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Valentino Monticello

By Antonia Pearce

For many years, the art of Valentino Monticello has been a great success with a variety of audiences.  His works of art regularly fetch over £10,000 at auction, while Christie’s and the National Gallery in London celebrated the originality of his work by writing the foreword for Monticello’s book: Opera and Wine – Wine in Opera.

Monticello specialises in collages which are cleverly created out of wine labels, with each work depicting intriguing operatic scenes, mythology, anthropomorphic flowers or even an individual’s portrait.

A humble man with a scholar’s mind, Valentino realised his talent in the later part of his life.  The grandson of a wine producer and the son of a hotel owner, Monticello moved from his home near Vicenza in Italy, to London in 1959.

With his inherited knowledge of wine (both its taste and cultural history) he embarked upon a career as a sommelier at Club 21.  However, one evening, Valentino happened to meet Mark Birley and subsequently became the head sommelier at Harry’s Bar.  Here, Monticello’s artistry was to find itself an audience.  Mark Birley soon commissioned him to create the infamous Harry’s Bar Christmas cards and members quickly started to request private commissions for themselves.
Monticello has subsequently enriched every subject to which he has applied himself.  The work of collecting the wine labels, which are then cut, trimmed and mounted to illustrate the opera or object in question, is a tribute to both his patience and skill.

The colour and inscription of the wine label is integrated into the image, allowing for rich and dynamic works of art to develop.  The levels of thought that go into his work are multifarious; operatic scenes contain references to wine and the wine labels he uses come from the same country as each opera originates from.
The scope of his enthusiasm for opera and wine is fully demonstrated in Opera and Wine – Wine in Opera (for which he researched more than 2,000 libretti).  It shows the breadth of Monticello’s knowledge of both opera and wine, from Europe to Oceania.  One of the most extraordinary collages depicts a scene from the Italian opera La Gioconda – a crowd scene, with people gathering in St. Mark’s Square, Venice, beneath the grandeur of the Doge’s Palace.

Other collages depict flowers, roses morphing into feminine nudes and portraits with a distinctly Uccello-like quality.  His latest work is a collection of collages celebrating the life of Bacchus, the god of wine – the works were bought in their entirety upon completion.  Monticello is currently designing Christmas cards for Harry’s Bar, Annabel’s and George.

The genius of Monticello is not only in the beautiful fruits of his labour – but that he has managed to find a way to marry his three passions; wine, art, and opera.  To do something successfully – and to be recognised as doing so – is surely the mark of a man who has mastered the art of living.

Valentino Monticello’s work can be viewed at his Harley Street gallery by prior appointment. Please contact for more information.

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