The most mysterious of the great European jewelry houses, Codognato is the secret address for the style cognoscenti the world over.
An eternal Venetian islet within the city of canals, Codognato remains one of the most mysterious and majestic of the great European jewelry houses and the secret address for the style cognoscenti the world over.
Codognato creations are eloquent time capsules whose baroque details, 'vanitas' themes and reliquary gems, (originally unearthed during archaeological digs) seduce with the complicated soul of their city's past. It is no surprise then that Luchino Visconti, the Venetian director who immortalized the city's hauntingly macabre beauty in 'A Death in Venice' was drawn daily to the curiously captivating window displays of the jeweler's boutique.
"Every day Luchino Visconti would stop by the shop and ask to see the most beautiful designs we had, and I would tell him: 'Mr. Visconti, you bought the most beautiful design yesterday, give us some time to create more,'" confides Attilio Codognato, current owner and heir to the mythical house, founded by his great-great grandfather Simeone Codognato in 1866.
At once frivolous and sobering, brilliant and funerary, Codognato has been channeling the Venetian spirit with singular allure for over a century. At the house's landmark boutique, hidden among the city's sinuous paths, elaborately detailed confections such as baroque blackamoor brooches, antique cameos and bedazzling serpentine rings — famously coveted by past style-mavens such as Coco Chanel and Diana Vreeland — express a timeless taste for transgression at once provocative and profound. Iconoclastically out of time, while effortlessly relevant, Codognato remains the secret address for the style cognoscenti the world over. "All of the rock stars, such as Metallica and Marilyn Manson come here because they believe in the eternal message of time conveyed through our designs," explains Codognato, whose contemporary roster of devotees also includes less gregariously Goth stars such as Nicole Kidman and Elton John.
A man of impeccable taste, committed, like his forefathers, to "decline the past in the present" Attilio Codognato is also a passionate collector of contemporary art whose stunning collection boasts a number of works by close friend, and Codognato admirer, Andy Warhol.
What is your definition of luxury?
The word luxury is ambiguous for me, what counts is allure and charm.
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
It's not an object in itself, but something that comes from the inside.
If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
An alluring moment.
If luxury were a place, where would it be?
There are so many magical places, but it all depends on who goes there.
If luxury were a person, who would it be?
Luchino Visconti, Cecil Beaton and Leo Castelli because they each have a powerful aura.
The Codognato style is linked with Venetian history, yet it remains brilliantly modern. To what do you attribute the brand's timelessness?
From father to son, from one generation to the next, the Codognato style is a common reflection on death, and thus on life. It is not mortuary, but a message that celebrates the image of life. Today, this idea is incredibly in fashion. Perhaps its rising appeal is due to the book 'The Da Vinci Code's' great success in portraying a life without end.
Could the house of Codognato have been built in any other city? In your opinion, what makes it so quintessentially Venetian?
Venice is known as a dead and dusty city. It has always projected something profoundly funerary, which is why many famous people have come here to die. In the Thirties, there was a lot of traffic between Biarritz and Venice. Coco Chanel came here often with her entourage. Many of them, rather symbolically, chose Venice as their last stop, their final destination. Venice is a city that one passes through for one reason or another, and, for Codognato, there is a symbolism and inexplicable mystery that is linked to the city. I was once asked to open a shop in NY and had to refuse. I prefer to play my game here.
For decades, tastemakers and celebrities the world over have been coveting Codognato blackamoor designs. What makes them so desirable?
The blackamoor cameo, or 'moretti,' has two provenances: In the 15th century the figure was portrayed as a black gondolier in the paintings of Vittore Carpaccio, a Venetian artist who exposed in some of the largest exhibitions at the time. In the 18th century, the painter Pietro Longhi dressed the figure in a prince uniform and had him carrying a secret message in a silver locket. There are thus two iconographies from which the blackamoor is inspired. Each time the personage is dressed differently, with different stones and gems, either as a prince or a gondolier. Each design is unique. In the Thirties, Cartier did a 'moretti,' but it lacked the spirit of Venice. The value of our blackamoors goes well beyond the price of a diamond; what makes them unique is their historic link to Venice's unusual cultural and artistic past.
Are there any other designs that are Codognato icons?
There is also the serpent that appears often on our bracelets and rings. It symbolizes the beginning of time from the tale of Adam and Eve. By including the serpent, there is a sense of sin that is provocative, timeless and profoundly morbid.
Which pieces in the collection do you cherish most personally?
I just bought back a diamond necklace that my father designed in the Thirties. It is an extremely powerful piece decorated with diamond skulls that's loud, rare and most divine.
How do you feel about the latest craze for gothic-inspired jewelry? Has it impacted Codognato in any way?
We have always promoted the philosophy that designs are linked with ideas, and should stimulate reflection. Now that's what people want. People need to believe in a life that's more powerful than their own; it's a sign of our times. The iconography linked with 'vanitas' and skulls provides the symbolism that people are searching for today.
Why do you think embellishment is important in life?
I believe that beauty is a moral value. It is the external reflection of the interior world. One's beauty, in terms of their allure and charm, emanates from the inside out.
You are considered a great collector of contemporary art. How does your love for contemporary art influence your designs?
Here I have 'vanitas'-themed artifacts and designs mixed with artwork by Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein, but in terms of influences, it's my love of ancient objects that has peaked my passion for contemporary art.
Gioielleria Attilio Codognato
1295 San Marco
Tel: +39 (0)41 522 5042