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The world in a pinhead.

WILD RIVERS running through a cedar forest amongst giraffes; iced mountain peaks silhouetted against the timid fuchsia horizon; knights and satined ladies descending from a castle to cheer the brave contestants at the tournament--these are some of the scenes painted by Ecuadoran Manuel Andrade del Soto on the heads of 13 pins, each no larger than 1.5 millimeters in diameter. Using oil paint and a single hair of a pine-martin (the finest of all hairs) as a brush, Del Soto created incredibly realistic scenes from his life experiences.

Born in Ecuador in the early 1900s, del Soto became a professional bullfighter at a young age, performing in the plazas of Central and South America where bullfights were still a popular form of entertainment. In 1929, Del Soto's career was suddenly ended by a nearly fatal accident in the ring. Badly wounded and disabled, he channeled his energies into creating these thirteen miniature paintings.

Sometime after the Korean War, the pinheads became the property of Emilio Salanova, a Spanish tenor who was touring the Americas with the famous Compania de Zarzuelas de Luis Sagivela. When Salanova arrived in Havana, Cuba, he was contacted by a U.S.-naturalized Argentine businessman, Eduardo Orsini, who was interested in purchasing the collection. A year later in Buenos Aires, the transaction was completed for the amount of US $11,000, with the condition that Orsini keep the collection as one entity. Orsini promptly returned to Cuba with the miniatures which were exhibited at the Escuela de Bellas Artes San Alejandro and featured on television and in several renowned magazines and newspapers, including Bohemia.

In 1961, uncertain of his safety, Orsini felt compelled to return to the United States. When he informed a friend, Yanez Impelletier, Fidel Castro's secretary at the time, of his intentions to leave the country and take the collection with him, he was surprised to learn that as his contribution to the new regime, the collection was to stay in Cuba. Orsini insisted that Castro had assured him otherwise, and Yanez did not insist. Nonetheless, unsure of what would transpire at the airport, Orsini pinned the entire collection to his socks, substituting regular pins in the elegantly handcrafted leather and gold case that housed the treasure. This clever move saved the collection since, on the runway, customs officials blocked Orsini and without uttering a word seized the leather case and disappeared.

Del Soto died in 1952, leaving behind a unique artistic legacy. Although miniature painting is generally associated with the Asian cultures of the Far East, this Latin American artist captured shapes, forms and colors with remarkable accuracy, precision and taste. The collection was recently acquired by the Elizabeth Antonova Gallery of Miami, where it is currently on display.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Manuel Andrade del Soto's oil paintings on 13 pinheads
Author:Jacobson, Daniel
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:May 1, 1993
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