Italian Masters of wrought iron

Father and son, Ernesto and Mario Ferrari, were skilled craftsmen that spent all their lives working with passion, commitment and dedication reaching the highest levels of wrought-iron art, yet maintaining a certain sobriety in the lines, dedicating particular attention to research and workmanship, so much as to display in each individual creation a refined, unique elegance.

Ernesto was born on the 14th April 1894 in the heart of the old Alessandria, in Via Milazzo, not far from the ancient Church of Santa Maria di Castello. The second born of Paolo Agostino Ferrari and Caterina Ferrari (cousins), that from a very early age revealed a talent and disposition for art and drawing, a gift in discovering the essence of things, a profound capacity of observing and appreciating the beauties of nature. The extreme poverty conditions of his family led him at a very early age to work in a workshop, first as an ordinary employee, later as a specialised worker at Bonardi’s, Canepa’s, Maggi’s and Savio’s.

He participated in the First World War supplying an alpine artillery unit, where he met Pietro Morando, a painter that was fulfilling his first war pictures, with whom he remained friends all his life. Afterwards, he worked for a year at the Railway workshop in Savigliano until he returned to the province of Alessandria and settled down in Borgoratto.

During these years he was guided by a strong sense of creativity, and accomplished admirable iron works – ornaments, statues etc. In 1922, he worked self- employed and it was during this period of time that he created the wonderful iron wrought gates at Villa Ravizza, an elegant masterpiece animated and adorned with flowers, leaves, animals and a big snake, today property of the Parodi family. In the following years he created all sorts of objects, even sacred, and another grand masterpiece, a refined gate representing the Via Crucis, a mighty piece of art, of inestimable value more than two meters high and 5 tons in weight.

From his wedding with Maria Maddalena Ricci two children were born, in 1925 Mario, heir and successor of his father’s work. In 1934, the family moved to Acqui Terme to work for the Counts Ottolenghi, to contribute towards the prestigious residence they were building on the hillside, planned and accomplished by famous architects and artists – the Monterosso project. At the end of the Second World War, Mario started working with his father and together they created operas of immense value, starting from the villa’s main entrance gate, the mausoleum’s impressive portal, finely decorated with knobs, each different from the other but all precious, and a huge lock, entirely hand-made with grand ability and skill.

All of Ferrari’s works were enriched with animals, mice, fish, frogs, snails, bees, butterflies, and each is an opera of absolute genius, of technique and skilled craftsmanship, including the “well tripod”, an opera started in Borgoratto and completed in Acqui.

In 1950 three sculptures were offered to the Pope, Pio XII (Christ on the Cross), to the President of the Republic Luigi Einaudi ( Fawn ) and to Alcide de Gasperi ( Christ)

Mario was also dedicated to inlaid iron work using precious metals and creating objects of fine workmanship: bracelets, medals, candleholders, necklaces.

Ernesto Ferrari died on the 3rd July 1973, and his son Mario was sadly knocked down in a hit-and run accident near the Villa Ottolenghi on the 8th August 1990.

The Ferrari family strived hard and did their best to protect and preserve the immense artistic heritage and all of their working tools. Finally in 1993 a Museum was inaugurated dedicated to them in Palazzo Robellini in Acqui Terme, which was later relocated to the Paleologi Castle. Today the collection has been transferred to Bistagno.

Thanks to a lifetime of complete dedication and seriousness in their work, the Ferrrari Masters brought the art of wrought iron to an unthinkable level and that of the highest standards.

To them we must pay our gratitude and our admiration for the wonderful examples of laboriousness that they’ve left for today’s generation.

Article written by the Professoressa Susanna Ruggeri Alberti


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