The Lorenzi Foundation and Museum showcases one of the finest collections of rare and historical knives in the world.
One of the most extensive collections of ultra-rare modern custom and historical knives, cutting implements and many other items connected with the cutler’s art is displayed magnificently in a new museum in Milan, Italy.
A labor of love by Aldo and Edda Lorenzi, the museum is under the auspices of the aptly named Aldo and Edda Lorenzi Foundation (established July, 2020). The museum showcases the Lorenzi Collection consisting of about 2,000 pieces in all, catalogued and accompanied by specific information: era, origin, artisan (if known), function, material, construction and more.
It gathers cutting utensils and related items dating from the Etruscan period (approximately 900-27 B.C.) to today. It is complemented by a series of specialized publications, testimony to the incessant research that was necessary to bring the operation of the Lorenzis’ internationally recognized G. Lorenzi retail knife store in Milan to exceptional levels, and to which Mr. and Mrs. Lorenzi devoted their efforts and creativity for many years. It is all housed in a state-of-the-art edifice containing many of the displays and other historical examples of the cutler’s art from the original G. Lorenzi shop and elsewhere.
The Foundation’s premises include a library where visitors and specialists may view the bibliographic materials. A special fit-out of the space enables visitors to relive the shop’s atmosphere. Thanks to an attentive recovery, a number of the original furnishings have been reinstalled on site. This includes an exterior window from G. Lorenzi, one of six “eyes” that communicated with window shoppers in one of Milan’s most exclusive retail store districts, and the display counters on which, over the years, over 18,000 types of sales items were placed. The space also features oak display cases in which the items were shown, as well as the copper-paneled room that featured the small entrance door opening onto the larger shop.
The collected items demonstrate, by starting from an artisanal craft as ancient and humble as that of the knife grinder, how it is possible to evolve and then achieve historic excellence. As further informational support, there are over 700 books, about 1,000 magazines and 150 prints, which for the most part depict traveling knife grinders. In fact, Aldo’s father, Giovanni Lorenzi, started his career as a professional knife grinder. Giovanni
founded Coltelleria G. Lorenzi—a small shop at the time—at the address of via Montenapoleone 9, Milan, a shop later operated by his sons Aldo, the sole administrator, and Franco. (Regrettably, Franco passed away a few years ago.)
In the course of over 60 years, the Lorenzis collected and kept the pieces which best represented their profession until the closure of G. Lorenzi in 2014. Their selection of the most recent items from their collection was made possible thanks to the close, precious relationship with the artisans—many Europeans, a number of Americans and Japanese—whom Aldo and Edda visited periodically at their shops. It was in such shops that the artisans created their unique pieces, full-fledged artworks that stand the test of time and which enabled G. Lorenzi to become renowned and appreciated at the international level.
Included in the collection are 150 custom knives by American makers, knives that are particularly near and dear to Mr. and Mrs. Lorenzi. Having collected such knives since the mid-1970s, the Lorenzis traveled the USA, not only visiting the makers in their shops but also attending most every major knife show, meeting just about every maker worth his or her steel along the way.
Among the Lorenzis’ honors are The Knifemakers’ Guild’s Nate Posner Award (1995); the BLADE Magazine Industry Achievement Award (2014); the American Bladesmith Society Special Achievement Award (2014); and the Gold Star Award of Recognition from the William Moran Jr. Museum and Foundation (2014). Three of the Lorenzis’ favorites among their favorite custom knives in their collection are:
- The number one of an art piece by W.W. “Bud” Cronk, the maker some consider the father of the modern art knife. Aldo ordered a copy of the knife for one of the Lorenzis’ best customers, but Cronk passed away before he could finish it. It would’ve been a coup for the Lorenzis if they could have gotten the copy too, as Cronk never made duplicates of his work. The copy was used later as the model for the logo of the W.W. Cronk Award, a private honor Don Henderson sponsored for 25 years for the Guild Show’s best art knife
- A Bob Loveless/Barry Wood folder Loveless gave to Aldo when the Lorenzis visited the Loveless shop in 1977. Unaware at the time that U.S. knifemakers’ shops were not retail knife stores, the Lorenzis knocked on the Loveless shop door unannounced. Loveless answered the door and, unsure at first what to make of the couple from Italy, soon hit it
off with Aldo—so much so that he gave the Lorenzis the Loveless/Wood folder. Before the Lorenzis left, they asked Loveless why he had trusted them so much at first sight that he gave them a knife (at the time, Aldo and Edda had no idea what Loveless knives were worth). “He replied that we ‘had our history written on our foreheads,’ a phrase that we have never forgotten!” Edda wrote. “These are the kinds of bonds that have made us love American knives and knifemakers even more!”
- A Multilock folder by Ray Appleton. Edda recounted a memorable trip the Lorenzis shared with Appleton from Georgia to Chicago, including visits to an Atlanta racing museum and Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave in the process, the latter where the 6-foot-8-inch Appleton bumped his noggin on a cave overhead. Recounted Edda: “Since Aldo wanted to stop at every cutler shop he knew along the way, Ray generously offered to make the phone calls for him to warn the shops of our arrival. ‘I’m Aldo Lorenzi’s secretary, Hot Pants,’ he announced himself on the telephone, making us laugh a lot!”
These are but three of the many American custom knives and their stories among the scads of other custom and assorted knives and cutting implements in the museum. Meanwhile, a 300-to-400 page catalog of museum items is due for completion by early 2022 at the latest.
If you ever get Milan way, a visit to the Aldo and Edda Lorenzi Foundation and Museum is a bucket-list must.