Visconti, Versailles and Bhai Dooj

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Visconti Opera demo Red

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, we were taught as kids, our teachers alluding to the fact that one should desist from evaluating a gift critically. They had also taught us that “a true lover values not so much the gift of the lover, as the lover of the giver”, teaching us not to focus on the material value of the gift, but to appreciate the emotions involved behind the act of gifting. So far, so good.

But the same teachers and parents had thrown in a curve ball, complicating things, perhaps with some sinister intention of catching us off-guard, when they quoted Virgil and told us “Timeo Danos et dona ferentes” (paraphrased from Latin as “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”) teaching us not to lower our guard to trust our enemy or an adversary, even when they appear to be making an enticing offer. If only the Trojans had bothered to “look” the Greek “Gift Horse” in the mouth (or belly, or whatever), perhaps, the same teachers had taught us, the thunder that was about to strike, obliterating the Trojan state, could have been averted? Who knows? Confusion confounded.

However, with time, such esoteric questions have been put into the backburners. For today, the rules of engagement have evolved to such an extent that no one really bothers about such obscurities. You get a gift, post pictures of it in the social media, period. Friends who are detractors will dissect the gift, the intention of the giver, point out the fact that you are not worthy of it, even question about the financial implications of giving or receiving gifts, snidely (read consciously) bypassing both the love of the giver and the heart-warming feelings that flood the cockles to the core of the recipient. You make a public spectacle of a very private gesture, being ostentatious in your display and in the process, add more callouses to your cauterized sensibilities. If the past was confusing, the present is surely muddled and misunderstood – misrepresentation and misperception magnified.

That is why I was in two minds about writing this piece when my Pen-and-Ink-Didi Leena Srestha Menon, owner of Pen Boutique, USA and one of the most consistent crusaders for the art of writing and writing instruments, sent a special gift on the occasion of Bhai Dooj (or Bhai Tika, or Bhai phota, the day sisters bless their brothers, praying for their health and happiness). Do I make a sister’s sacred affection public or do I just thank her from the bottom of my heart? Do I share pictures of the gift with all and sundry, or do I simply treasure the gift, using it to feed my pen and ink obsession, fueling my fixation with fountain pens to a level hitherto unscaled?


I finally decided to throw discretion to the wind and overcome my initial reservations to write this piece, simply because by gifting me the gift that my dear Didi Leena Srestha Menon was giving, she was making a very pertinent point – that it is still acceptable to be giving writing instruments as gifts, whatever be the occasion. When we were young, it was de rigueur to give books or pens as gifts, a practice that has been all but forgotten, something that needs to be revived, keeping in mind the fact that our children are today digitally damned, have almost forgotten how to write and in no time in history are fountain pens and inks been needed as they are now. Thank you didi.

But now that I have shed my inhibitions, let me share the news about the pen that induced the eureka moment – the Visconti Opera Demo Carousel Red Velvet.

Visconti, as we all know was founded in 1988 by Luigi Poli and Dante del Vecchio, two friends who had decided to turn their passion for fountain pens into a business. The first collection launched by Visconti was the “Classic”, a pen made of celluloid, which would be used for several collections in successive years. The success of this pen encouraged its founders to release a new model, “Urushi”, a limited edition of only 100 pieces, made of ebonite and decorated with the Japanese lacquerware technique.


During the 1990s, Visconti developed the high vacuum power filler system (1993), the travel inkwell (1997) and the double reservoir filling system (1998) to prevent leakage.

In 2009, Visconti signed a deal with Coles of London whereby Coles became the official distributor of Visconti products in the United States. Together, they launched a range of new products, including the Rembrandt Collection, Opera Masters, Homo Sapiens Collection, Divina Royale range, and the limited-edition Templari, none of which require further elucidation, being extremely close to the hearts of fountain pen connoisseurs.

The Visconti Opera collection, incidentally is inspired by the iconic Palace of Versailles, one of history’s most dazzling addresses known for its world of luxuries, sophistication, colourful dresses and dizzying hairstyles. In its demo version, the Red Opera is sinfully resplendent, a contemporary reinterpretation of the court where Marie Antoinette laid down the laws of refined exaggeration, of baroque hyperbole.

The Opera collection, is made with a view towards arresting the eye of the beholder with its transparencies and stunning colours, each a blend of three types of semi-transparent acrylic resin. The combinations crafted to accord each pen with a brightness and unique disposition hitherto unknown. In order to further enhance the transparency of each pen’s body all the inner and outer parts are polished to excruciating detail, fit to carry the name of the court that is believed to have elevated hedonism to unimaginable heights.

This Visconti Opera demo is furnished with a 14 kt gold nib and flaunts Visconti’s fabled double reservoir filling system. As a demonstrator too, it carries the Double O prefix – not only is the pen, but the shaft of the double filler reservoir system is also transparent, making it possible to view the ink travel inside the double reservoir even as the pen is filled. And yes, this pen too can be personalised with the application of initials, zodiac signs or semi-precious stones as preferred by the fortunate owner another system patented by Visconti.

Visconti @ Penboutique

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