Discovering the origins of contemporary jewelry. “Rigore e Libertà” exhibition

A piece of goldsmithery, like any other work by man, cannot come from the mere execution of a customary act or be passively reproduced by basing it on pre-conceived schemes, as is commonly the case. Such an operation would lead to insignificant and anonymous product and would not be in any way creative



This week I visited Marino Marini Museum of Pistoia where till the 24th of March is held an amazing exhibition featuring three major Italian masters of contemporary jewelry: Mario PintonFrancesco Pavan, and Giampaolo Babetto. Characterized by two intertwining aspects, simplicity and quality, impressed in the art of Mario Pinton and then resumed by Pavan and Babetto, the exhibition consists of a wide selection of works that collect over 150 jewels from the early Fifties until in our day.

The common elements that make it possible to establish affinities and parallels between three artists are the purity of form, sense of balance and geometrical proportion, an idea that ​​the value of the piece depends on its original design.

The exhibition starts with the curious fact that reveals the relationship between Pinton and Mario Marini, who was was an Italian artist best known for his figurative equestrian sculptures and unlike many others artists of the last century, he didn’t make any jewelry except two golden rings for his wife Marina. The surface texture of his sculptures  seems to follow certain jewelry technicques. Marini often enriched the surface of his sculptures with chisel work and corrosive dyes.

M.Marini. Gold rings. 1970s. Private collection

Marino Marini taught Mario Pinton sculpture techniques at the Istituto Industrie Artistiche in Monza and this training couldn’t but influenced on the artistic reseach of the future goldsmith. He worked jewellery as a sculptor, sensitive to the expressive properties of gold, which was not associated with its preciousness, but its technical malleability and elasticity that earlier was so valuable for goldsmiths.

His working with metal reveals a strong affinity with the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome.

M.Pinton. Gold ring with stone, 1956. Private collection

M.Pinton. Gold necklace. Private collection

M.Pinton. Gold brooches. 1950-60s. Private collection

His artistic craftsmanship allowed him to create simple pieces of modern jewelry distinguished by great harmony and sophistication. In his beginning, Pinton’s language is influenced by figurative primitivism, then slowly reducing the figures to replace them with an increasingly geometric and essential abstraction, focusing on the constructive power of the line, minimal segments structured in elementary geometric spaces whose surfaces are moved by reticular structures that the chasing technique makes light, aerial, and, at the same time, incisive. He established an even closer dialogue between jewelry and body.

Mario Pinton. Gold brooch Eva, 1958. Gold ring Scorpione, 1960. Private collection

Mario Pinton. Gold necklace. Private collection

Mario Pinton. Bacelet. Gold plated silver, 1951. Private collection

In 1944 Pinton started to teach at the Pietro Selvatico industrial arts institution in the northern Italian town of Padua. There was no separate gold-working section, but his innovations and artistic visions in teaching led to the establishment of what was later to be called the “Metalwork and Jewelry” department. Here he introduced his craft and theory to Francesco Pavan and, later, to Giampaolo Babetto.

M.Pinton. Gold brooch. Private collection

His student Francesco Pavan overcame the two-dimensional abstraction of the master, attracted by the multiple expressive possibilities of three-dimension. Multiplying and connecting simple elements he created combinatorial solutions of complex structures. He also studied more mechanical techniques and the surfaces of his jewelry multiplied into cromatic variations.

F.Pavan. Brooches, 1962. White gold, ruby. Private collection

F.Pavan. Necklace, 1972. Private collection

Giampaolo Babetto’s research is characterized by a careful study of geometric shapes, volumes and movement looking for a constant balance.  The colors contrasted from gold in the whole range of its colors to the juxtaposition of the niello and differents pigments predominantly red and blue.



G.Babetto. Brooch, 1970

G.Babetto. Gold necklace, 1970

Their jewelry took the forms from the shape of jewelry itself that, according to their artistic vision, should not be lost or hidden by the weight of too many precious stones or another decorative elements.

M.Pinton. Necklace, 1975. Gold, ruby

M.Pinton. Brooch and bracelet. Gold.

F.Pavan. Brooch, 1982. Gold

“The emotion inspired by the material substance, filtered by the knowledge of the master, returns to the material as an object, bringing it to life and giving it its own expressive value”, said Pinton. His rings and bracelets are designed following the single line, while his brooches reflects bright play of abstraction.

M.Pinton. Gold ring, 1979

As Pavan mentioned “A piece of jewelry should not be a personal expression, but instead be cold, asbstract and devoid of any figurative elements and references to the organic world. And the best way to achieve this is to refere to the world of geometry”. His necklaces reach extraordinary lenghts, brooches are linear structures that reach out into space.


F.Pavan. Necklace, 1991

F.Pavan. Brooch

F.Pavan. Brooch

Giampaolo Babetto made a point about his work: “Certainly the jewelry the I make has a clear form. However I hope that it is possible to understand that it possesse interior as well as exterior qualities. In any case, I try to give each piece an inner life and thus instil it with a soul. Only then can a piece of jewelry acquire a form that can establish some communication with its observer”. He uses colors and resins and in the nineties his sober style took on a line of precious and subtle figuration.

G.Babetto. Necklace, 1994. White gold, pigments.

G.Babetto. Bracelet and ring. Private collection

G.Babetto. Ring. Gold, pigment. Private collection

The reference to architecture in the works of Babetto is very strong and has a great importance. Sometimes his jewelry is a line of rigid structures that are dominated by imbalance and diconnections.

G.Babetto. Necklace. Gold, pigment

For me this exhibition wa a great opportunity to see with my own eyes a lot of works of these three artist together, to enjoy the purity of form and amazing artistic language.

Francesco Pavan

Francesco Pavan

Francesco Pavan

Francesco Pavan

Giampaolo Babetto

Giampaolo Babetto

Mario Pinton

FRancesco Pavan

Giampaolo Babetto

Mario Pinton

Giampaolo Babetto

Francesco Pavan

Francesco Pavan

Giampaolo Babetto

Giampaolo Babetto

Francesco Pavan

Francesco Pavan


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.