of Small Collectors

article # 29




by Fred Sinfield ©
click on images to enlarge


A modern Italian souvenir is a well-defined face of a young man wearing a mask and fancy headgear. fig 1.

On the back are two disks, one informs this is Arlecchino and the other has R within a square, 925 within an oval, 3 ÷ 5, as well as a minute rectangular stamp, not shown, of a * 309 FI in a rectangle.

Alberto Naselli of Bergamo, in 1592, was the first recorded Arlecchino or Arlequin to the French or Harlequin to the English. The name may have evolved from the Ellecchino or Alechino, the little devil in Dante’s La divina commedia or as a character in Medieval French miracle plays as Hellequin, the leader of a boisterous gang of evil spirits. He may be associated with Erlenkönig the "king of elves" of German and Scandinavian mythology.

The traditional Italian Arlecchino of the Commedia dell’Arte wears a black mask and a multicoloured costume. He was a scrounger; a pilferer; is witty; intrusive; greedy; physically and morally flexible; ready to take liberty and had scant regard for the truth. Originally he wore a peasant's shirt and long trousers covered with multi-coloured patches that developed into a tight-fitting costume with triangles and diamond shapes. By the 17th century, his costume evolved with red, blue, and green triangles arranged symmetrically and joined with yellow braid. Over the decades, the triangles had become diamonds and his soft cap exchanged for a pointed one often with the tail of fox or feathers attached. He wore a black half mask; black shoes and carried a batocchio or French batte that is usually translation as a slap stick. fig. 2, 3.

The artists, Jacques Callot (c1592-1635) and Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) depicted Arlecchino and the playwright Pierre Marivaux (1688-1763) developed his complex personality. The cunning but faithful valet of Arlequin poli par l'amour or La Double Inconstance is probably a forerunner of Pierre Beaumarchais's (1732-1799) La Folle Journée ou le marriage de Figaro and later, he is in Paul Verlaine's (1844-1896) poem Les Fêtes galantes

Arlequin aussi
Cet aigrefin si Fantasque
Aux costumes fous,
Ses yeux luisants sous
Son masque

Rarely seen these days but his name lives on through the 18th century harlequin table with concealed draws and pigeonholes, raised by weights from the interior when required, and so named as the table cum writing desk section could be conjured away when not in use. As well, there are animals, a travel guide, various businesses and so forth bearing his name.

Thanks to Giorgio Busetto, who supplied the details of the marks on the other disk. The piece was made post 1960, as indicated by the State mark of a *, in Florence FI by silversmith 309, who is no longer active and the R within the square is the abbreviation for Riempito. fig. 4.
Thus, the piece was created in a resin or mastic then covered with 3 to 5 grams of 925 standard silver as shown by 3 ÷ 5 although its total weight is 45.8grams. fig. 5.
Also through the generosity of Giorgio Busetto here are the regulations governing the manufacture Riempito
(Articolo 39 del Regolamento recante norme per l'applicazione del Decreto Legislativo 22 Maggio 1999, n. 251)

a) negli oggetti parzialmente o totalmente rivestiti in lamina di metallo prezioso, e' consentito l'uso di mastice per fissare la lamina al suo supporto, a condizione che la densita' del mastice non sia superiore a 2,5 g/cm 3 e che la sua percentuale in peso non superi il 25% del peso totale dell'oggetto, e che sia incisa l'indicazione "R" racchiusa in un quadrato, accompagnata dalla indicazione del peso del metallo, in grammi e decimi di grammo, seguita dal simbolo "g" per i rivestimenti in platino, palladio ed oro, e alle condizioni di cui alla successiva lettera c) per i rivestimenti in argento;  

a) In the objects partially or totally coated with a sheet of precious metal, the use of putty is allowed to fix the thin sheet to its support, on condition that the density of the putty is not more than 2,5 g/cubic cm. and that its percentage in weight does not exceed 25% of the total weight of the object, and that it is marked with an "R" in a square accompanied by the metal's weight in grams and tenths of gram, followed by the symbol "g" for the coverings in platinum, palladio and gold, and adheres to the conditions illustrated at letter c) for the coverings in silver;


b) nei piedi o basamenti di vasi, candelabri, coppe ed oggetti affini, che per praticita' di uso sono rinforzati ed appesantiti, e' ammessa la introduzione di un riempimento metallico, a condizione che questo sia applicato in maniera da poter essere smontato e che risulti totalmente visibile o che, se ricoperto con piastre o coperchi metallici o non metallici, tale copertura sia fissata in modo da poter essere, anche essa, agevolmente smontata. Su ogni parte di metallo comune, ivi comprese le piastre di copertura, deve essere impressa l'indicazione "metallo" ovvero il nome specifico del metallo o della lega impiegati. Nel caso in cui la piastra di copertura sia in metallo prezioso, essa reca il marchio di identificazione, l'indicazione del titolo, il termine "riempito", nonche' il peso del metallo fino espresso in grammi seguito dalla lettera "g" della piastra stessa;  

b) In the feet or bases of pots, candelabra, cups and similar objects weighted or strengthened, is admitted the use of a metallic filling up, to condition that this is applied in manner to be able to be dismantled and fully visible or, if covered with metallic or non metallic lids, such covering is fixed so as to be easily dismantled. Every part of non precious metal, included the covering lids, will be marked with the generic indication "metal" or the specific name of the metal or of the league used. When the covering is in precious metal it is marked with its specific mark, the title, the word riempito (filled) and its weight in grams followed from the letter "g";



c) nei manici dei coltelli e' ammesso il riempimento con sostanze non metalliche senza pregiudizio dei limiti di densita', ed e' consentito altresi' che la lama sia fissata al manico con saldatura in metallo non prezioso a condizione che in ogni manico sia inciso il termine "riempito" o facoltativamente l'indicazione "R" racchiusa in un quadrato, accompagnata dalla indicazione del peso della lega di metallo prezioso, in grammi e decimi di grammo, seguita dal simbolo "g". Nei manici in argento, nei quali il peso del metallo prezioso e' inferiore o uguale a 50 grammi, detto peso pero' puo' essere espresso anziche' col suo valore effettivo, in maniera approssimata, facendo seguire la lettera "R" (riempito) da una delle seguenti notazioni: due cifre, separate dal simbolo "÷" seguite dalla lettera "g", nelle quali le cifre rappresentano, in grammi, i valori minimo e massimo entro i quali il peso stesso deve intendersi contenuto: 1÷2, 2÷3, 3÷5, 5÷7, 7÷10, 10÷13, 13÷16, 16÷20, 20÷25, 25÷30, 30÷35, 35÷40, 40÷45, 45÷50.
c) In the handles of the knives is admitted the filling with not metallic substances without limits of its density, and is allowed to fix the blade with welding in non-precious metal to condition that the handle bears the word riempito or the mark "R" within a square and the indication of the weight of the precious metal (in grams and tenths of gram) followed by the symbol "g". In the silver handles with a weight of precious metal inferior or equal to 50 grams the weight may be expressed in approximate manner, using the "R" followed by two figures, separated from the symbol "÷" and the letter "g", in which the figures represent, in grams, the minimum and maximum weight of the precious metal: 1÷2, 2÷3, 3÷5, 5÷7, 7÷10, 10÷13, 13÷16, 16÷20, 20÷25, 25÷30, 30÷35, 35÷40, 40÷45, 45÷50.



Further Reading
John Rudlin. 1994. Commedia dell'Arte: An Actor's Handbook. Routledge.
Bari Rolfe. 1977. Commedia dell'arte: A Scene-Study Book. Personabooks.
Pierre Louis Ducharte. 1966. The Italian Comedy. Dover Publications.
Mel Gordon. 1983. Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia dell'Arte. Performing Arts Journal Publications.
Scenarios of the Commedia dell'Arte: Flaminio Scala's Il Henry F. Salerno. 1996. Translation of Teatro Delle Favole Rappresentative. Limelight Editions.
W. Macqueen-Pope. 1954. Here We Are Again, The Story of Pantomine as illustrated by Illingworth. The Daily Mail Christmas edition.

(click on images to enlarge)
Arlecchino: Italian mask

fig. 1      

Arlecchino: Italian mask Arlecchino: Italian mask

fig.2                 fig.3


Arlecchino backside Arlecchino hallmarks

fig.4                          fig.5


Fred Sinfield © - 2005 -