Thursday, September 23, 2010

Visconti’s Van Gogh

Visconti is an almost new member of the fountain pen brotherhood, only beginning in 1988 to handcraft writing instruments in Florence, Italy. By the time I first discovered Visconti pens, I was already devoted to Pelikan and Montblanc pens from Germany, and Sailor pens from Japan. In this light, Visconti had a rough time attracting my attention. Once or twice in various pen shops I sampled a Visconti fountain pen, but never had the inclination to buy one. Always had trouble with their nibs, which impress me as hard and inflexible. I would like to think the 14K gold nibs write more smoothly than the steel nibs, which all seem to have an unbending resistance I don’t care for.

I have here in my possession now (temporarily at least) a Visconti Van Gogh Maxi in the tortoise shell design. The Maxi comes in a range of about seven colors or designs, and the tortoise shell version, for some reason is the least visible. It appears that a good many of the US online dealers don’t carry the Van Gogh Maxi in tortoise shell. The one I have here in front of me came from Shosaikan in Tokyo, a pen boutique with a huge inventory of fountain pens.

If I were buying a Van Gogh Maxi for myself, the tortoise shell just might be my choice, but hopefully one with a 14k gold nib, instead of steel. Interesting choice of options to my mind, but Visconti makes the Maxi with a 14K gold nib, as well as a steel nib version. Not sure I understand the reasoning behind that.

A little about the creation of the tortoise shell and other designs…

Visconti came up with a process they call ‘press mould’ using natural resin and vegetal components to produce colors of great depth and translucency. According to Visconti’s boast, patterns vary from pen to pen and no two are the same. This I cannot see myself, but they also brag that the press mould gives the illusion of being hand-painted, recalling the impressionist paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. I have to draw the line there. These pens evoke the impressionism of Van Gogh about as much as Andy Warhol soup cans. Just another example of ad agency bull. No need really, because the colors and patterns in the Van Gogh Maxi series are all beautiful without allusion or pretense to impressionist art.

One interesting thing about the pen is its pocket clip, which opens rather wider than most. The description says that the wider opening makes putting the pen in your pocket easier. Maybe so, though I myself don’t generally put fountain pens in my pocket. There is a somewhat large screw on the back of the cap which secures this wide-mouth clip.

Writing with the steel-nibbed Visconti, even on my favorite paper—Clairefontaine 90g—is sometimes a struggle. Too many skips on downstrokes and on the curve of more than a few letters. I don’t seem to have as much trouble with the steel nibs on my Lamy pens, and the feel of the Visconti nib is altogether different.

The Van Gogh is a handsome pen, and there are things I like about it, but for it to ever be a fountain pen I am likely to pick up often, a nib change would be necessary.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America