Bottega d’Arte Toscana – Ancient Italian Gold Art Techniques in the 21st Century | Exclusive Interview with Silvia Salvadori



Bottega d’Arte Toscana – Ancient Italian Gold Art Techniques in the 21st Century | Exclusive Interview with Silvia Salvadori

BY WORLD ART NEWS © Silvia Salvadori

Silvia Salvadori is an award-winning Italian painter who specializes in contemporary iconography as well as Gothic and Medieval art styles. She is one of the few artist in Italy that uses ancient pictorial techniques that were handed down directly from Cennino Cennini himself.

Silvia was born in 1978 in Sinalunga, Siena, Italy. She Graduated from the Art Institute of Duccio di Buoninsegna, studied Archeology at the Faculty of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Siena. In 2004 Silvia received her Master’s degree in Conservation and Management of Cultural Heritage. She was a museum conservator and curator in France. Silvia also worked at the Museum of Santa Maria della Scala and the Museum of the Duomo Opera.

Now, from her studio “Bottega d’Arte Toscana” in Arezzo, Tuscany, Silvia creates incredible historical reproductions as well as stunning original works of fine modern art, often merging the past and the present techniques in spectacular ways. Real 24 karat gold, which has become her artistic signature, is ever-present on most of Silvia’s paintings which are in high demand in Europe and all over the world.

Energy © Silvia Salvadori

Can you tell our readers about your childhood, family, and the environment you grew up in? Were you an artistic child? 

I was an artistic child because of my father. When he was younger he loved painting and he instilled that love in me. I grew up in Zulimo Aretini’s home, he was a very famous Tuscan ceramist and artist. Living in such an environment, with paintings and ceramics hanging from the floor to the ceiling, was certainly a privilege. From this location since adolescence I began to organize a personal way of seeing the world, in particular to create a relationship between myself and the reality on a poetic and visual level. Those images stimulated my curiosity towards further experiences such as following exhibitions, painting, observing nature and attending museums. The trips made with my parents were conceived usually for holidays but, at the same time, extended for the exploration of the historical and artistic characteristics of a chosen place. Finally, thanks to my father’s work, we had the chance to live in wonderful Italian cities. The long stay in Sicily, a land that has its roots in the Greek-Byzantine and Arab-Norman culture, was of fundamental importance for my artistic education.

When did you start painting? 

At the age of 12, browsing through a book of art, I came across in “Vaso di Girasoli” made by Vincent Van Gogh. Dazzled by the brushstroke and the light that his favourite colour, yellow, gave off, I decided to practice reproducing the painting. Not having bought any brushes yet, I painted it with my fingers. From there I understood that this is what I must do in life.

© Silvia Salvadori

How would you describe your art style and how long did it take you to master it? 

Always fascinated by ancient art, in my art style I normally use the ancient painting techniques handed down to us by Cennino Cennini in his work called “Libro dell’Arte” and by Giorgio Vasari in the “Vite dei più eccellenti pittori, scultori, architetti“. 

Thanks to my training in archeology, I was able to take back the secrets of this ancient technique by studying every imperceptible layer until I find its true essence or the soul of a painting. It is a stratigraphic painting, made up of many brushstrokes of chalk, clays, gold leaves, engravings and a myriad of shades of colours.

Knowledge of the intrinsic properties of each material used is of fundamental importance to create a work with attention to every smallest detail.

From all this, it’s clear that a real artist is also an alchemist who creates and transforms the raw material making it understandable even to the untrained.

What materials do you use and how long does it take for you to create an artwork on average? 

Precious wood essences, gypsum, Armenian clays, pure 23k gold, glues, resins of vegetable and animal origin, pure pigments, lapis lazuli and precious stones are some of the materials I normally use to give birth to my works which are usually created over a period of time that goes from two to six months of work.

Angel Gabriel, Iconography, Reproduction © Silvia Salvadori

How do you decide what size an artwork will be and what is the typical size of your paintings? 

The size of a work depends on the subject I have to paint, although often, working on commission, it is the buyer who decides the size based on personal taste, price and the materials to be used. Generally the required dimensions are 40x60cm or 20x20cm.

Was it difficult to become a full-time artist and what risks, challenges or setbacks did you have to face in your art career?

At the beginning it was very difficult to become a full-time artist because I had to make myself known and my art to be appreciated. The greatest difficulties were: the purchase of some work tools, the availability of some precious pigments as well as the comprehension of market logic (art follows the market trends, so art and finance are strictly interconnected).

Were there any significant events during your art career that influenced your artistic development? 

The most significant period for my professional training was my stay in Siena, Tuscany, the city where I started to practice with Medieval Sienese art by studying the works and techniques of Simone Martini and Duccio di Buoninsegna. Having treasured that art, I moved to Arezzo, where I began studying the painting of Piero della Francesca, a great artist of the early Renaissance.

The Heart of Women © Silvia Salvadori

How long did it take you to achieve financial success as an artist and what lessons did you learn along the way? 

Financial success came after about ten years and I immediately learned that, to avoid spending large sums of money to purchase the materials to carry out the work, I have to ask the customer for an advance payment so that he can guarantee me the coverage of the initial expenses.

What is your favourite or most exotics artwork? 

My favorite artwork is “Una finestra sul Tempo”. It is a tribute to Arezzo and to the painting of Piero della Francesca. The element of the chessboard retains a great evocative and symbolic force. The chessboard in art represents the mathematics, philosophy, poetry and painting of the Renaissance where everything was constructed in a strictly geometric way. The lady painted in Renaissance clothes supports and embraces Arezzo immersed in a white space as if almost pushed by a massive explosion of pure energy. The Arezzo painted by Giotto appears to the viewers as a real heavenly Jerusalem “like a very precious gem, like a stone of crystalline jasper”.

Una finestra sul Tempo © Silvia Salvadori

How do you come up with innovative art ideas? 

New and innovative ideas often come to light from traveling and coming into contact with other cultures, and visiting artistic cities. However, it often happens that when you come into contact with nature, the spark is born. Living in a land like Tuscany, I feel lucky because it offers breathtaking views and landscapes, worthy of stimulating the artist’s imagination.

What makes your art unique? 

The use of colour and in particular the gold one. Indeed, my motto is: “Lux Aurea: Colour and gold as inner poetry”.

Who are your favorite artists and what works of art influenced you the most – and why?

My favourite artists are: Simone Martini, Gentile da Fabriano, Vincent Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, William Turner, Paul Klee. 

The works of art that influenced me the most are: “l’Annunciazione” by Simone Martini, Gentile da Fabriano’s “Angels” but also Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” which is, in my opinion, the work containing all of the universe light.

What types of art do you like to surround yourself with?

I like to surround myself with my works because every picture is for me is like travelling, the memory of an emotion lived during my whole life.

Marilyn Monroe © Silvia Salvadori

In your opinion, what is the primary skill set one must possess to be a good artist?

Artists are born not made. School and study can sharpen your skills, but if you don’t have the soul of an artist within you, you can’t become it. The technique and the years of experience can only improve you as an artist. It’s very important to listen to that inner voice which is often the source of every new idea.

There are so many artists today creating amazing art in a vast array of mediums and styles, do you ever feel the pressure of competition?  

I think about art as an educational mission, therefore I’ve never felt the pressure of competition simply because every artist is unique and special. 

Do NFTs interest you as an artist?

Yes, they do. I find NFTs very interesting even if it is a new world to be explored for traditional artists.

What advice would you give to new artists that wish to make art their career?

Believe in your own abilities and dreams. Art is not long in coming and if you are born with this gift you have to cherish it and start painting right away.

What is the most expensive painting you ever sold?

The most expensive painting was a commissioned reproduction of Sandro Botticelli’s “Madonna del libro”. The work measured 55 x 75 cm and was made by me faithfully using the pictorial techniques of the 1400s.

“Madonna del libro” Reproduction of Sandro Botticelli by Silvia Salvadori

How much do your paintings cost on average and how do you price your work?

By using raw materials of a certain value, prices are calculated on the basis of the pigment used and the work time required for the execution of each work.

Which paintings sell better, larger or smaller? 

I usually sell medium-sized paintings, but larger artworks are also in demand.

How do you promote and where do you sell your art?

I promote and sell my art at my Gallery in Arezzo, through my website as well as on social networks.

Do you have to look for buyers or do they find you, and with how many clients do you work on a regular basis? 

Usually clients come directly to the Gallery to give me some commission or to buy my works. Recently, it often happens that requests come to me through the e-mail on my website.

On average, I work with about twenty customers a year.

Italy – Tribute to Gino Severini © Silvia Salvadori

Who buys your artworks? What is the age spectrum of your clients and from what countries or regions do they come from? 

My works are often bought by clients who love the medieval and Renaissance style.

I have clients who come from: England, USA, France, Holland and Japan.

How has COVID impacted your business and what changes, if any, did you have to  make?

COVID was a real challenge. In Italy it has decimated cultural events and especially those concerning the art sector. Fortunately, my infinite love for art has allowed me not to stop and give life to many new paintings.

What is your overall outlook on how the art market is changing?

COVID and the current war have certainly put a stop to many artists from continuing to make art. I consider the current market as a reflection of the individual status quo, but from my point of view, art should return to its mission of educating the beauty as well as the community, since it is the creation of value that contributes to social development.