Antiques and architectural elements from Spain, Portugal, France and Italy; reproduction furniture and decorative accessories from across southern Europe; Spanish colonial reproductions and accent pieces from Peru
Mediterrania carries antiques and architectural elements from Spain, Portugal, France and Italy; reproduction furniture and decorative accessories from across southern Europe; Spanish colonial reproductions and accent pieces from Peru; and beautifully made and surprisingly affordable custom furniture from both Spain and Peru. We source antique furniture, accessories and reproductions in southern Europe in exactly the same manner as do our Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian counterparts. For that reason, at Mediterrania you have the opportunity to purchase authentic period pieces at price points similar to those of reproduction furniture. Since Mediterrania is the only U.S. antiques dealer that maintains its own restoration and cabinetry shop in Spain, virtually no other company in America has such a direct conduit to southern Europe as we do.
Operating as usual
"Conversations with Marc"
Mediterrania Founder and Owner Marc Gallante is widely traveled and as, over the span of decades, had some interesting conversations with locals over the years. You'll see some of his informal chats here on the Mediterrania FB page.
Here's one from a while back:
“TAXI RIDES WITH JESUS”
Much in the vein of the great Carlos Castaneda's, "Further Conversations with Don Juan", I'm thinking seriously of writing a book titled, "Taxi Rides with Jesus", chronicling the somewhat surrealistic conversations that I've enjoyed over the past 5 years with Jesus Quintana, a full-blooded Quechua Indian who acts as my driver when I'm down in Peru. Perhaps not coincidentally, Jesus is a native of a department in the Andes that is close to Carlos Castaneda's birthplace of Cajamarca, Peru.
During a recent trip to Lima, Jesus and I had the following exchange one night around 9:00 PM while we drove from the factory in Pachacamac back to my hotel in his 15 year old Subaru cab - a smoke-belching, dented, pock-marked monster with sprung Naugahyde seats that is literally bound together with baling wire and shiny silver duct tape:
Jesus: "Sr. Marc, may I ask you a very complicated and delicate question"?
Me: "Of course, Jesus. What is it?"
J: "In what part of Africa is Czechoslovakia located"?
Me: "Actually the country is now known as the Czech Republic, and its located in Eastern Europe, not in Africa".
J: "I don't mean to offend you, Sr. Marc, but that is not possible".
Me: "And why is that, Jesus"?
J: "Because my grandfather is a famous and well respected shaman among our people, and he himself told me that Czechoslovakia is located in Africa".
Me: "Forgive me Jesus, it is certainly not my intention to insult your grandfather or his wealth of knowledge, but I assure you that the country that used to be known as Czechoslovakia is located just north of Austria in Eastern Europe. In fact, I was in the capital city of Prague over a dozen times between 1985 and 1987. Has your grandfather traveled much outside Peru"?
J: "No, I don't believe he has ever left the Andean plateau, Sr. Marc. My grandfather says that he thinks much more clearly with less oxygen and therefore he prefers to live above 12,000 feet".
Me: "Your grandfather could make himself a fortune by giving seminars in logic to a lot of political hacks I know who live at sea level".
J: "Sr. Marc, pardon me, I don't wish to change the subject but I'm still not convinced by what you've said. Is it possible that they could have moved Czechoslovakia to Africa without your knowledge"?
Me: "I don't think so, Jesus. Why do you ask"?
J: "Well, clearly, any country that can change its name whenever it feels like it could secretly move itself to another continent".
Me: "Good point, Jesus. I hadn't thought of that"...
Do you know the difference?
“SPANISH” VERSUS “SPANISH COLONIAL”
Due to the proximity of Mexico to the United States, the common history that we have shared with our neighbor to the south, and the great influx of immigrants from Mexico into the U.S., the phrase “Spanish antiques” immediately signifies “Mexican” or “Spanish colonial” to the vast majority of the American buying public.
When used in reference to antique furniture, paintings or objets d’art, the term “Spanish colonial” refers specifically to those items crafted in the colonies established by the Spaniards in Mexico, Central America, South America, parts of the Caribbean, the Philippines and what today is the Southwest of the United States, following the arrival of the “conquistadores” to the New World in the 16th century.
For obvious reasons of logistics and supply, Spanish colonial furniture was almost exclusively crafted in woods indigenous to Latin America: sabino, mesquite, mahogany, cedar, alder and ponderosa pine were the woods most readily available to artisans in the colonies.
In general it is fair to say that antique furniture from the north of Spain was usually crafted in hardwoods such as walnut, oak, chestnut, elm, cherry and beech, while pieces from the south of the country tended to be made in softer woods such as pine or poplar. Fine Spanish Renaissance furniture was most often produced in walnut, the most prized of hardwoods available to artisans at the time.
Spanish colonial furniture is the direct result of the marriage of arts and crafts styles from Old World Europe and the more primitive traditions of the native Indian cultures that flourished in the New World at the time of the Spaniards’ arrival. For that reason many colonial pieces were characterized by chunky, Baroque-style carving and lines. Additionally, when one considers that one of the Spaniards’ chief objectives in the New World was the conversion of souls to the Catholic Church, it is not surprising to note that much of the furniture produced in the colonies was ecclesiastic in style and feel.
“SPANISH” VERSUS “SPANISH COLONIAL”
It is curious to observe how some areas of the American Southwest and Latin America still cling to the belief that certain characteristics of furniture design and decoration originated here. For example, country furniture from northern New Mexico often features thumbnail carving (sometimes referred to as “bullet” or “chip” carving) and is generally thought to be indigenous to the northern part of the state. In fact, this type of carving is extremely typical of the Rioja wine region in north-central Spain, and is often seen on “Riojano” blanket chests, credenzas and tables crafted between the 16th and 19th centuries. It is also very common to find bright, multi-colored naif motifs on painted beds and cabinetry pieces from the same regions that are reminiscent of many primitive painted pieces produced in northern New Mexico between the 17th and 19th centuries.
The most notable characteristic of antique furniture and doors from northern Spain is the widespread use of mixed woods (pine and walnut, poplar and oak, elm and walnut, pine and oak or chestnut, etc.), and by the juxtaposition of those different woods to create patterns or design motifs. This is highly typical of furniture crafted in La Rioja and areas of Old Castile between the 16th and 19th centuries.
Because there are so few direct importers in the U.S. of true antiques from Old World Spain, the period of furniture-making history that most Americans associate with “Spanish”, is what is commonly known today as the “Second Renaissance” (“Segundo Renacimiento”): at the end of the 19th century, when the Spanish empire was in the process of losing its last remaining colonies in the Philippines and Cuba, many thousands of craftsmen were obliged to return home to Spain. Their arrival immediately sparked a major resurgence of dark, heavily carved classic Renaissance-style furnishings that were almost exclusively produced in hardwoods such as chestnut, oak or walnut.
Despite most American consumers’ belief that all antique Spanish furniture is dark and heavily carved, it is important to note that in reality early Spanish pieces were usually less ornate and more austere than those produced during the same time in France, Portugal or Italy.
From Marc's Blog:
As a dealer, I like to watch the "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS, primarily because I enjoy pitting what knowledge I have gained over the years with the experts that appear on the show. However, there is one thing that really sticks in my craw about the "Roadshow": almost without fail the experts on the show will admonish people not to touch, clean or restore a piece if they wish to maintain its value. And generally speaking, that's sound advice. However, close to 20 years in the antiques business has taught me that "restoration" is a relative term.
For example, over the years I've found dozens of stunning 17th and 18th century decorative painted pieces in the northern Spanish regions of Old Castile, La Rioja, Aragon and Catalonia that were covered in the 19th or 20th century with oil base house paint. You see, in the latter half of the 18th century good decorative painting came to be regarded as "frivolous" and a "sin against God". Therefore in order to avoid problems with Mother Church, many owners of fine painted furniture simply opted to paint over the original decoration. Presto, change-o, problem solved!
According to the very narrow view taken by experts on the "Roadshow", in restoring a painted piece by stripping away later 19th century house paint to reveal the original period painting, we have "detracted" from its value. For obvious reasons, I strongly disagree with that stance, and believe that we are adding to the value of these wonderful painted antiques.
Some valuable information from Owner Marc Gallante:
“Prima patina” is the term used by many Italian antiques dealers, (primarily those located in the north central regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio) to describe the finish on a period piece of furniture that is untouched (i.e., prior to any posterior restoration, superficial cleaning or waxing)...
As most of our clients already know, at “Mediterrania” we have always purchased all of the southern European antiques offered at our Scottsdale, AZ and Santa Fe, NM showrooms completely unrestored. In so doing, we obtain the most competitive prices possible and are able to ascertain what, if anything, has been done to the pieces over the course of their lives.
In addition, by sourcing completely "raw" pieces we are able to carry out any restoration needed at our workshop in Catalonia, Spain in strict accordance with our goal of taking the pieces back to their original, or near original, state. In essence, that is the true definition of "restoration".
We source antique furniture, accessories and reproductions in southern Europe in exactly the same manner as do our Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian counterparts. For that reason, at Mediterrania you have the opportunity to purchase authentic period pieces at price points similar to those of reproduction furniture.
Since Mediterrania is the only U.S. antiques dealer that maintains its own restoration and cabinetry shop in Spain, virtually no other company in America has such a direct conduit to southern Europe as we do.
Our Virtual Tour of Mediterrania is quite spectacular (thanks, web guys). You can see it here:
seemystore.ca Mediterrania Antique , Old World, Furniture Scottsdale AZ
Aragón: Of Kings and Painters (part 3)
Period country furniture from Aragón was most often crafted in pine, the most abundant wood found in the region. Antique furnishings and doors produced at higher altitudes in the Pyrenees region of the province of Huesca were most often fashioned in red pine, a beautifully tight-grained and dense wood. Those pieces that hailed from the lower elevations of the more arid provinces of Zaragoza and Teruel tended to be made in honey pine.
The deceptively simple oblique carving on most fine Aragonese pieces, the superb wrought iron work and the lustrous patinas of the woods make antiques from this region among the most sought-after of treasures by top Spanish dealers.
Aragón: Of Kings and Painters (part 2)
The medieval town of Sos del Rey Católico in the province of Huesca was the birthplace of King Ferdinand of Aragón, husband to Queen Isabelle of Castile and León. Located near the foothills of the Pyrenees, Sos is truly one of the most picturesque villages in northern Spain. Every cobblestone street and alleyway that surrounds the Sada Palace (Ferdinand’s ancestral home) speaks of history. One can easily envision the candle-lit late night councils of war that the young king must have celebrated here with his queen and the noblemen of Aragón while planning his next battle in the seemingly eternal struggle against the Moorish invaders who dominated much of the Iberian Peninsula for 774 years.
Born in the tiny rural village of Fuendetodos (province of Zaragoza) on March 30, 1746, Goya is considered one of the most renowned of Spain’s master painters and the Father of Modern Art. Over the 82 years of his life Goya rose from impoverished obscurity to become court painter during the reign of the Spanish monarch, Charles III, a position that he maintained throughout the life of Charles IV and on into the monarchy of Ferdinand VII.
As the new millennium dawned at the end of the 18th century, Goya fell prey to a severe illness that left him deaf and eventually alienated him completely from the ostentation of the Spanish Court. It was during this dark and depressing period that Goya produced his famous “Black Paintings”. As any visitor to Madrid’s Prado Museum will attest, this series of shocking monumental oils depicts in terrible detail the horrors perpetrated by Napoleon’s troops as they took Spain’s capital city.
Another excerpt from Marc Gallante's extensive travels:
Aragón: Of Kings and Painters (part 1)
Bordered on the north by the towering snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees Mountains; to the west by the open plains and golden wheat fields of Old Castile; to the east by the gently rolling hills of Catalonia; and to the south by the wildly surrealistic cliffs and forests of New Castile and the high country of Levante, the region of Aragón in north-central Spain boasts the most varied topography on the Iberian Peninsula.
Comprised of the three provinces of Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel, Aragón has traditionally been a quiet underpopulated agricultural region in which most country folk still depend upon farming, livestock and forestry for their livelihoods. Interestingly, despite the area’s relative poverty, it gave birth to both the first king of what would one day become a more or less unified Spain, Ferdinand of Aragón, and perhaps Spain’s greatest painter, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes.
MARC TREASURE HUNTING
After your meal, perhaps a little dessert?
"Bar Ricchi" (located in Piazza Santo Spirito)
Piazza Santo Spirito 8/9R
50124 Florence Tel: 055 215 864
- For real gelato "conoscenti", Bar Ricchi is the place to go. "Vivoli" (located near Piazza Santa Croce) might be the most internationally known gelateria in the city, but the locals maintain that their gelato is much too sweet. In my opinion "Bar Ricchi" has the best gelato in Florence, bar none. I used to grab a gelato there after lunch, another in the late afternoon and again after supper (of course, that's when I looked much like the Pillsbury Doughboy).
Continuing to share Owner Marc Gallante's extensive experience, here's something he wrote aobut the best eateries in Florence:
My favorite restaurants in Florence
Most tourists in Florence spend the majority of their time on the monumental side of the Arno River visiting the Duomo, the Baptistry, the Uffizzi Gallery, the Accademia, etc. However, for those who really know the city well, in many ways the opposite side of the Arno (known as the “Oltrarno” area of the city) is the true Florence.
Since sampling the local cuisine is half the fun of European travel, following is a list of my three favorite restaurants on the Oltrarno side of the river, as well as what I believe is the best “gelateria” in all of Florence:
"Alla Vecchia Bettola" (two short blocks from Porta Romana)
Viale Vasco Pratolini
50124 Florence Tel: 055 224158
- This is one of my absolute favorite spots - simple Tuscan cooking, exquisitely prepared to bring out all the rich flavors of the ingredients. My favorite meal consists of "crostini" as an antipasto (a liver-based, incredibly tasty, sloppy-joe-like topping served on thin slices of toasted peasant bread), "penne alla bettola" (penne pasta served in a tangy, slightly spicy, creamy tomato-based sauce) and "bistecca alla fiorentina con insalata" (sliced and grilled "Florentine beef chop" served with salad). This meal is to die for!
"Da Ruggero" (approx 5 blocks up Via Senese from Porta Romana)
Via Senese, 89-R
50124 Florence Tel: 055 220542
- Long before it became a popular trattoria for locals, "Ruggero" was a butcher shop (check out the spiral patterns of stone that are laid into the floors). As befits its history, the grilled meats here are absolutely superb. My favorite cut is the "lombatina di vitello" (grilled white veal chop). The "lombatina" with a fresh salad and grilled Tuscan veggies is my idea of a perfect meal.
"Trattoria Omero" (7 or 8 minute cab ride from Porta Romana)
Via Pian dei Giullari 47,
50125 Florence Tel: 055 220 053
- Situated in the hills above the Oltrarno side of Florence, "Omero" is one of the best trattorias in the area. Located in what used to be a separate village from Florence, it is specialized in traditional Tuscan gastronomy and is one of those simple country restaurants with superb cooking that began as a bakery / deli back in the 19th century. My favorite pasta dishes here are the "penne strascicate" (whole wheat pasta in a creamy tomato sauce), and the “pappardelle al lepre” (large flat noodles in hare sauce). The traditional “bistecca alla fiorentina” (Florentine chop) is terrific, and the “pollo schiacciato” (butterflyed chicken cooked with oil and herbs between two white hot bricks) is a house specialty. The veggies, salads and desserts (particularly "crema bavarese") are all excellent.
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