«I discover Tintoretto, Tiziano and Tiepolo and sometimes I give them away» – Corriere.it

from Stefano Lorenzetto

Collector for almost 70 years, his works have been exhibited in the largest museums in the world: I returned the Perugino stolen from the church and saved the crucifix of San Marco

In accordance with the ancient adage Venessiani great gentlemen, Pietro Scarpa owns two personal museums. One, open to the public, next to the Accademia Galleries, unmistakable for the obl-shaped entrance door designed by Carlo Scarpa: No kinship. The other is his house in Cannaregio, recognizable by the monumental facade with the altinelle, the small bricks that were used in Venice until the fourteenth century. In the first it looms large The origin of Love
by Tintoretto, a canvas measuring 2.5 by 1.80 meters exhibited in the past by the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, which Scarpa recovered in Paris thirty years ago: Computer pirates steal my image on the Web and sell the poster to 1,500 euros life size, snorts the dean of antique dealers. In the second few close friends can admire the Portrait of Zuan Paolo da Ponte
by Tiziano, just returned from an exhibition at Palazzo Tadea di Spilimbergo, two Tiepolos, two Cima da Conegliano, a Veronese, a Carpaccio, a Madonna and Child with Angels
by Donatello and one by Brunelleschi, plus countless other masterpieces, including the only existing portrait in the world of the typographer Aldo Manuzio (almost certainly painted by Carpaccio), and an amazing table by Gio Ponti, with zodiacal symbols on a golden background and central mirror reflecting a ceramic frame by Luca della Robbia, hanging on the dining room wall.
Scarpa has soon been doing this job for 70 years: chasing, finding, studying, dating, authenticating. Once I was called to evaluate a Titian that Aristotle Onassis had given to Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly for their wedding: it was false. Presenting it at Harvard University, Andrew Robinson, curator of the National gallery in Washington, only pronounces his name and surname, since all the scholars and collectors in the world had either already been in his gallery near the Academy Bridge or they would have happened there. Nobody manages to pass those shop windows arranged on three different sides without stopping to look. See you later un’ostrega !, the muttering that chases time wasters tourists if they dare to enter just to browse.

In a low voice, but does not send them to say.

You know, for us Venetians the whole countryside is beyond the Ponte della Libert bridge. One day my wife sees a boy with his nose glued to the windows: “Varda che bel fio!”. The young man rings the bell. I didn’t want to open. Tatiana lets him in: it was Leonardo DiCaprio with his mother.

And what did he buy?

Nothing. Would you like to put Cesare Merzagora, president of the Senate, a lover of Roman glass? Elton John is also a learned client. He went to get educated in the sacristy of San Zaccaria. I sold him two panels of sixteenth-century nudes.

Among his clients, Amintore Fanfani.

Valent painter. He came to my stand at the Palazzo Strozzi exhibition. I asked him: what do they think of us in other countries? He replied: “When my colleagues make me talk about the Italian people, I always say better than their rulers.”

Did you meet Peggy Guggenheim?

No, she was too obsessed with modern art. My wife met her at the hairdresser Gino, in Frezzaria. She was also demanding styling for her dog.

always been here at the academy?

Since 1997. I opened the first shop at the age of 17 in calle Larga XXII Marzo. Then I moved to Campo San Mois, a 9 square meter hole. The future popes Roncalli and Luciani, then patriarchs, black robes without red buttons, came to chat with the gondoliers. Ezra Pound rested absorbed in a chair outside my shop.

Where was he born?

Sestiere di San Marco, under the leaning bell tower of San Maurizio. When I was 14 I had to go to Uncle Antonio’s shop. He was selling modest paintings. Apart from a Christ carrying the cross attributed to Titian.

A little early to work.

On my father’s identity card it said “landowner”. His family owned shops in San Marco and on the Rialto bridge and houses in Pellestrina. Unfortunately he died of cancer at the age of 49.

How did your culture make it?

Museums and books, books and museums. I spent two thirds of my life in the Accademia Galleries, studying The storm by Giorgione, Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, Lorenzo Lotto, Vittorio Carpaccio. When I was not there, I was at the Correr Museum or at the Querini Stampalia Foundation.

What’s the highlight in here?

Turn around: Giovanni Boltraffio, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci. Art historian George Knox has speculated that she is the Roman vestal Tuccia. Nol g boss! Purity. In fact, he holds a basin and is reflected in the clear water.

Where did you find him?

In Paris, 30 years ago. They put it up for auction, ignoring what they had in their hands. Today it is worth 800,000 euros. In the French capital I also tracked down The origin of Love, commissioned in 1562 by Federico Contarini, procurator of San Marco, to adorn the antechamber of the Marciana Library, paid to Tintoretto 5 gold ducats. It was stolen at the fall of the Serenissima. The heirs of the Duke of Treviso, Napoleon’s marshal, had it.

Yep, the Bonapartists stole everything.

In a bric – brac near the Htel Drouot auction house I found the Nursing Madonna with Child of Cima da Conegliano. I keep it hanging at the foot of the bed. He only left my room for an exhibit at Tokyo’s Bunkamura museum.

Is it possible that you will find all the treasures?

Yes, because I have cataloged them in here. (He touches his forehead with his right index finger). And I still see well. I’m going to Germany. A friend shows me some drawings. I sense its value. I buy them and study them for months: they were a very important seventeenth-century collection of the doge Zaccaria Sagredo. At home I also have two huge portraits of Doges Cornaro, one by Sebastiano Ricci, the other by Pietro Liberi. They were originally located in the Corner Building, where the Guardia di Finanza is now based, who asked me for them on loan for use to hang them in the headquarters of the command. But my Tatiana was adamant: “Dams that hide the photos on the wall”.

You need an accordion wallet to get hold of such masterpieces.

It takes courage. The works he sees are all ours, never kept stuff on consignment. On 12 September 2001 my sons Sebastiano and Jacopo locked them in the vault: the day before there had been the attack on the Twin Towers, it was thought that Italy was going to war. The postman delivered us a catalog. Jacopo noticed a painting that was being done that same evening in Vienna. Part: deserted airport, empty auction house. He won the canvas for 2,500 euros. Nobody understood who the author was. Now we know: Lorenzo Lotto.

Who says that?

The world. Even the Pontifical Museum of the Holy House of Loreto asked us to borrow it, where the last 9 canvases that Lotto painted after becoming an oblate of the sanctuary are kept. It depicts his protector Agostino Filago.

But how can he be so sure in the attribution of the works he identifies?

With the opinions of the experts, Vittorio Sgarbi excluded, I clean my shoes. At one time the second-born of the patrician families were sent to the monastery of San Zaccaria. Today, instead of becoming nuns, they study art history. I have to deal every day with foreigners who rewrite the lives of our painters and sculptors without speaking Italian, without knowing a single word of Latin. They can’t read an ancient document. They are still at the ipse dixit. To cry, look. There are university students who come here with the thesis and leave after having done it again.

There will also be some exceptions.

Of course. Doretta Davanzo Poli, professor of textile art history, able to date the paintings according to the coherence of the clothes, but dead, alas. And Rosa Barovier Mentasti, from the Murano family of glassblowers, the archaeologist who identifies a Tintoretto from a transparency.

You considered a patron.

I like to give. I had Corinna Mattiello restore the great crucifix in the basilica of San Marco. What a thrill to hold the head of Christ in your hands, in silver blackened by time. Seeing her shine again on Easter night was an indescribable joy.

He donated a painting by Perugino.

Years of study to ascertain it was there St. Scholastica stolen by a soldier in the church of San Pietro Vincioli in Perugia during the First World War. I felt it was my duty to return it. I got it from my father. He helped Don Olinto Marella, a native of Pellestrina, founder of the City of Boys in Bologna. The blessed future often came to our home.

But what is art for you?

If it speaks to anyone who looks at it, that art. I had an argument with my friend Pierre Rosenberg, former director of the Louvre. He claimed that the most beautiful painting in the world is the St. Francis in the desert by Giovanni Bellini from the Frick collection in New York. Oh no, my dear, L’Assunta by Titian in the Frari church, because the 12 apostles at the foot of the Madonna are real fishermen, from Burano and Chioggia. He thought about it for a moment, then concluded: “You’re right”.

Did your wife Tatiana help you?

Very. And even more he helped the old people of the San Lorenzo hospice and cancer patients. Let her tell you the story of Fabrizia, a young and beautiful terminally ill person, who on her deathbed wanted to marry her airline pilot Davide. I will not be bon de counting it.

Can this city still be saved?

Ren Maheu, director general of Unesco, told me: “Venice stands up because it is held up by the threads of light”.

So doomed to die?

No, as long as the Venetians are there. But now there are few left. Semo tuti veci.

December 3, 2021 (change December 3, 2021 | 22:58)

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