The borderline between art and crafts is not always clear, and cannot always be confidently traced. Often, in fact, the mind and eyes of the artist need the help of the hands of the craftsman to give form to an idea. When this collaboration happens, the genius of one and the skill of the other are brought together in concrete, material form.
This is also true of the bronze sculptures of some of the great artists of the 20th century, who turned (or still turn) to Milanese foundries to make their works, in the certainty of finding the required expertise and sensibilities. Delivering a model in clay, plaster or other materials (known as a “negative”), the artists entrust the making of their artwork, the final, decisive passage, in practice, to artisans. Among others, Mario Negri, Alik Cavaliere and Francesco Messina had working relationships with the craftsmen at three foundries in Milan, all skilled masters in the “lost wax” casting technique using bronze.
The first was MAF (Moderna Fonderia Artistica). Founded in the 1870s by the engineer Lazzari, the foundry was taken forward by the casters Menescardi, Austoni and Figini, the latter a sculptor in his own right (MAF is an acronym of the initials of their surnames). The foundry has recently moved to Via Soperga in Milan, at Pioltello, and has also become a teaching facility for the Accademia di Brera, with a special studio for instruction on casting techniques.
At MAF the young Giuseppe De Andreis, known as “Pinella,” worked for several years, then striking out on his own in 1964 to open the Fonderia De Andreis. Now run by his three children, the foundry (in Rozzano, on Via Volturno) continues with the tradition passed down from father to sons.
Finally, but no less important, comes the Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, founded in 1913 on Via Gran San Bernardo and moved in the 1950s to Via Stilicone, where it is still located today.
All three foundries are still operating, not only by collaborating with great artists as in the past, but also focusing on the preservation and teaching of precious techniques and skills.