Novamosaici: sixty years of tradition

The Novamosaici - Toniutti workshop was founded in 1955 by Mario Toniutti and his brothers near Milan. Mosaic and stained glass activities are carried out using both the lead bonding technique and the Dalles technique, a technique performed using glass plates with a thickness of 2 cm, bonded with cement rather than with lead. The workshop distinguished itself from the outset for working closely with artists primarily in the Milan area, carrying out continuous experimentation and comparing different mosaic languages ​​and techniques, also avant-garde, using direct processing instead of the upside down method on paper. Among these artists, ranging between figuration and abstraction, are Bruno Cassinari, Domenico Cantatore, Giuseppe Migneco, Aligi Sassu, the sculptor Francesco Messina, Gianni Dova and Mauro Reggiani, as well as foreign artists, particularly Swiss.

Among the first large mosaic decorations performed by the workshop there is the facade of a School in Sondrio created from a sketch by Cassinari (1960), one of the artists who was a regular at the lab along with Cantatore. It was with Cantatore, who approached mosaics through Mario Toniutti, that in 1961 the workshop created an original composition for the Catholic Church Stand at the International Labour Exhibition in Turin. It was conceived to create backgrounds with a lively arrangement of tesserae, symbolising the presence of the Church in the working world. The mosaic was recovered in 1980 and located in the "Jesus Divine worker" Church in Milan.

Stained glass window by artist Francesco Radaelli

Over the years the Toniutti brothers have also participated in various editions of the Milan Triennale, in 1957 with mosaics from a sketch by Piero Dorazio and Mario Bionda, with Cassinari in 1960 and in 1963 with Ferdinando Moneta and Giancarlo Pozzi. In 1968, Cantatore exhibited a wide selection of easel mosaics made by the Toniutti studio at the Gian Ferrari Gallery in Milan: in addition to a "Crucifixion", it consisted mainly of portraits made in recent years by the artist, works characterised by a particular liveliness in the cutting and placement of tesserae that is accompanied by a certain freedom in the use of materials, mixing glazes, marble, river pebbles and inlays.

During the 1960s, activity was intense due to religious commissions, from the altarpiece with "Crucifixion" from a sketch by Mino Buttafava in the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Milan (1962), to the "Risen Christ" in the Parish Church in Sesto San Giovanni, and also mosaic interventions in the churches of Taccona Muggiò (350 sq m) from a sketch by Trento Longaretti, in Torrazza Cambiago (40 sq m) from a sketch by Father Ambrogio Fumagalli with whom, in 1980, they also created a triptych dedicated to Saint Benedict for the Church of Olivetani in Seregno, the apse (360 sq m) of San Giuseppe al Trionfale in Rome, from a sketch by Pio and Silvio Eroli (1964) and decorations for the American Mission at the EUR and for many other churches in Alghero, Siena etc.

Stained glass window Artist Ambrogio Fumagalli

In 1972, the Toniutti workshop was the protagonist of an exhibition sponsored by the City of Seregno, "Stained-glass windows and mosaics by contemporary artists", where it presented a selection of recently made easel mosaics characterised by a particular commitment to translating research of the usual studio-goer artists. Alongside portraits of Domenico Cantatore, all played on dimensional uneven tesserae, like those of Marcello Avenali and Bruno Cassinari, accentuating the effect of plastic decomposition to the mobile figures by Sassu, there is the abstract research made by Piero Dorazio translated with stylish, continuous deviations in the movements creating colour rarefaction and concentrations, like Boris Mardesic or Mario Bionda, introducing clever contamination with inlay in the works of Gianni Dova, of Concetto Pozzati and Mario Baldan, questioning the same modularity of the tesserae with Sergio Emery, Riccardo Licata and Wilfrid Moser, up to breaking it up in the monochrome surfaces of Aldo Schmid, and in the inlays that translate into strict abstract compositions by Mario Radice, who for the occasion accompanied the event with an introduction of the exhibition catalogue.

Demanding commissions for mosaic decorations on a large scale continued during the 1970s. In 1974 the workshop created the entrance floor of the Spa in Grado (240 sq m), designed by Gianni Avon from a sketch by Giuseppe Zigaina, and the decoration of the Church in Pescara from a sketch by Aligi Sassu. Commissioned by the Pagani Museum Foundation, founded in 1967 in Castellanza (Varese) and directed by Enzo Pagani, the Toniutti brothers undertook the construction of large outdoor wall mosaics from sketches by internationally renowned artists such as Léger, Vasarely, Gleizes and Robert Delaunay.

Among the various exhibitions where the Toniutti brothers were the protagonists in these years are the, "Toniutti stained glass mosaics", exhibition staged in Campione d'Italia (1971), in Arzago d'Adda (1973), and the most important one in Milan at the Palazzo del Turismo in 1974 with the presentation by the art critic Luigi Cavallo. New experiences were addressed in these years and other artists visited the Toniutti brothers' workshop, such as Giancarlo Pozzi, Franco Gentilini, Luigi Veronesi, Armando Pizzinato, Emilio Scanavino, Virgilio Guidi, Enrico Baj, P. Francesco Radaelli and traditional materials were integrated with steel, Plexiglas and coal. Up to compose genuine collages.

In October 1980, organised by the Cenacolo Bramantino at the Trivulzia in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles and Nazario Maggiore in Milan, a large exhibition was staged with the latest mosaics titled "Mosaic today", together with some stained glass work of Cantatore, Pozzi, Giulio Carminati, Fumagalli and Getulio Alviani; on this occasion, new mosaic works of Cassinari, Sassu, Paolucci, Guidi, Dorazio, Asinary, Dova, Gentilini, Migneco, Saetti, Radice, Baj, Baldan, Corpora, Santomaso, Scanavino, Turcato, Vedova, Veronesi and many other artists were exhibited next to a "Crucifixion" by Carlo Mattioli.

During these years the company was joined first by Edoardo Toniutti and later by Eugenio Toniutti who, in close collaboration with their father Mario, began to learn his techniques and chromatic sensitivity.

In 1984, Renzo Mongiardino employed the workshop for an intervention inside a historic home, the Chateau de Wideville (Yvelines), near Versailles. Inside the building, the reminiscence of the past, taste for "trompe l'oeil" and preciosity characterising its interior architecture were completed by using mosaic for covering a room with a swimming pool, resorting to a rhythmic drapery taken from the procession of the virgins in Sant 'Apollinare Nuovo on the walls, and to the arch entrance to the Mausoleum of Galla Placida, with the starry rosettes motif as a carpet on the floor.

While continuing working with artists for the creation of easel mosaics, in particular with Emilio Vedova, or for wall interventions like for the panel placed in a private home in Venezuela from a sketch by Mercedes Pardo, the workshop developed extensive decorations for the interior of church buildings. Among them, from a sketch by Mino Buttafava, in the Church of Sesto San Giovanni, in the Church of Cinisello Balsamo from a sketch by Don Marco Melzi, in the Church of Bollate with Giansisto Gasparini, in the Church of Alghero (120 sq m) from a sketch by Sassu. Finally, an intervention to a baptismal font with round and grout lines of unsanded enamels placed on a gneiss flooring, from a sketch by Orlando Cremonini, for the Church of Roasio (Vercelli). Cemetery decorations include a private chapel in the cemetery of Trieste made in collaboration with Giorgio Michetti and two chapels at the cemetery of Castellanza (Varese), from a sketch by Giancarlo Pozzi. There are also many mosaics located abroad, such as the large mosaic decoration in marble, reproducing the detail of an ancient mosaic with the head of Neptune, in the pool of a villa in Hong Kong designed by architect Fiorenzo Cattaneo and, more recently, the creation from a sketch by Fernando Bordoni of a decorative intervention for the Nursery School in Povrò (Lugano), in Switzerland, and the great wall mosaic for the Church of Cologno Monzese from cardboard drawings by Emiliano Viscardi.

Fiat 500 Artist Dario Brevi

The generational shift occured in the early 1990s and the workshop switched over to the management of the children of Edoardo and Eugenio Toniutti. In recent years, the workshop has collaborated on an ongoing basis with: Father Francesco Radaelli, creating stained glass and mosaics located in Italy and abroad (Israel, Jordan, Paraguay etc.) and with Ugo Nespolo and Enrico Baj for whom it created prestigious easel mosaics. In 1997, Novamosaici participated in the exhibition, "Mosaic New Contamination", staged in Udine, proposing mosaics from sketches by Enrico Baj, Fernando Bordoni, Samuel Gabai, Ugo Nespolo, Giancarlo Pozzi, Paolo Scirpa and a sculpture by Getulio Alviani. After this it participated in mosaic exhibitions of: Marseille (1997); Paraj Monial (1998); and the Paris exhibition at the Bibliothèque Forney - Hotel de Sens (1999). Mosaic works made by the Toniutti studio are located in various private and public collections, including the Vatican Museums.

Research and experimentation has allowed to also interact in other important areas, such as design, creating a reinterpretation of the Fiat 500 in September 2005, from a sketch by artist Dario Brevi.

The new management realised the need for technical innovation and in these years experimented and went into production with a new type of artistic glass binding that allowed to obtain excellent results by breaking down the production costs.

In 2006, Novamosaici created the wall of Pontedera by Baj, the last great project of the Master Enrico Baj before his death, more than 250 sq m of mosaic. The largest public artistic mosaic work in Europe at the time.

Also during the year, it participated in the international mosaic exhibition in Paray Le Monial and later, in 2007, it attended the MiArt in Milan resubmitting the Fiat 500, covered with mosaic.

Various works, both mosaics and glass windows, were made by the lab, up to the monumental achievement of a mosaic of about 650 square metres. The author and creator of the work and the project, Cinzia Pasquali (restorer of Saint Anne by Leonardo da Vinci), decided to place the monumental work inside a motorway tunnel near Paris. The work was inaugurated in January 2011.

This order, besides its purely decorative mosaic aspect, had different technical characteristics with various difficulties in finding materials on the market allowed to be used in a tunnel, owing to French and European restrictions and laws on highway safety.

Wall of Pontedera by Artist Enrico Baj

Novamosaici, in addition to the artistic ability in combining various mosaic materials, also showed considerable technical and professional skills. In fact, it was able, in this case, to obtain pre-finished mosaic panels that passed all tests for reaction to fire succeeding in obtaining the Classification and European approval of the materials used, something that did not exist on the market.

In 2012, on behalf of artist Francesco Radaelli, the company created 130 sq m of stained glass in Amman and Zarqa, Jordan, and other mosaic designs, as well as restorations and construction of stained glass in Italy. In 2013, it exhibited at the solo shows that the city of Melzo and Gorgonzola organised for celebrating the continuous commitment and importance of the company in all areas, both public and private, in Italy and abroad.

In 2014, Novamosaici, again in collaboration with Z-Art, was engaged in a major restoration of a floor mosaic of 1905. The Mosaic work was first completely detached from the original site and later, after several stages of intervention in the workshop in Bollate, repositioned in the new location by using special supports suitable for external location.

Also in 2014, a decoration of 140 sq m was created to be placed in a pool-side in Russia.

In 2015, two major restoration projects were carried out in Paris on wall mosaics placed both inside and outside public buildings.

An important event took place at the end of the year, in fact on 12/12/2015, Novamosaici celebrated its 60th year in business, since it was founded on the same date in 1955.

These 60 years have witnessed the progressive differentiation of the conventional limitations of traditional tesserae to develop an innovative technique that step by step combined with the evolution of contemporary art.

This was the result of the emotional and committed involvement ensured only by a free and spontaneous individual choice, able to perceive and interpret in mosaic works, the characteristics and uniqueness of each individual artist.

These words are confirmed by visiting the workshop-exhibition, displaying different artists with whom the company has grown and developed, and in these works we find confirmation of what expressed, each work is a work in its own right, each artist has been interpreted for its expressive uniqueness and, therefore, the mosaic translations are all different.

There are no schematic academicisms where, once learned a technique and a method, this is returned endlessly with the same sizes and laying method; the Novamosaici philosophy, learned from the founder, was that each mosaic was to follow in the philosophy, the characteristics and uniqueness of each individual artist.

We believe that the experience of the founders combined with the passion and respect for the work handed down, have enabled Novamosaici to meet all technical and artistic requirements of the customer, ensuring an end result that combines artistic and technical quality value.

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