For the American numismatic historian, on the surface, Vito Viti was an Italian immigrant who lived in Philadelphia for nearly fifty years from 1817 - 1866, as an importer of European artworks. He was a sculptor and importer of antiques, antiquities, Italian and French art, and documented as having held two auctions in 1824 that contained a collection of ancient coins. It seems highly probable that on his numerous trips to Europe he continuously brought back ancient as well as other European coins and medals for collectors in the United States, and that many of his auctions most likely also contained these coins and medals that went unlisted in his newspaper advertisements. None of his auction catalogues are extant. It does not seem coincidental that the coins offered for sale in the famous so-called A. Kline sale held at Moses Thomas, June 12-13, 1855, neatly and conveniently fit the description of coins most likely to have been acquired from Vito Viti or else that coin auction sale was actually the collection of Vito Viti himself. Vito Viti first came to America and settled at Virginia at age twenty-nine.
He arrived from Lisbon to America at the port of Alexandria on November 17, 1816, and began working for Nicola Fiengo & Company at Baltimore, Maryland. He either met Fiengo in Lisbon or else was already associated with him there or previously since a record of Fiengo importing goods for sale in Lisbon appeared in the Gazeta de Lisboa, No. 40, February 15, 1816.
Regardless, one year later we find him as an independent art importer and dealer selling his wares in Georgetown, Washington, D. C., since Fiengo moved to New York opening the 'Italian Gallery' on Broadway.
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The Greek Revival in America began with Nicholas Biddle (1785-1844), a Philadelphian financier and banker who visited Greece in 1806, eleven years before Vito Viti arrived to Philadelphia. The period of the Greek Revival is typically assigned 1818-1850. This period overlapped with the Gothic Revival 1830-1860.
With these cultural changes of taste in art, architecture, furnishings and decorative styles current Vito Viti arrived on the scene fortuitously just in time becoming the taste-master of Philadelphia and in the various states he toured with his itinerant sales program of art and ornaments. The following year he developed business at Philadelphia, which had been established between Stephen Girard (1750-1831), an importer of that city and his brother Antonio Viti, an alabaster artist of Volterra. Antonio Viti used to ship his sculptures and other merchandise from Genoa and Leghorn to the Port of Philadelphia. Vito Viti began importing goods into Philadelphia as early as 1818. Although Vito Viti set up both a residence and store in Philadelphia he also maintained stores in other states including New York City, Hartford, Connecticut, Salem, Massachusetts, Charlotte, South Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana. He was not only a frequent traveler within the United States selling his imported goods but also a frequent traveler into Europe buying goods in various countries and always returning to his family villa at Volterra. Italian Statuary, Alabaster Ornaments, &c., &c.
This morning, the 18th inst. At 10 0'clock at the store of Messrs.
Vito Viti & Co. 3 South Third Street, Will be sold, all their stock of different masterpieces of Marble, Agates and Italian Alabaster Ornaments, consisting of - The Enlivenment of Europe, (groups) Mercury and Pallas, Medusa, two Cleopatras, two Hermaphrodites, one Apollo, one Ganymede, two Round Tables, to match statues of Emperors.
Vases of different sizes, four pieces of Marble, ornamented with Italian Alabaster, 4 pieces of Italian Agate, ornamented with Alabaster, two large Vases, Medici form, Table Foot Stands, Fountain Lamps, Candlesticks, Lions, &c. Statuario italiano, ornamenti in alabastro, ecc. Questa mattina, il 18esimo inst. Alle 10 in punto al negozio dei signori Vito Viti & Co. 3 South Third Street, saranno venduti, tutti i loro pezzi di diversi capolavori di marmo, agate e ornamenti di alabastro italiano, costituiti da - The Enlivenment of Europe (gruppi) Mercurio e Pallade, Medusa, due Cleopatra, due Ermafroditi, un Apollo, un Ganimede, due Tavole rotonde, per abbinare statue di Imperatori. Vasi di diverse dimensioni, quattro pezzi di marmo, ornati con alabastro italiano, 4 pezzi di agata italiana, ornati con alabastro, due grandi vasi, forme medicee, piedistalli da tavolo, lampade a fontana, candelabri, leoni, ecc. Positive Sale: To Close the Residue of the Elegant Alabaster and Marble Ornaments, &c.
By Napier, Rapelye & Bennett. On Friday, the 10th inst.
Will be premptorily sold, at the store of Mr. Vito Viti, No. 98 Broad Street, at 11 o'clock, Etruscan Alabaster Vases, Egyptian Agate Urns and Alabaster Ornaments, Very rich and e legant Entry Lamps, E legant Candle and Lamp Vases, Elegant Flower Pots, One very superb pair of Agate Vases for sideboards, of remarkably ingenious workmanship, Candle Sticks and Water Stands, One very large Urn, of elegant varied marble.
Sugar and Fruit Bowls, Imitation Fruit, Italian Hoves, &c. Also, Several pieces of very elegant PAINTINGS, by approved and acknowledged Artists of merit. 2 cases very elegant Leghorn Hats, remarkably fine, in lots to suit purchasers. 5 pair of Mantle Looking Glasses. Conditions, Cash. Southern Patriot, Wednesday, 8 March, 1820, page 3.
On December 29, 1820, at 33 years of age, Vito Viti married Martha N. Redman (1797-1874), a Catholic and a native of Pennsylvania of Scottish descent, at Old St.
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Joseph's Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with the native Irish priest Fr. Patrick Kenny (1763-1840), officiating. The two marriage witnesses were Anne Corcoran and Deacon Bernard Keenan (1779-1877), who later on became a famous Catholic missionary priest in Pennsylvania. The Vitis had three sons sons: Vito J. Viti (1826-1874), Alonzo M.
Viti (1827-1904), Francis A. Viti, (1832-1908). According to the research of Paolo Castignoli, et al. Grilli,Filippo Pochini, Vincenzo Tangassi (d. 1841), Antonio Viti were Volterra artisanswho, through the importing magnate and banker Antonio Filicchi (1764-1847), sent alabasters to Vito Viti. Giuseppe Baratta, marble artist, and Francesco Orzalesi, a Florentine sculptor, traded with Vito Viti.
Luigi Zini sent him terracotta statues from Florence. Antonio Volterri wrote to his uncle Valentino Giovannoni, a partner of Vito Viti. Vito Viti used to return to Volterra to visit family. To the Lovers of the FINE ARTS. Lately arrived from Italy, and now opening a Store in Royal Street, between St. Peter and Orleans Streets; respectfully informs the Ladies and Gentlemen of New Orleans, that he has brought with him some superb Alabaster and Agate. MANTLE ORNAMENTS.
Consisting of - Urns, Grecian Vases, Lamps, Candlesticks, the Group of the Three Graces, Bacchanal, Watch Stands, all finished in superior style. ALSO, A Collection of Italian BIRDS, in glass cases decorated elegant Artificial Flowers.
Likewise - a variety of MARBLE FRUITS of all kinds, and a number of other articles too tedious to mention. The proprietor flatters himself that the price which he can sell at will be found reasonable, as he is himself one of the first manufacturers of Italy in these articles. He also announces to the public, that as his business will not permit him to stay but about a month in New Orleans, he hopes that the Ladies and Gentlemen will honor him with a call.
NEXT MONDAY EVENING, the 21st inst. (if the weather permits) the shop will be first opened, at which time he intends to give an ILLUMINATION, in order to exhibit his different articles to the better advantage. In this 1822 advertisement for the public at New Orleans, Louisiana, we come to learn two things about Vito Viti: first, he travels about the United States opening shops for a month lease at a time bringing his merchandise to sell in the various cities. Second, we learn that he boasts that he is the first Italian manufacturer of decorative artificial fruit, and birds carved from marble placed in cases decorated with artificial flowers. His atelier is apparently in Volterra where his artists are assiduously at work creating these art works for sale to the public. His frequent trips to Volterra are not merely to visit family but his workshop where workers crate the merchandise for shipment to America. This does not surprise us since among the letters of the Viti Archive one dated 17 July, 1856 sent from Carrara is addressed to Sig.
Vito Viti Scultore, Filadelfia. By Mills & Minton.
Store corner Wall and Pearl Streets. Tomorrow, At 11 o'clock at Washington Hall, a splendid assortment of vases and ornaments, paintings, antique coins, and rich cut glassware, particularly advertised by Mr. Evening Post, Monday 5 April, 1824, page 3. See also above Figs. 8 & 9 from John N.
Lupia, III, American Numismatic Auctions to 1875 (2013): 76-77. This advertisement also appeared in other newspapers including the National Advocate, Monday 5 April, 1824, and the following day.
12. Illustrated display advertisement of the vases for sale by Vito Viti. Coins are once again being offered for sale. We do not know if these are the coins of the same collection previously offered the month before or if these are of another collection altogether. The description of the antique coins are simply described as a collection.
The phrase a collection of antique coins typically referred coins of bronze, brass, silver and gold of the Republic Era 300 - 27 BC and Imperial Era 27 BC - 476 AD. See also above Figs. 8 & 9 from John N. Lupia, III, American Numismatic Auctions to 1875 (2013): 76-77. VITO VITI, No. On Wednesday, 13 October, 1824, Vito Viti sold the paintings and sculpted Tuscan vases and Grecian urns used to decorate the banquet held by the Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons of Philadelphia in honor of General LaFayette, the previous week on October 2, 1824.
These ornaments most probably came from the store of Vito Viti and now being offered for sale at auction by T. Freeman & Son, Auctioneers, 8 South 3rd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with the auction held in the store of Vito Viti, 129 Chestnut Street. This sale did not sell out and was repeated on the following Wednesday, 18 October, 1824, and again on May 20th, 1825 at Baltimore, Maryland. In November, 1829, Vito Viti continued receiving more merchandise and selling at his residence with advertisements in the National Gazette. The Schooner, Georgetown, brought 2 cases of merchandise for Vito Viti, at the Port of New York.
Commercial, and Philadelphia List and Price Current, Wednesday, 18 November, 1829, page 2 last column. The Schooner, Diana, brought 3 cases of merchandise for Vito Viti, at the Port of New York. Commercial, and Philadelphia List and Price Current, Wednesday, 2 December, 1829, page 2. Advertisement - SIGNOR VITO VITI has the honor of informing the public that his FIRST SALE of splendid MARBLE STATUES, BUSTS, URNS, FOUNTAINS, and MOSAIC TABLES, of the most exquisite workmanship, will take place in the middle of the month of AUGUST.
The assortment of Alabaster Sculpture are taken from the antique of the Greek and Etruscan chisel. The Vases of Medicis, Tazze of Piranesi and Mecerobba are of the most magnificent description, and the largest ever imported into the country.
The Figures and Vases of Verde Antico are finished in the best style. Part of the extensive assortment is on board of the brig Consort, from Leghorn, which vessel now lies in this port discharging; the remainder has already been shipped on board of the brig Constellation for New York. On March 13, 1850, Vito Viti & Sons, taking their itinerant sales tour of Alabama advertised in the Mobile Daily Register, 'trumpeting a wide range of antiques and quality knick-knacks freshly acquired in Europe. The collection on offer, 'carefully selected by the refined taste of Signor Vito Viti,' was on display at the Armory Hall and included a patented shower bath, china cigar holders, engraved flower vases, fire screens, plated ware, tea urns, chocolate cups, marble statues, and mother-of-pearl work tables.' 25. William Irving & Co., Auctioneers.
VITO VITI & SON'S LAST SALE OF FANCY GOODS - William Irving & Co. Will sell at auction on WEDNESDAY, Nov. 30, at 10 1/2 o'clock at the store, No. 206 Broadway, superb marble and alabaster groups and figures, agate Etruscan vases, Hebe - do; Grecian urns, Bardiglio vases, Egyptian urns, fonts, Pompeii pitchers, card receivers, Roman urns, elegant Parian marble groups and figures, superb sets of china vases, coffee cups, plated ware, bronze groups and figures, fortune-teller, crusaders, &c. Bohemian glass ware.
The above is part of Sig. Vito Viti's assortment, selected by him during his recent visit to Italy, Germany, France and England. This being the last sale of the season, every article will be sold without reserve. Purchasers can have their goods carefully packed on the premises at a trifling expense. Terms -90 days for all sums over $200, under that amount, cash, without discount; $800 and upwards, 6 months, approved endorsed notes. New York Daily Time s, November 30, 1853. Fabbricotti Brothers, Leghorn, Italy, correspondence with the Viti Brothers, franked with 8 postage stamps - 4 of 40 cmi, 2 of 5 cmi, and 1 of 15 cmi, two missing stamps probably each one of 60 cmi, would reflect a postal rate 0f 3.05 lire, dated Livorno, 18 July 1864.
The corner two stamps torn off probably both 60 cmi by a collector or dealer circa 1905, and now lacking, leaving on the letter sheet two small holes of missing paper. This cover appears to have been part of the Alfred Fitler Henkels hoard thereby making it one of 254 documented specimens known. Today only 152 known and documented specimens with about 300 stamps are part of the philatelic census as of October 2014. This cover illustrated above owned by Prof. Lupia, III has been reported by him to Prof.
Angelo Piermattei, President of ASSOCIAZIONE FILATELICA NUMISMATICA ITALIANA (AFI), to catalogue in the census of Viti Correspondence, Carteggio, Part VIII (1859-1876), making it N o. As Antonello Cerruti has well said regarding any letter from the Viti archive, 'from that archive is a guarantee of prestige'.
Owning any letter from the Viti archive is a dream of every collector. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. The Vito Viti correspondence has long been hailed as the great Philadelphia treasure trove containing many rarities in stamps and postmarks. It was discovered in September 1905 by Alfred Fitler Henkels who was introduced to a dealer in recycled paper and rags (straccivendolo) who had a large cache of correspondence of Vito Viti comprising 254 letters comprising 748 stamps sent from Carrara, Modena, Livorno, Volterra, and Tuscany, apparently discarded and scavenged or else sold to the dealer for scrap. Henkels saved these postal history rarities from the recycling bin reminding us of a similar story regarding Constantin von Tischendorf (1815-1874) who salvaged Codex Sinaiticus from the wastebasket before being consumed in the fireplace to heat the monastery of St.
Catherine in the Sinai desert.