Though its name is Italian for “hidden art,” L’Arte Nascosta is doing everything in its power to connect traditional practitioners of Italian artisanry with modern consumers. The online store is the brainchild of Salvatore Ambrosino, who conceived it in 2013 while studying in Florence to complete a master’s degree in Renaissance history.
In the course of researching his thesis—which concerned the history of commissioning and patronage in Renaissance Florence—Ambrosino met Paolo Penko, a contemporary Florentine master goldsmith crafting signet rings and pendants using Renaissance-era techniques. “It made me realize that artisanship and the concept of patronage were hiding in plain sight,” Ambrosino says.
After returning to his native New York City, Ambrosino embarked on a career in menswear, first as a made-to-measure manager at Isaia before joining bespoke tailor Denis Frison as its director of operations. But the concept of commissioning something beyond tailoring was never far from his mind.
“Seeing people having their own clothing made, I wondered if they have their own jewelry made, their own crystal-ware made, their own textiles for their home, and I just began following this rabbit hole,” he says.
After selling rings made by Penko—who counts three popes among his clientele—to friends, Ambrosino put the maker’s wares online in 2019 with L’Arte Nascosta’s first iteration. While Penko remains the store’s “founding artisanal partner,” five more artisans joined the website in December 2020. Each signifies a different, region-specific craft such as Sorrento intarsio wood inlaying, as represented by Franco Stinga’s watch boxes and humidors; Florentine crystal glassware in the case of Moleria Locchi’s wine goblets and decanters and medieval Umbrian fabric-weaving via Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti’s pillows and accessory pouches.
And just this week, Ambrosino has added engraved watch buckles made by master engraver Jesús Serrato, which start at $245, and custom calfskin watch straps from Roman master leathersmith Dino Ciani ($145). If Ambrosino’s words are any indication, there may be many more beautiful objects to follow.
“There is an expression in Italian, imbarazzo della scelta, which means that there’s so much choice available to you that you kind of feel embarrassed, like you have two feet in one shoe because you don’t know which one to choose first,” he says. “That’s the situation in terms of sourcing talented artisans in Italy.”
In the meantime, we’ve asked the Renaissance man to share some of his favorite selections from the current inventory below.