Newly Identified Costantino Proietto Paintings of Bad Kreuznach, Germany and Cattolica, Italy
In late 2012, I wrote about a newly discovered oil painting by artist Costantino Proietto (1910-1979). On the back, the red felt-tipped inscription read “Bad Kreuznach”, which is an ancient town in Germany. In 1964, the artist had sold the painting to Ms. Marion Fortune, an American working in Germany at that time. Her heir, Ms. Shelly Jenkins had recently received the painting and had planned to keep it. In early 2014, Ms. Jenkins changed her mind and sold the painting to me.
Upon its arrival, I gently cleaned the painting and then added a new custom frame. Otherwise, it looked as it did when Tino painted it, fifty years ago. Still, there was mystery surrounding the painting. With its depiction of a river scene and prominent buildings, I assumed that someone would know more about the setting. As I have learned, if I put C.Proietto images out for the world to see, someone will write and help me identify a particular scene.
In July of 2014, Ms. Petra Tursky-Hartmann of Frankfurt, Germany wrote to me regarding the location featured in my newly acquired C.Proietto painting. At that time, she wrote, “The two pictures show a place called ‘Little Venice on the Ellerbach’ in Bad Kreuznach (I’m born in Bad Kreuznach). The painting shows the place where the small river ‘Ellerbach’ is flowing into the larger ‘Nahe’ river. It is an historical place, where the skinners lived during the last century. Due to several floods, they were allowed to fix there balconies high over the river. Because of the heavy smell from their work, it was not the best place to go. Still, many poor people had lived there for hundreds of years. Today, animal processing is no longer allowed, but these kinds of balconies still hang over the river ‘Ellerbach’.
In the early 1960s, Bad Kreuznach was a very big American Army base; nearly 10.000 soldiers were there. So maybe, Mr. Proietto was there for an exhibition, sold paintings and then painted “Little Venice” in Bad Kreuznach. Maybe not … Who knows? One more mystery.”
Ms. Tursky-Hartmann then explained that her mother may have purchased her own Costantino Proietto original oil painting while on her honeymoon in 1960, when she was twenty-eight years old. She went on to say, “Maybe, the artist had an exhibition in Bad Kreuznach at that time (1960-1964) and my mother bought the picture of Eden Teraza to remember her honeymoon? (This is pure speculation, but then, the date inscribed, ‘14360’ would fit).”
In a subsequent email, Ms. Tursky-Hartmann provided details that are more accurate about her mother’s C.Proietto original oil painting. Its title is "Cattolica - Terraza Cafe Eden Roco Italia". “Yesterday, I visited my mother in Spabrücken, close to Bad Kreuznach, where she lives with my sister.
I told my mother about your email. She was interested to hear what I read to her, as I translated your email.
My Mother told us, that she started to work in 1952 and went to Italy for holidays during the late 1950s. At that time, she was working as a clerk for the local Court in Bad Kreuznach. In 1959, she accompanied my father to Riccione and Cattolica, where they stayed in the Hotel Moderno.
During her earlier tours, she travelled by bus, with a group. She always had an interest in Italien Culture. In the 1950s, many Germans travelled to Riccione-Cattolica and Rimini. She liked, that the osterias and hotels were close to the sea and that dining and drinks were very cheap, and that the climate was warm.
It was not so easy for Germans to travel through Europe after World War II. However, Italiens, she said, had no problems with the Germans, because of Mussolini’s friendship with Hitler. She said that the Germans could have good parties at Rimini.
Once, while in Cattolica, at the Terraza Cafe Eden Roco, she said she saw ‘a painter’ - maybe C.Proietto. There were several painters close to the beach offering there paintings. She remembers that ‘this painter’ painted three pictures on three easels at the same time and with very high speed. With the same colours, he painted each picture.
Selecting one, she liked this picture very much from the first moment. She then bought the picture from the artist for 400 German Marks. The painter rolled the picture in a stovepipe, because she was travelling by bus with a very small suitcase. When back in Bad Kreuznach, she went to the Bechter Gallery, where they put the frame around it.
When I asked her about the year, she did not remember exactly. However, the inscription on the backside of the picture indicates ‘Pro 14360’. If this is true, the picture was finished in March 1960. I was born on June 5, 1960. Therefore, in spring or summer of 1960, she was definitely not in Italy for holidays. My younger sister was born on November 17, 1961, so maybe Mama was in Italy in early spring 1961.
In the photograph, you can see that the Proietto is hanging in our living room on November 17, 1962. That was during the family celebration of my younger sister’s first birthday. Mama then said that it is not important, exactly when she bought the picture. More important is, that she has the picture to remember her most beautiful moments of freedom, for her Grandmother was very strong!”
After mentally digesting everything that Ms. Tursky-Hartmann had written about her mother’s C.Proietto painting, I stopped to think about another C.Proietto I had purchased a year earlier. It too was of a seascape, featuring a prominent pergolato, with a shoreline receding into the distance. Until then, I had no clue as to its location. In his earlier works, Tino Proietto used only his signature to authenticate his own work. Later, in the 1960s and beyond, he applied a wax seal to the corner of a sticker, which authenticated each new painting.
After reviewing the details of the Tursky-Hartmann C.Proietto, I recognized certain elements contained within it. For instance, the distinctive latticework wall and the potted plants were almost identical to the ones in my mystery painting. If Costantino Proietto stood near the shore at Terraza Cafe Eden Roco, painting the same scene from three different angles, the result would be a tryptic, showing the broader scene.
Although painted later than mine, the Tursky-Hartmann painting would form the left panel of the tryptic. The author’s painting would form the right panel. Where, I wondered, would I find the middle panel? I surmised that it would show the scene, looking straight out to sea. As happens so often with C.Proietto paintings, they provide some answers to aspects of the mystery. Likewise, each new C.Proietto painting brings new questions with it.
With his self-designation as a “kunstmaler” (meaning production painter, in German), it could only have been Costantino Proietto at Terraza Cafe Eden Roco simultaneously creating three paintings. Why paint only one masterpiece when, as the “master of impasto”, you can paint three at a time? That would be the consummate artist, Tino Proietto, in his mid-century prime.
I offer my thanks to both Ms. Petra Tursky-Hartmann and her mother. First, they identified the location of the Marion Fortune C.Proietto as “Little Venice” in Bad Kreuznach. Then, they went on to explain the history of both known Costantino Proietto "Terraza Cafe Eden Roco" paintings, being theirs and my own.