Fourth-generation silversmith Ubaldo Vitali. Photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Unveiling the Goldsmith's Mysterious Language

Sunday, May 19, 2013
3:00 pm

Ubaldo Vitali, a recent MacArthur fellow and fourth-generation silversmith, conservator, and scholar, presents the free lecture "Unveiling the Goldsmith's Mysterious Language," the final lecture in the four-part series "A Feast for the Eyes: Food, Porcelain, Silver, and Luxury Fabrics." Vitali discusses how the goldsmith has used art and science to communicate subliminally through objects. He explores silver made for churches, temples, and the home, identifying how select pieces have elevated the human spirit throughout history.

Vitali draws upon a deep knowledge of past and modern metalworking techniques to restore historical masterworks in silver and to create original works of art. As a conservator of works from medieval Europe to colonial America, he restores the aesthetic integrity of pieces distorted by damage or age. Based on his examination of written archival sources and material objects, he also preserves the physical and metallurgical evidence related to a piece's fabrication, thereby illuminating the original artisan's process and the social and intellectual underpinnings of his or her design. Vitali provides further insight into the design principles and execution processes of specific historic periods by creating replicas of antique objects.

"A Feast for the Eyes: Food, Porcelain, Silver, and Luxury Fabrics" celebrates sumptuously decorative, yet functional, works of art dating from the Middle Ages to today. Specialist lecturers trace the evolution of the elaborately set table from Medieval Europe to the Gilded Age in New York; explore our understanding of European and American silver from the past, and what certain objects tell us; place Meissen porcelain of the eighteenth century in its political context; and discuss the art of upholstering with Fortuny fabrics today. Each talk highlights the luxury and opulence of decorative art objects and explores their intriguing social contexts.