Costantino Proietto (1910-1979) Painted Scenes of Locarno/Ascona at Lago Maggiore, Switzerland
Recently, Ms. Dawn Allen of Greensboro, North Carolina wrote to me about her mother’s two Costantino Proietto (1910-1979) original oil paintings. Similar to other recent C.Proietto painting discoveries, Dawn’s parents acquired the pair while living in Germany during the early 1950s.
Her father, Joseph Edgar Allen, was a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army, stationed at Wallace Barracks in the Bad Cannstatt district of Stuttgart, Germany. Dawn recalled, “My father was part of the 66th Counter Intelligence Corps Group (CIC), which used the Wallace Barracks installation during the 1950s. Although called a barracks, according to my mother there was no on-base housing”.
She went on to say, “They lived in an apartment through ‘German requisition housing’ at Saarstraße 13 E, . Some regular German apartment complexes were designated for U.S. military. My mother, Mary Alice Allen recalls one side of the street being for U.S. military, with German citizens living across the street. After his first deployment to Stuttgart, he went to Fort Holabird in Baltimore, Maryland and then back to Stuttgart. They purchased both paintings during his first tour in Stuttgart”.
One day in 1953, Mr. Costantino Proietto knocked on their door, selling his artwork. They purchased a single oil painting, later buying another. The paintings hung in her parents’ apartment in Germany and then traveled to Baltimore Maryland. When Ed Allen retired, the couple moved to Brevard, North Carolina, where both paintings continue hanging in the Allen home.
Dawn Allen continued, “I’ve attached photos of the two oil paintings, plus two receipts for purchase of the paintings, which my mother had kept all these years. The old photos include one of a C.Proietto painting hanging in their German apartment. Another is of my father at that time, including the same painting hanging on their wall. During a recent visit to her house, my eighty-eight year old mother suggested that we “Google” the artist’s name. It was then that we found the information on your website”.
From family photos, Dawn Allen determined that the first of her mother’s paintings was purchased in 1953 and the other in 1954. Despite her age and sixty years gone by, Mary Alice Allen knew exactly where to find the original receipts for the paintings. She recalls that they purchased each painting at a different time. Each time, Mr. Proietto traveled about seven kilometers to the Allen's apartment. Although they did not specifically ask him to return, a few months later Costantino Proietto called again, with more paintings to offer.
What Dawn Allen calls the “Steeple Painting” has an artist’s inscription on the back. It reads, “Lago Maggiore, Locarno, Sv, Ytaliana”. From the inscription, I believe the painting depicts Locarno, Switzerland, including a southern view toward Italy, which is on the far bank of Lago Maggiore. An extensive search of images on the internet does not produce a photograph of that particular steeple, or tower. However, my own original Costantino Proietto oil painting of “Lago Maggiore, Ascona” (bottom of page) depicts a rowboat identical to the one in the Allen Family “Steeple Painting”.
The second Allen Family C.Proietto is harder to place. With no inscription on the back and no mention of subject matter on the receipt, it could be of any Swiss or Italian lake. However, there is one clue that might help place the location of the “Lake House” (above), as the Allen family calls the painting. Immediately after the initial publication of this article, C.Proietto collector Jeffrey Muenker sent me a photo of his own "Lake House" painting (left). Both the Allen Family "Lake House" and the Muenker Family painting appear to have used the same photo as their origin. There are subtle differences, including the absence of a lower window and the addition of a flowering plant on the Muenker Family painting.
Each C. Proietto acquisition story is unique, although many center on American GIs stationed in postwar Germany, and mostly near Stuttgart. The impeccable provenance of the Allen Family C.Proietto paintings is peerless. The receipts pictured here are the first known sales documents created by the artist. Written in Costantino Proietto’s hand and signed by the purchaser, J.E. Allen, they offer some interesting details about the purchases.
The receipt on the left shows a date of “8-10”, indicating final payment (and delivery?) in August or October 1953. It reads, “1 oil painting - DM 200", with 50% down and two additional payments of DM 50. In pencil, at the bottom, the receipt is marked, “Paid”. The other receipt was for DM 115, and paid in full on January 4, 1954 or April 1, 1954, depending on the use of American or European date standards. There is no mention of framing, but Mary Alice Allen tells us that both were sold in identical frames. Most C.Proietto paintings were sold unframed.
At the top of each receipt is a rubber-stamped impression, including the artist’s name and address. Also appearing is the German word, “Kunstmaler”, meaning “Production Painter”, when translated into English. As an Italian, living in Germany during the 1950’s, the artist also included the words, “artista pittoro", loosely translated as “picture artist”.
Despite his skill and expertise, Costantino Proietto painted for the people, often selling his paintings door-to-door or at U.S. Post Exchange exhibitions throughout postwar Germany. The good news for C.Proietto collectors is that there are perhaps thousands of his works hanging undiscovered on walls all over the world.
Proving what a small world we live in, Dawn Allen finished her email to me with the following. “I have seen these two painting hanging on walls all my life. I noticed one of your articles about a person with a C.Proietto painting mentioned a ‘Marion Fortune of Brevard, NC’, who passed away in 2012, willing her prized C.Proietto painting to a niece. My mother, who also lives in Brevard, remembers Ms. Fortune as someone who worked for the local veterinarian, Dr. McPherson. If only Marion and my mother had talked about their Proietto paintings!”