In 1494, nineteen year old Florentine sculptor Michelangelo Buonarotti contributed the male angel (and candlebearer) to the tomb of Saint Dominic in Bologna, Italy. The female partner had been carved by the late Niccolo dell'Arca, who had intended to complete the pair. Michelangelo was hired to finish the male half of the couple. By now, the tomb—inside the Basilica of San Domenico—was already in its 230th year of construction. Many artists contributed to the work which took 500 years to complete. The angels above are a late Twentieth Century recreation based on the Michelangelo (and Niccolo dell'Arca) originals.
In 1995, during my first Holiday season at LEO Design, I purchased this pair of Italian painted terra-cotta angels. I received them the week before Christmas and placed them into my Bleecker Street shop window on Christmas Eve. My intent was to sell them, expensive as they were. Come Epiphany, I took them out of the window and boxed them up for safekeeping. I repeated this Christmas Eve ritual for two more years—entertaining a handful of inquiries each year. By the end of the third year, however (and not having sold them, yet), I decided I liked the Christmas Eve tradition more than I wanted the money from their sale. From that point onward, I took off the price tag and continued the Christmas Eve tradition for another twenty years. We even added a modest procession to the annual event—carrying the angels aloft from the stockroom to the front of the store.
My Greenwich Village store is now closed and I no longer have a nice shop window in which to display them. But I do have the terra-cotta angels! And, every year, they make the journey down the stairs from my third floor storage room to the mantelpiece in my living room. And here they will preside—for as many Christmas Eves as the Good Lord grants me.
Happy Christmas Eve!
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248