The antique dealer's store - Oreste Da Molin (1880)

A merchant destined to deal with a special “commodity”: the evidence of our past, of our own and others’ civilization.

On the one hand, he must not fail in his role as a merchant, as an entrepreneur who leads a business and cannot do without the logic of profit; on the other hand, he must not betray the nature of what he offers to the public. In the guise of a dealer he has to evaluate his objects taking into account the market trend, as a cultural worker what is brought into play is his specific expertise: the antiquarian has to know the things of the past, to understand when they came into being, for whom they were built, what their function was, and whether they have had any hardships.

He needs to know what work will need to be done to preserve them and put in place all those steps that will make his buying and selling decisions. On the other hand, its function is to act as an “intermediary” between old and new owners. Often forgotten by the public, institutions, and less scrupulous dealers, this responsibility must always be felt by the dealer who “deals” in antique things.

Gallery of views of ancient Rome - Giovanni Paolo Pannini
Galleria di vedute di Roma antica – Giovanni Paolo Pannini

An object from the past deserves, and our tradition has taught this, if not admiration, at least respect and care, precisely because it is history itself that has entrusted it to our hands.

The first concern of good antiquarian, as of a good historian, is then to convey this “news” of a distant or more recent culture with as much fidelity to its “truth” as possible, without being influenced by any bias of taste or fashion. Once our “document” is brought back to maximum clarity, to avoid distorting its message, the antiquarian is committed to maintaining the function for which it was created without transforming it into anything else for the sake of supposedly greater saleability. To ignore the function of an object would mean losing the value it had in the daily lives of our ancestors.

Alongside seriousness, however, in assessing a merchant’s personality, one must take into account his artistic sensibility, when, that is, he can recognize whether an object has aesthetic relevance in the set of related works: in whatever field he chooses his “wares,” from billboards to Renaissance engravings, it is the refinement of his taste that determines the validity of his profession.


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