Alessandro Castellani was an Italian jeweller and collector with an international reputation. The Museum’s attempt to rent his collection of classical antiquaries, jewellery, glass and statuary in 1871 failed but it later succeeded in purchasing objects at Castellani’s posthumous sale in the Palazzo Rosso, Rome, in 1884.
Alessandro Castellani was born in 1823 into the Italian Castellani family of jewellers, collectors and writers. The firm, founded in Rome by his father, Fortunato Pio Castellani, in the early 19th century, was expanded further into Europe by Alessandro Castellani when he acquired premises at 85 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, Paris, while in political exile from Italy in 1860. Assisted by his friend Carlo Giuliano (1831-95), he also established a business in London, located at 13 Frith Street in Soho, followed by another in Naples in 1863. Castellani designed, as well as sold, jewellery and examples of two of his are at the V&A: a pair of bracelets (634-1884 and 635-1884) based on a pair of Etruscan baule-type earrings (Louvre Museum, Paris) from the Campana Collection. The firm’s designs were closely inspired by antique and medieval pieces in their substantial collection, and through reproduction of these items, Castellani jewellery became known for perfectly applying the techniques of filigree and granulation used in antique jewellery; these techniques are well represented in the V&A’s collection of Castellani jewellery. In 1862, he published a pamphlet, Antique Jewellery and its Revival, in which he 'outlined the history, aims and influences of the firm'. As well as advising the V&A on purchases of objects, Castellani was also consulted by the French government on purchases from the Campana Collection, and by the British Museum. He died in 1883.
Information in the V&A Archive
MA/1/C713: Nominal file – Castellani
MA/3/9, 14-15, 28-29, 33, 39, 40 & 45: Art Referees' reports, 1863-1886
MA/30/46 & 47: Central Inventory registers
MA/31/1 & 2: Registers of loans in
MA/49/2/59: Press cuttings
Henry Cole: diaries: typed transcripts, 1822-1882
Selected printed works
de Witte, J. Catalogue de la collection d'antiquités de M. Alexandre Castellani. Paris, 1866. NAL Pressmark: 96.LL Box VII
Thompson, Stephen. The Castellani collection: a series of twenty photographs, selected and described by C. T. Newton. London: George Bell and Sons, 1874. NAL Pressmark: 64.D.25
Castellani, Alessandro. A memoir of the jewellery of the ancients. [London?: s.n., ca. 1860]. NAL Pressmark: 209.F
Italian jewellery as worn by the peasants of Italy / collected by Signor Castellani, and purchased from the Paris Universal Exhibition for the South Kensington Museum. London: Arundel Society for Promoting the Knowledge of Art, 1868. NAL Pressmark: 48.EE.26.b
Castellani, Alessandro. Antique jewellery and its revival. London: W. Clowes and Sons, . NAL Pressmark: 210.G Box II
The Concise Grove Dictionary of Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002
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