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David Montalto

The unique artist and master craftsman in the domain of diamond stipple engraving and glass sculpture uncovers his private realm of imagination and wonder

I have a cabinet painted with my favourite choice of landscapes. The soft, English countryside, an eiderdown of fields, hedgerows and wood crops. Then another, of distant hills leading to far off mountains with a calm lake reflecting this view and the sky of dancing clouds. In the foreground there are wild flowers and butterflies tasting their sweetness.

I open this cabinet to another set of glass fronted doors that are placed above small drawers which have been decorated with delicate, marquetry scenes in ivory.

My anticipation is acute to look and touch once again the visible objects; tantalising behind those bevelled, crystal panels. Also, within those drawers lined with Venetian, marbled paper, lay hidden, those well loved items, soon to be enjoyed. Every object connected to pleasant memories of gifts or new discoveries in shops and others; inherited, precious mementos. All bringing memories, recollections of a sense of discovery, wonder and delight.

There is a silver coffee set upon a beautiful tray. This once belonged to HRH Princess Mary, the Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood.To hold these and open the minute lid to the coffee pot and then, to the hot milk jug and to then imagine the young girl, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary playing with this very set in the Royal Nursery at Buckingham Palace, is somehow, magical. It must have been given her from the large collection made by her Mother, Queen Mary.

Every object is connected to pleasant memories of gifts or new discoveries in shops and others; inherited, precious mementos. All bringing memories, recollections of a sense of discovery, wonder and delight

Next come a set of carefully carved avocado pear stones. They come usually in twos so as to compliment each other. Two nuns in a greeting embrace and two monks enacting the same greeting. Another two miniature sculptures represent a knight and his helmet. The sculptures are many and a game can be made by seeing who can place each piece with the carving that goes with it.

Some of the drawers are partitioned so as to hold one, four or six individual objects or sculptures. For example, in one drawer is a gold, telescopic pencil attached to my Grandmother’s ballroom dance cards. A small, mother of pearl booklet with ten ivory pages on to which the fortunate suitor would have his name put down for the dance of his choice. This book has a gold ring holding the cover and pages together. To this ring the mentioned pencil is attached by a delicate gold chain. It has a green enamelled outer cover or handle topped with a rose diamond crown, surrounded by small diamonds with tiny sunburst surrounds of gold. This makes one think of her thrill in accepting the excited request of each young and handsome suitor.

Above and behind the bevelled, crystal glass doors are placed silver and gold snuff boxes, engraved with rural scenes and stately country houses.

There is a larger box. Not easily noticed on its front side, is a small, flying bird. My Mother would hold this box and tell me to blow hard. As I did this, unseen by me, she slid this flying bird sideways, which opened an oval lid on the top. Then, out flew a little humming bird, its wings flapping, its head turning left and right with its feathers shining different colours as it turned. The minute, diamond eyes flashing the colours of the rainbow. Suddenly it would finish chirping, close it’s wings and disappear just as quickly as it had appeared.

I never saw how the top opened; it remained a guarded secret and this pure magic remained until the day I was old enough to be trusted to hold the box myself.


David Montalto (full name David Maude-Roxby-Montalto di Fragnito) is a world famous artist. His pieces have been exhibited in some of the world’s most prestigious museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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