1 August 2020

Paolo De Poli – enameller and painter

Artist devoted his life to an ancient technique


Paolo De Poli, pictured in his studio in Padua with a selection of the beautiful vases in which he specialised
Paolo De Poli, pictured in his studio in Padua with a
selection of the beautiful vases in which he specialised
A painter who became fascinated with the ancient art of enamelling, Paolo De Poli was born on this day in 1905 in Padua.

At first De Poli experimented with enamelling small, decorative objects but after he mastered his craft he moved on to creating large panels for the interiors of ships, hotels and public buildings.

De Poli trained in drawing and embossing on metal at the art school Pietro Selvatico of Padua and then studied oil painting in Verona. He embarked on a career as a portrait and landscape painter.

In 1926 he participated for the first time in the Biennale di Venezia with the oil painting Still Life.

While travelling in the 1930s he visited art museums and archaeological sites and became interested in the traditional art of working with vitreous enamel.

From 1933 onwards, he devoted himself to creating enamel works on metal, experimenting with refined objects of many shapes in brilliant colours. He continued to improve his technique, reaching the highest level of skill.

De Poli worked closely with the Milan architect Gio Ponti (above)
De Poli worked closely with the Milan
architect Gio Ponti (above)
In the 1940s, he collaborated with Milanese architect Gio Ponti in the production of furniture and decorative panels. This led to him producing animal statuettes in sculptural forms.

He also produced beautiful vases, bowls, trays, plates, cups, plaques and door handles in enamel on copper and accepted commissions for panels to decorate the homes of collectors in Italy and abroad.

Gio Ponti wrote about him: ‘If we can speak of an Italian art of enamel, it is thanks to De Poli, to the road he opened up and followed faithfully, to the example of his orthodox technique, to his sureness of touch, to the esteem and admiration he has won. And we should be grateful to him for this also.’

De Poli also dedicated himself to executing altarpieces and cycles of panels on the theme of the Stations of the Cross. These are preserved in churches in Padua, Abano Terme, Treviso and Bergamo.

His creations have been displayed at many international exhibitions and art fairs as expressions of Italian style. Many of his works in enamel on copper are now in the permanent collections of the important museums of decorative art and design.

De Poli was actively involved in the defence of the Italian cultural heritage and the promotion of arts and crafts during his career.  From 1960 to 1973 he served as a member of the board of directors of the Milan Triennale.

In 1970 De Poli was awarded the title of Cavaliere del Lavoro. He died in Padua in 1996, aged 91.

His personal archive of designs, prototypes, photographs and correspondence has been entrusted to the Archivio Progetti of IUAV University of Venice.

Palazzo Bo' in Via 8 Febbraio is the main building of Padua University
Palazzo Bo' in Via 8 Febbraio is the
main building of Padua University
Travel tip:

Two of De Poli’s panels, depicting Podesta Rusca and Vescovo Giordano, are in Palazzo Bo, the main building of Padua University in Via 8 Febbraio, which was named after the tavern known as Il Bo (‘the ox’ in Venetian dialect) that had been acquired by the university as new premises in 1493. Originally this building housed the university’s renowned medical faculty. You can take a guided tour and see the pulpit that was used by Galileo when he taught at the university between 1592 and 1610 and the anatomy theatre, built in 1594, which is the oldest surviving medical lecture theatre in the world today. To find Palazzo del Bo, leave Piazza Cavour, passing Caffe Pedrocchi on your right and walk down Via 8 Febbraio. The university building is on the left hand side of the street at its corner with Via San Francesco.

De Poli's statuette Toro is housed in the Musei Civici in Padua, formerly a convent
De Poli's statuette Toro is housed in the Musei
Civici in Padua, formerly a convent
Travel tip:

De Poli’s statuette, Toro (Bull) completed in 1966, is in Padua’s Musei Civici, a complex of museums and historic sites around the former convent of the Eremitani and its famous Cappella degli Scrovegni housing Giotto’s frescos. The complex also includes a museum of modern and medieval art housed in Palazzo Zuckermann in Corso Garibaldi.

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