ramaglianti) by Ferdinando Marinelli. Born in Piegaro, in the Province of Perugia in 1887, he arrived as a teenager in Florence where he was apprenticed first to Cusmano Vignali’s foundry and subsequently to Gabellini’s, learning the techniques of both stirrup manufacturing as well as lost-wax casting. In 1915, he was employed by the Fonderia of Alessandro Biagiotti (Biagiotti’s nickname was ‘Brucino’). After World War I, Ferdinando took over the Gabellini foundry on Via del Romito (today’s Via Filippo Corridoni). During this period, the Marinelli Foundry produced several monuments which commemorate the fallen of The Great War; those on Piazza Dalmatia in Florence and Poggio a Caiano, (both by Mario Moschi) as well as those at Barberino Val d’Elsaand Cerbaia, (works by Odo Franceschi). In 1925, the Foundry executed the monument to the painter Giovanni Fattori donated to the city of Livorno by Valmore Gemignani. Two years later, the Chamber of Commerce, Florence surveyed the artisan workshops in the Province and reported that: The reputation of the Marinelli Foundry rests on the perfection of its casting, employing an acid based varnish permitting the metal to be displayed without losing any of its glare, maintaining warm tonalities, those of natural bronze thereby creating works of art.
In 1927, Fonderia Artistica Ferdinando Marinelli cast a sculptural group measuring in total 22 meters made by the Uruguayan José Belloni for Montevideo, ‘La Carretta dei Pionieri’ (‘The Pioneer’s Cart’) commissioned by the Consul Gilberto Fraschetti. Marinelli Foundry received important commissions thanks to the esteem with which Ferdinando was held by the sculptor Antonio Maraini. Maraini choose him as his caster when he received the commission from Pope Pius XI to execute the panels that decorate the newly built large staircase at the entrance to the Vatican Museums.
The Foundry’s expansion continued and shortly prior to the outbreak of World War II, industrial castings and metal refining were added to its traditional artistic activities and indeed remained an important part of its output until the end of the conflict. In 1945, Ferdinando Marinelli leaves the Foundry to his sons Aldo and Marino who carry on the artistic traditions. Upon Marino’s death, the company passes on to his son Ferdinando Jr. who maintains the ancient tradition of lost-wax casting. Marinelli Foundry remains to this day one of the last artistic workshops practicing this technique and a benchmark for Italian artisan excellence.
In addition to important commissions received from foreign governments and private collectors, the Foundry produced on behalf of the City of Florence, a bronze replica of the ‘Porcellino’ by Pietro Tacca in the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo. The antique work was moved to the Museo Bardini in 2004. In addition, again for Florence, it executed replicas of Giambologna's 'Bacchus' in Borgo San Jacopo (antique is, from 2006, in the Bargello Museum), and the ‘St. Matthew’ by Lorenzo Ghiberti for an external niche of the Church of Orsanmichele (antique in museum nearby).
The Ferdinando Marinelli Artistic Foundry remained in its historical headquarters in Via Corridoni until 2001 when new environmental regulations prohibiting the casting of bronze within Florence forced the company to build new headquarters in the town of Barberino Val d’Elsa. The new workshops were equipped with up to date furnaces and kilns however leaving all of the traditional production phases unaltered.
One of the last remaining Florentine foundries producing works in bronze utilizing the Renaissance technique of lost-wax. A large number of bronze sculptures produced in Florence over the last century come from this artistic foundry. One of the most famous and popular works in Florence, the 'La Fontana del Porcellino', was cast by the Marinelli Foundry in 1988 and replaced the antique in 1998.
The collaboration with the Vatican City
As already mentioned, the esteem of Antonio Maraini permitted the Marinelli Foundry to establish a working relationship with the Vatican State. After casting the friezes of the monumental staircase entrance to the Vatican Museums, the Foundry produced the tomb and the death mask (the latter in silver) of Pope Pius XI commissioned to the artist Antonio Berti, and the ‘Porta Santa’ (Holy Door) of St. Peter’s Basilica carved by Maestro Vico Consorti. Such collaborations subsequently permitted Marinelli to receive additional commissions from churches in Rome. These include the central doors of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, after the drawings of Ludovico Pogliaghi, and in 1951, the doors of Sant’Eugenio designed by the engineer Enrico Galeazzi.
The collaboration has continued recently; it has produced the bronze handrail of the new large flight of stairs at the Vatican Museums inaugurated in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
Florence, Tuscany, Italy,
Ferdinando Marinelli Sr., Founder
Ferdinando Marinelli Jr., Owner
The Minister of Culture of Italy asked Ferdinando Marinelli to
take a mould from the original
and make an Original Bronze
1/1 with gold gilding
applied identically where
traces were discovered enhancing the original.
Base of the Staircase at