SEGIN (2009): gold 900/1000, sapphire. D=4,1 cm, H= 2,9 cm. Museum of Fine Arts of Boston

In Etruria, not far from Viterbo, in a small town called Corchiano lives and works a goldsmith by the unusual name of “Akelo”. Okay, his real name is Andrea Cagnetti and he creates Etruscan-inspired jewelry using a particular and beautiful technique of granulation that he re-discovered. Recognized by important museums worldwide (such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston), he grants arttrav this interview.

What is the meaning of your chosen name, Akelo?

In Greek mythology and in italic populations, Acheloo, son of Oceano and Teti, was the god of water, essential element of life. With this name I wish to make clear the deep connection between my creations and the past – that appears remote but is in fact alive in western culture and in our collective consciousness.

And you live in Corchiano? Why the choice of this small town?

Akelo – portrait

I was born in Corchiano in the province of Viterbo, and I recently moved back here. I travel a lot for exhibits and tv shows, but I couldn’t imagine living elsewhere – I don’t want to give up the quality of life that is possible here, as well as my friends, the land of my origins, where I feel comfortable. Here I am at the center of the terra degli etruschi – the world of the Etruscans – where they believe that the mythical city of Fescennia once was. An area that is perfect for one who wishes to discover the mysteries of Etruscan civilization. In fact, I highly recommend a visit to the Ampitheatre of Sutri, the town of Falerii Veteres and the Piramide di Bomarzo which are all just a few kilometers away from my town.

Tell us about your artistic training.

I’ve always been so strongly attracted by antique coins that I just had to follow that path. The most interesting aspect for me was the way they were made. I decided to study art and archaeology through which i could access texts about antique goldsmithing. Reading Pliny the Elder, Vitruvius, Dioscoride and alchemical treatise I conducted a kind of investigation in an attempt to immerse myself in this past.

One of the problems with this method of study is that these texts are often not very well translated – those experts in linguistics were not experts in the art of jewelry. Using the most erudite texts possible I developed a method that I believe 100% accurately reflects the methods of the past.

Jabbah (1995)

And this technique that you use, called granulation, are you the only person who does it? What is it, exactly?

Izar (2001), gold 900/1000, garnets

Yes, granulation is one of the most difficult, fascinating, and frequently discussed methods of antique goldsmithing. It calls for the fusion of small gold balls (granules) to a gold base, following of course a drawing or plan. I create human figures, zoomorphic shapes, geometric decorations. The similar use of much smaller granules – 0.1 mm in diameter – is called “pulviscolo”. In both techniques there are two main difficulties: first, to produce such small granules; second to fuse them to a base without losing their perfect sphericity. And all this without leaving any trace of the fusion work, of course!

Some have said that I use a magic potion of the Etruscans that I discovered… cute, but exaggerated. There is a kind of potion: it’s the liquid composed of three substances suggested by certain Latin authors that is necessary to fix the granules to the base. Otherwise, though, there’s no magic: just practise, patience, and a careful eye. A lot of patience – an important piece of jewelry can take about a month to complete.

What is the best part of your profession?

The calm and silence into which I immerse myself when I work. It’s changed my approach to life in general. I use strong lenses to view my work in a macroscopic way that effects everything I see now. It’s… intriguing!

The artist at work

All photos © Akelo – Andrea Cagnetti – All Right Reserved – Used with permission.

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