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Category: Black + white

056. david spinetto ◊

David Spinetto, Recoleta Cemetery

As with most European families, Argentine-born sons were often named after their father, so there are actually two David Spinettos buried here. One was born in Genoa, immigrated to Argentina, & opened the first wholesale fruit & vegetable market within the city limits of Buenos Aires in 1898. Located in the center of town, it did a booming business. David’s plaque is on the left. On his death, the Mercado Spinetto was run by his son-in-law, Juan Sanguinetti… seen on the plaque on the right.

David Spinetto, Recoleta Cemetery
David Spinetto, Recoleta Cemetery

Unfortunately a wave of privatization in the 1990s shut the market down. Today only its shell remains —the interior gutted & occupied by a megachain supermarket:

Mercado Spinetto, Balvanera, Buenos Aires
Mercado Spinetto, Balvanera, Buenos Aires

Son David, born in Argentina, left his mark as well. He became a doctor but instead of practicing, opted for administration. He ran the Hospital Italiano & dedicated his life to promoting Italian culture. It’s not surprising that this spectacular door was imported from Milan in 1912… don’t miss the inscription on the lower left corner:

David Spinetto, Recoleta Cemetery
David Spinetto, Recoleta Cemetery

Magnificently Art Nouveau, the crown of thorns with a serpent intertwined at each corner has been turned into a decorative frame for St. George killing a dragon —a symbolic representation of the devil. St. George was a Christian soldier, born in Turkey & martyred around the year 300. As one of the patron saints of Genoa where the Spinettos hailed from, they pay a spectacular tribute to their homeland. Hands down, this gets my vote for Best Door in the entire cemetery.

David Spinetto, Recoleta Cemetery
David Spinetto, Recoleta Cemetery
David Spinetto, Recoleta Cemetery

The vine design surrounding the exterior cross is repeated inside… although it’s difficult to peek through small gaps in the St. George door. Another Art Nouveau-inspired image visible is a bat just above the altar. A creature of the night, what better animal to watch over the residents of a cemetery?

David Spinetto, Recoleta Cemetery

Update (25 Jul 2020): A reader from Italy (original comment below) has discovered that Milanese sculptors Carlo & Luigi Rigola designed that spectacular door for Palanti. In addition, they did the current doors for the Milan cathedral & many other works inside. An overview of their works together, including funerary sculpture, can be found on this website (in Italian). Grazie Carlo!!

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046. luis perlotti ◊

Francisca Olivera de Pignetto, Luis Perlotti, Recoleta Cemetery

Art fans know that Luis Perlotti was one of the most important sculptors in Argentina during the 20th century. Most of his works date from the 1920s to 1940s, so his style tends toward Art Deco. Another big influence on Perlotti was the indigenous population of Argentina. He was killed in a car crash in Uruguay, & his house/workshop in the neighborhood of Caballito was donated to Buenos Aires to use as a museum. I tried to go several times before it was shut down “for renovation.” Last time I checked, the whole house had been demolished. Who knows what they’re doing now.

But most people may not be aware that there’s a lot of Perlotti to be seen in Recoleta Cemetery. Chacarita Cemetery has quite a bit too. Evidently he was so popular that families commisioned a number of works by him to remember their loved ones.

The famous Firpo statue was done by Perlotti:

Luis Ángel Firpo, Luis Perlotti, Recoleta Cemetery

Plaques by Perlotti are the most abundant. Just look for the signature:

Perlotti plaque, Recoleta Cemetery

Perlotti plaque, Recoleta Cemetery

Luis Perlotti signature

For me, his most significant piece in Recoleta Cemetery is a 1946 relief for Francisca Olivera de Pignetto. Similar to a monument for author Alfonsina Storni in Mar del Plata, Francisca’s gown flows beautifully & the fading image of someone she loved expresses a lot of emotion:

Francisca Olivera de Pignetto, Luis Perlotti, Recoleta Cemetery

Francisca Olivera de Pignetto, Luis Perlotti, Recoleta Cemetery

The bulk of Perlotti’s art is on display at the city’s central museum office in Puerto Madero. He has other major works scattered around Buenos Aires (seek out the sculpture group in Parque Los Andes in the barrio of Chacarita) as well as in cities throughout the entire country.

Update (17 Apr 2013): The Museo de Esculturas Luis Perlotti has reopened! Formerly located in the sculptor’s house/workshop, conditions became so bad that works were transferred to Puerto Madero while a replacement museum was built. His body of work can now be seen in a nicely lit space in the barrio of Caballito:

Buenos Aires, Caballito, Museo de Esculturas Luis Perlotti

Buenos Aires, Caballito, Museo de Esculturas Luis Perlotti

Buenos Aires, Caballito, Museo de Esculturas Luis Perlotti

Buenos Aires, Caballito, Museo de Esculturas Luis Perlotti,

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045. name missing ◊

The family name may have been removed long ago on this vault, but it remains one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in Recoleta Cemetery. Several sources attribute it to the DeFerrari family, but marks left by previous letters on the façade are too difficult to read for confirmation of the original owners.

Art Deco was all the rage during the 1920s & 1930s—the shapes & massive statue size pin it to that era. Also, the crucifixion mosaic has definite Byzantine inspiration. Flat, 2-D figures incorporated well into Art Deco & Neo-Byzantine became one of Art Deco’s many offshoots:

Art Deco, Alejandro Virasoro, Neo-Byzantine vault, Recoleta Cemetery

Art Deco, Alejandro Virasoro, Neo-Byzantine vault, Recoleta Cemetery

Art Deco, Alejandro Virasoro, Neo-Byzantine vault, Recoleta Cemetery

Art Deco, Alejandro Virasoro, Neo-Byzantine vault, Recoleta Cemetery

Another example of this interesting Art Deco/Neo-Byzantine style is a church built by one of the most prolific & influential architects in Buenos Aires, Alejandro Christophersen. The Santuario Nacional de Santa Rosa de Lima (at Avenida Belgrano & Pasco) was built from 1928 to 1934 & has similar mosaics inside along with a unique exterior for BsAs. For more photos of this building, read about it here:Santa Rosa de Lima, Alejandro Christophersen, Buenos Aires

Santa Rosa de Lima, Alejandro Christophersen, Buenos Aires

Santa Rosa de Lima, Alejandro Christophersen, Buenos Aires

Update, Nov 2008: Art Deco architect Alejandro Virasoro designed the vault, & the original owners were the Defferrari family. See post #259 for more details.

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