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Alfredo Volpi (1896-1988)
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Alfredo Volpi (1896-1988)

Untitled (Bandeirinhas com Mastros no Azul) (Untitled (Flags with Masts in Blue))

Details
Alfredo Volpi (1896-1988)
Untitled (Bandeirinhas com Mastros no Azul) (Untitled (Flags with Masts in Blue))
signed 'A Volpi' (on the reverse)
tempera on canvas
28 3/8 x 56 ¾in. (72 x 144.1cm.)
Executed circa 1960s
Provenance
Cosme Velho Galeria de Arte, São Paulo.
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1980).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Post lot text
Please note this work will be included in the artist’s forthcoming Catálogo Parcial das Obras de Alfredo Volpi, published by the Instituto Alfredo Volpi de Arte Moderna.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

A scintillating expanse of colour and form, Untitled (Bandeirinhas com Mastros no Azul) is a lyrical painting by Alfredo Volpi, one of Brazil’s foremost twentieth-century painters. Exceedingly rare in its large scale, it will be included in the Instituto Volpi’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work. Flashing across a broad canvas almost 1.5 metres wide, rows of chevron-like shapes and shafts in hues of violet, green and inky blue create a linear, rhythmic composition. Volpi structures the work with the genius of a natural colourist, and its geometric qualities are softened by the delicate, organic touch of his tempera brushwork. The title translates roughly as ‘Flags with Masts in Blue’: bandeirinhas are a traditional fork-shaped form of bunting, closely associated with Brazilian folklore and popular festivals such as the festa junina, an annual midsummer celebration. Opulent in tone and lively in tempo, Untitled (Bandeirinhas com Mastros no Azul) exemplifies Volpi’s unique and beautiful brand of vernacular abstraction.

Born in Italy in 1896, Volpi moved with his parents to São Paulo at the age of two, and worked variously as a bookbinder, typographer, interior decorator and muralist before starting to experiment with oil painting. In the early 1930s, he and a number of other Italian immigrants – many of them also from humble artisanal backgrounds – formed the Grupo Santa Helena in response to the elitism of the Brazilian art world at the time. His occupational interest in architecture and design gradually led him to a flat, semi-abstract idiom incorporating façade- and doorway-like forms, and, by the 1960s, his iconic bandeirinhas, painted in tempera pigments he prepared himself. His vibrant works bridged the worlds of figurative modernist painting and the geometric abstraction of the 1950s Neo-Concrete movement, creating an artistic language with a distinctive cultural identity and urban edge. A self-taught artist – famously dismissed as a ‘flag painter’ by Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, with whom he shared the Grand Prix at the 1953 São Paulo Art Biennial – Volpi was in fact deeply erudite, engaging with a broad array of influences from the Bauhaus works of Josef Albers to the Italian Renaissance frescoes of Piero della Francesca.

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