But most importantly, the Florence Antiques Fair wrought a substantial change in the general perception of the antique dealer: from a mere discoverer of old curiosities he became a refined connoisseur of the forms and the colours that art has assumed over time – and therefore a participant in the highest economic and cultural strata of society.
Paulette Goddard The prevailing taste in those years was for Renaissance, 18th-century Venetian and 18th-century French furnishings. The essential task of furniture was to decorate the home, a mission to which painting, sculpture and the decorative arts also bowed. The international collectors bestowed their admiration on gilded backgrounds, 15th- and 16th-century sculpture, porcelain, silver and objects decorated in decoupage and defined as ‘poor art.’
Principessa Irene di GreciaThose were also the years in which a new generation of art historians began a systematic and capillary study of the various compartments within the antiques market, elevating antiques from the generic limbo in which they had theretofore languished and attributing each piece its correct historic and documental value.
Over the course of the successive editions, the fair grew in international renown and prestige and the number of visitors increased exponentially; the fair welcomed the most varied personalities, from the king of Sweden to Princess Irene of Greece, to the various Presidents of the Italian Republic, and to the pictor optimus Giorgio De Chirico, the only contemporary artist capable of standing comparison with the ancients.
DechiricoThe immediate success of the event blossomed to encompass the entire city fabric, with historic pageants that attracted great numbers of curious visitors and fabulous society events. Over the years, the exhibition became a ‘must,’ an event no longer reserved for – or indeed even really targeting – the restricted circle of experts and collectors. It was now within the compass of the nascent, florid middle class that arose in the wake of the economic boom..
The ruinous flood of 4 November 1966 was an unparalleled catastrophe for Florence’s antiquarians, but despite everything the 1967 edition opened ‘as usual’ thanks to a citywide effort led by Mayor Piero Bargellini. The force and prestige of the exhibition, which survived even the tragic cataclysm of 1966, was such as to induce fairs like Paris’ to move from the outskirts to the hearts of cities; in the case in point, to the grandiose Grand Palais.