The Spinning top and the robot. Between Balla, Casorati and Capograssi

The theme of childhood developed in a fascinating interplay between works of art and vintage toys

From 11 November 2017 to 28 April 2018

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From 11 November 2017 to 28 April 2018 Palazzo Pretorio di Pontedera (PALP) in the province of Pisa, hosts the exhibition ‘The spinning top and the robot. Between Balla, Casorati and Capogrossi’, where vintage toys and works of art - ranging from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards – enter into a fascinating interaction focused on the evocative theme of childhood. The exhibition in Pontedera (Pisa) curated by Daniela Fonti and Filippo Bacci di Capaci, was developed thanks to the help of the Foundation for Culture of Pontedera, the Biorobotics Institute of the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, under the patronage of the Region of Tuscany and the Ministry of Heritage, Culture and Tourism.

The exhibition essentially consists of toys coming from a valuable collection belonging to the Municipality of Rome and 110 works by Italian artists, such as Felice Casorati, Giacomo Balla and Giuseppe Capogrossi, relating to the period between 1860 and 1980. The relationship between arts and crafts toys is conveyed through the concrete nature of old toys built by skilled craftsmen but also by factories and exploiting the suggestive nature of figurative and plastic art from the 19th to the 20th century. The exhibition in Pontedera (Pisa) is not simply a vintage toys exhibition, but a real journey that investigates the relationship between childhood and its representation in art in many ways. As explained by the curator of the exhibition, this representation began in the second half of the nineteenth century, when children, until then painted almost exclusively in family portraits, began to become real subjects of important works. The exhibition itinerary of one of the most unmissable events in Pontedera unfolds through a series of key themes that accompany the visitor on this fascinating journey.


  • HOME. This section of the exhibition focuses on the domestic dimension of toys. Among the antique toys the one that most stands out is the doll house declined in two versions, which, mirroring the time and the social fabric of the period, portray both a bourgeois and a more subdued model. Visitors will be able to observe miniature furniture and vintage dolls that interact for example with Giacomo Balla and the works of other artists such as Zandomeneghi, Casorati, Cambellotti, Francalancia, Campigli, Viani, Pirandello and Novelli.
  • CHILD EDUCATION. In this case, the relationship between child and adult is investigated through the perspective of the child's upbringing. The little ones are thus portrayed in various moments of learning that do not concern only the school environment, but also that related to singing, music and art itself. The theme is explored more in depth through works by Mancini, Cambellotti, Lloyd, Levi, Capogrossi, Casorati, Mafai, Pirandello.
  • THE EXTERNAL GAME. In the outdoors, children learn to widen their horizons by venturing into a different awareness of their surroundings through movements, the imagination of a voyage and a longing for exoticism. All this is found in the works by the painter Capogrossi, but also Muzzioli, Corcos, Boccioni, Müller, Erba, Magri, Sartorio and Gentilini.
  • THEATER AND CIRCUS. Among the old toys and games, models of theaters, merry-go-rounds and marionettes are undoubtedly among the most fascinating ones. These are the ‘balocchi’ that you can admire in this hall where great emphasis is placed on how theatre and circus perpetuate the joy and amazement experienced in childhood through art and toys until adulthood. This idea is found in Balla’s works and those focusing on the same theme by Casorati, the painter, but also Cambellotti, Depero, Natali, Capogrossi.
  • TOYS FOR ALL AGES. As Depero claimed, whose presence will be conveyed through the display of his works at the Pontedera exhibition, playing games helps keep the freshness of childhood alive in adults. In this section of the vintage toys Tuscany show, great emphasis is given to entertainments involving players of all ages such as dominoes, cards, chess and ‘tarots’. In this case the works exhibited in Pontedera (PI) are paintings and sculptures by Boccioni, Pasquarosa, De Pisis, Raphael, Severini Novelli, Santoro and Novak.
  • THE ROOM OF AUTOMATONS. The last section of this ideal voyage could only be the one dedicated to the most modern toys of all, namely those based on automation: from the simplest models of the past to the most complex ones of today. From a more artistic-philosophical point of view, the idea of a mannequin, of an automated alter ego - in short, of a 'robot' – has influenced currents such as futurism. The works displayed to emphasize the dichotomy between toys and art are those by Grassi, Sironi, Pannaggi, Prampolini, Depero, Casorati and Enrico Baj. Worth mentioning is also the fact that in this room you can also see the Baj Enrico’s sketches, who built one of the biggest contemporary mosaics in history in Pontedera, called 'the Wall of Baj' which depicts what looks like colorful robots. What’s more, this part of the exhibition puts a spotlight on the connection with the research activities in biorobotics carried out by the Sant'Anna Institute of Pisa, an Italian first-class center of advanced studies and partner of the exhibition.


Among the events running in Pisa and its province, the exhibition of vintage kids toys and drawings on childhood by Italian authors who worked from 1800s to 1980s, is certainly an excellent opportunity to come to Pontedera (Pi) and spend a few days in Tuscany. Among other things, the town houses, in addition to the famous Piaggio Museum where you can find many examples of the famous 'Vespa' moped, many works of contemporary art by Baj, Canuti, Vangi and many others. In short, the Pontedera exhibition is not the only location where you can admire many works of art: the town is a real open-air museum. Not forgetting it is a mere half-hour drive from Pisa, the city of the Leaning Tower and the enchanting village of San Miniato.

After all, as you might already know, Tuscany, with its 28 Touring Club orange flags awarded to as many villages, is the undisputed queen of ancient tiny villages. Why not take a look at our section on the Villages of Tuscany and make the most of one of our fantastic tours to discover these wonderful jewels? You will this way combine the artistic charms of the exhibition ‘The spinning top and the robot. Between Balla, Casorati and Capogrossi’, running at the PALP in Pontedera until 28 April 2018, with the food and wine delicacies on offer on many of our experiences. Come on, get down to it and plan your getaway or your holiday ... Tuscany is waiting for you!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff


Period: From 11 November 2017 to 28 April 2018

Event location: Pontedera

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