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Adolfo Coppedè ( 29th April 1871 Florence – 15th August 1951 Prato-Parugiano/Montemurlo )

Adolfo Coppedè is an eclectic artist, immaginative and exuberant  architect, volcanic and brave. Since his early age he has been on the scene of the cultural life linked to the architecture at national level.

He was born in 1871, trained in the artisan carving atelier " La Casa Artistica" in Florence, an atelier that was opened by his father Mariano in 1875, because Florence was the town where the production of art furniture was flourishing on the basis of a long tradition.

Adolfo, as his elder brother Gino, attends the Vocational School of Decorative and  Industrial Arts, and gets his diploma in  architectural design.

Gino gives the artisan atelier a different character, enlarging the artistic interest from furniture to the architectural designing and to house and marine furniture, inventing the famous  " Coppedè Style "

The cliché  of Coppedè is connected to the neoeclectic European trend of the early years of XX century. It was expressed as an architecture of  neomedievalist and neomanierist type, that assumed medieval models like stylemes for the designing. It was made of the use of stones, turreted mansions and battlemented castles, with sculptures upon facades, flowery decorations, feminine headpieces and also large masks, while shaping eclectic combinations and pleasant compositive balances, rich in captivation and fascination.

In 1898 Adolfo participates to the competition for the design of “ Pensionato Artistico” in Rome for the architecture section. In this occasion he gets acquainted to the MP Pilade del Buono, who is a relevant personality,  fosterer of the ironworker activity on the Elba island, where he had several properties. The Member of Parliament trusts the young designer several works, that represent the first orders in his professional activity.

He drew his presentation boards upon “cartasuga”, a type of absorbing paper upon which the line couldn’t be definite and clean-cut, in order to give the effect of a sketched designing and to figure a pictorial form that wasn’t strictly technical, in contrast with the real effort he used to profound in the development of his ideas, that were based upon a great number of studies, of detailed boards, thus showing to be a serious professional, always.

The work at Elba are fully inserted in the characteristic architectonic language, typical of Adolfo; the first work is a funeral chapel, in white marble, for Del Buono Family, that is in the monumental graveyard of Portoferraio, in an original position at the centre of a staircase.

Upon a request of the MP Del Buono, in the area of San Martino, next to the Villa Napoleonica, was built a manor house with farm, defined with prospectus and continuous recourses, with framework and brick decorations and with large projections of the roof.

Under demand of the same person in 1904, along the Calata Mazzini at Portoferraio, he completed  the” Palazzo dei merli”, the Palace of blackbirds, following a plan of renewal of the town image.

The main prospectus had been planned with a granite basement, type of marble typical of the Elba  island, with a  projection that was to be held by some shelves linked with arches, with a ribbon in decorated ceramic, completed by mullioned windows and a battlemented framework.

The building was destroyed by the bombing in the  second World War.

There are two more works at Portoferraio, one in Calata Mazzini, entering from via Guerrazzi, that presents façades with finishing in plaster, gable- windows with decorations, and a balcony on the sea side. This building was originally the” Casa del Fascio” the house of Fascism. The other work stays in Calata Italia, in the haven area, and was the venue for the administrative offices  of the smelting furnaces.

This building is characterized by an open gallery, with fronts originally painted as a fake stone and other decorations that have gone destroyed.

Finally at Cavo, on the  cape of  Lentisco Mount, in 1906 he erected a noble grave for the Tonietti Family, the work is completely of stone, it has a turreted shape, with cusps and decorations.

The chapel is a monument in memory of  Giuseppe Tonietti, renter of the Elba mines, as he never was allowed to be officially buried  there.

Adolfo Coppedè  is an interpreter of  high class-bourgeois clients, that let him realize wondrous works; as a whole, he retraces his brother’s Gino architectonic lines  in his project language, with more temperate solutions, less intrusive and with a minor fancy impact in the building decoration.

In his long professional activity he has always planned and designed with an untiring strength, together with an inventive original  inspiration, he has proposed really surprising solutions, determined by an ample expressive vision, and by sculpture decorative suggestions.

His work: Tomba Tonietti


Translation by  Irene de Angelis-Curtis