SUBERT. ANTIQUARIANS FOR 150 YEARS
Emanuele: the founder
In 1860, with Italian unification on the horizon, Emanuele Subert (1830-1888) opened his first antiques gallery in Milan in Via Monte di Pietà 2 with the name Emanuele Subert Antichità e Belle Arti.
Of Polish origins, Emanuele moved to Milan with his family from Trieste, the birthplace of his wife, Elisa Berger (1832 - post 1900), after also having lived for some time in Vienna. He opened a number of other stores in Milan over the course of some twenty years.
Bibliographical and documentary sources report that Emanuele Subert was a supplier for numerous museums and collectors, notable among them Frederick Stibbert, in Florence, and the nascent Museo Poldi Pezzoli, of the Consulta del Museo Patrio Archeologico and the Bagatti Valsecchi brothers, in Milan (Probst 2004). In keeping with the demands of the market at the time, Emanuele’s store offered weapons, furniture, antique fabrics, sacred art, archaeological relics, jewelry and goldwork.
A family of elite antiquarians
In 1903, Emanuele’s sons Rodolfo (1873-1958) and Carlo Subert bought the stores in Via Monte di Pietà and in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and opened two others in Bellagio, at the time an elite international tourism destination, thanks partially to the presence there of a casino.
When Carlo moved to the United States in 1910, Rodolfo changed the name of the stores to Rodolfo Subert Antichità e Belle Arti. It was probably at this time that a donation was made to the Museo Teatrale alla Scala di Milano consisting of an opera libretto bound in white satin and the Veduta dell’interno del Teatro di S. Benedetto di Venezia, both dating to the 18th century (Anonymus 1914).
Rodolfo: supplier for collectors and museums
Like his father, Rodolfo was an important supplier to collectors and museums: in 1904 the Museo Poldi Pezzoli acquired a Parisian “libriccino d’ore” (Poldi Pezzoli 1981), and Frederick Stibbert, who would die the following year, acquired a helmet; Giuseppe Gianetti, an enthusiastic connoisseur of majolica, later acquired a great number of objects that would eventually become part of the collections of the homonymous museum in Saronno (Ausenda 1996). We also have documentation of several important purchases of majolica pottery in 1928 from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele store. These objects are now kept in a number of Scottish national museums (Curnow 1992).
Sources report that in 1940-41, the family made generous donations in the name of Rodolfo’s wife, Ambrogina Bergomi Subert, to major museums, including the Museo di Arti Applicate of Castello Sforzesco: “infrequent acquisitions [slowly] expanded the collection over the years, the most important of which was the donation by Ambrogina Bergomi Subert in 1941, which increased and enriched the collection of firearms with all the exemplars dating to the first half of the 19th century, thus providing exhaustive documentation of developments and changes during that period” (Allevi 1990).
Rodolfo, together with several of his children, continued to run the store in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II until July 1943, when bombardments destroyed the gallery and its entire contents, including an archive covering over eighty years of activity.
Duda: great interest in jewelry and Italian painting
Rodolfo’s oldest son (1898-1978), named after his father, was nicknamed “Duda” to avoid confusion. In 1926 he opened the Galleria S. Andrea in Via S. Andrea 11, where he continued to work until 1945 with his wife Gina Gandus (1900-1968). The store dealt in Italian art and had a particular predilection for jewelry and nineteenth-century Italian painting.
Alberto, and later Michele: the first antique shows
In 1951, Duda Subert resumed the business, opening the store G. G. Subert in Via San Pietro all’Orto 26.
The following year his son Alberto opened his own gallery in Via della Spiga 22.
This is the period of the first antique shows, including the historic Biennali in Florence and an exhibition in Milan’s Palazzo Reale, featuring the participation of both stores.
In 1996 the two businesses merged to create the Gallery of Antiquities and Art Objects in Via Santo Spirito 24, where Alberto Subert and his son Michele worked together until 2012.
In 2013, Michele Subert, continuing the family tradition, opened a new gallery in Via della Spiga 42, where he focuses on 16th-19th-century Italian works, exercising particular care in selecting works for public and private collections.
ANONYMOUS, Museo Teatrale alla Scala, Alfieri & Lacroix 1914, p. 45, no. 111; p. 112, no. 28
RUSSEL ROBINSON H., Il Museo Stibbert a Firenze, Vol. 4, Milan 1976
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Museo Poldi Pezzoli: orologi e oreficerie, Milan 1981, no. 270, p. 299
MOTTOLA MOLFINO A. in Poldi Pezzoli, Museo Poldi Pezzoli: i dipinti, Milan 1982, p. 36
BOCCIA L.G. and GODOY J.A. in Poldi Pezzoli, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Armeria I, Milan 1986, p. 24
ALLEVI P., Museo d’arti applicate, Armi da fuoco, Milan 1990
CURNOW C., Italian Maiolica in the National Museums of Scotland, Edimburgh 1992, pp. 96-97, nos. 119, 121, 123
AUSENDA R., Maioliche settecentesche: Milano e altre fabbriche, Saronno 1996; p. 18; pp. 80-81, no. 27; pp. 82-83, no. 28; p. 84-85, no. 29; pp. 114-115, no. 49; pp. 136-137, nos. 61- 62
COLLE E., Museo d’arti Applicate, mobili e intagli lignei, Milan, 1996, pp. 335-337, no. 610; pp. 426-427, no. 770; pp. 448-449
PROBST S.E.L. in Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, Vol. II, weapons and armor, Milan 2004, p. 753
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