Dioramas and Letterpress in Italia

The creator of exquisitely complicated narrative “dioramas,” Paolo Ventura, is in the process of preparing for a exhibition of new work in the Museo Fortuny in Venice, opening on March 4 through May 8 2011. (See his work here.)

Designer Kim Mingo, Ventura’s wife, searched out a traditional typographer in Italy, where they currently reside, “who could help us out with the idea for the installation of the show and,” says Mingo,  “stumbled across a TREASURE!”

The typographer she found from Arezzo is 76 years old and has been working for the past 60 years in the same location. “The shop is functioning since 1900 which much of the original equipment is still there and there are rooms upon rooms of wood and lead type,” Mingo adds. “Unfortunately all of the historic posters have either been tossed or stolen over the years. I’ve designed and printed a poster for Paolo’s show (L’AUTOMA – or the Automaton) side by side with the owner. What and experience.”

The Automaton is a narrative story consisting of both photographs and text. It is set in the ghetto of Venice during the winter of war of 1942. An old Jewish watch maker, with a passion for books and mechanical devices, decides to construct an automaton to keep him company during a time when very few remained in the ghetto. The months pass and the old man becomes very attached to the automaton. A magical thing happens one night when the fascist police come to evacuate the ghetto, which makes the old man regard his creation differently.

The story is one that Ventura’s father used to tell his children. It is a story that he invented. However, never being written down it varied slightly each time he told it. It is inspired by an actual event – the night of December 5, 1942 the fascist police evacuated the remaining Jews from the ghetto of Venice. Over 200 Jews were deported. Very few returned.

Read Mingo’s blog for more about L’AUTOMA and her “Typographic Treasure.”  And find information on the the typographic treasures to be found at the SVA Masters Workshop in Venice and Rome here.

(Photos courtesy Kim Mingo. Poster designed by Kim Mingo and Paolo Ventura.)

4 thoughts on “Dioramas and Letterpress in Italia

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  3. Monica Dengo

    Dear Steven,
    I’d like to add a few information about Arezzo, where I live. I arrived here four years ago and was amazed to find that actually two tipografia’s are still open and running. Tipografia Scheggi is the one you mention in this article and is the biggest, Nuova Tipografia Sociale prints linotype and Tipografia Sociale only prints with woodtype. This last is our jewel: Paolo Lazzarelli, the owner, was willing to help us organize some workshops in his space, and so we did. We invited Amos Paul Kennedy jr, letterpress printer from Alabama who visits Italy every summer, to come and join us and between the two of them it was love at first sight. Since then we have run several workshops, plus my husband Massimo and myself began collecting woodtype from closing up tipografia’s and we now have a very good collection. Oh, I forgot, Paolo’s Tipografia Sociale has been for over 40 years the tipografia of the left parties in Arezzo, so he has a huge collection of all the left parties cliches. Here are the links to see more of what we do.If you are interested, I can keep you posted on our upcoming events or whatever happens here.
    An article that I wrote, in the gallery you see some of Paolo’s big posters (6×3 meters): http://www.monicadengo.com/amos_kennedy.html
    Some more photos: http://www.articalligrafiche.it/tipographya2eng.html
    Monica Dengo

  4. Henk Gianotten

    Steven, This is a great story with fascinating pictures. When I was 7 years old (long time ago) my grandfather had the same type of equipment to print movie posters in the Netherlands. His grandfather came from Italy. The same shop (on the same location in Tilburg) now offers web2print facilities and high-speed fourcolor offset. No wooden type anymore. Just PDF’s!