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In Praise Of The Old Style Visconti Van Gogh “Maxi” Fountain Pen

visconti van gogh maxi fountain pens

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#1 Quadratus

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 16:37

IN PRAISE OF THE OLD STYLE VISCONTI VAN GOGH “MAXI” FOUNTAIN PEN

 

Visconti are a Florentine pen manufacturer founded on 20 October 1988 by two friends who decided to make a business of their passion for fountain pens. The two founders, Luigi Poli and Dante del Vecchio are stars of the long tradition of Italian pen manufacturing. They succeeded in remaining at the top of a highly competitive international market for over 30 years, which is an outstanding achievement when one considers the sad demise of OMAS or Delta.

Throughout their history, Visconti have set new standards for imaginative and striking designs, ranging from the very expensive to cheaper “every day” pens, earning a well-deserved devoted following of fountain pen collectors and users. Their “Homo Sapiens” line of pens need no introduction, and most people reading this will own or have seen a “Van Gogh” or “Rembrandt” Visconti pen. Some of the leading online pen reviewers, SBRE BROWN (https://www.youtube.com/user/sbrebrown) and PENULTIMATE DAVE (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmPrXpKKggCrGTmAhhMmvBA) have produced many highly entertaining and informative reviews of Visconti pens.

In this review, however, I wish to celebrate a now sadly discontinued range of Visconti pens, the “Van Gogh Maxi” which were in production in the first decade of the 2000s (along with their smaller cousins the Van Gogh “Midi” and Mini” versions). The series was also produced as roller ball pens.

The larger “maxi” size is one of my favourite pens as it fits my hands beautifully, so I will only be discussing this “maxi” line of the Van Gogh production as this is the type I own. More recently, of course, Visconti have produced a modern line of Van Goghs that are very widely available. They are hugely popular with their bright, fun colours, easily swapped or cleaned steel nibs, filling mechanisms that will accommodate standard size cartridges or converters and general sturdiness. But these are not of the sophistication as their earlier relatives, and they have steel nibs rather than gold nibs, so I will not be covering them in this review.

 

THE VISCONTI VAN GOGH MAXI FOUNTAIN PENS

Revealing a collector’s mania side of my character, I have acquired seven Visconti Van Gogh Maxis (VGMs) over the years. They are one of the jewels in my pen collection and are in constant use.

 

I was introduced to the VGMs by Ray Walters, (http://www.vintagean...dernpens.co.uk/] who is a regular vendor at Pen Shows, on his website and elsewhere. As always, he is charming and persuasive and I think the first pen he sold me was the VGM “Tortoise”.

Visconti Tortoise 2.jpg

 

 

 

This pen was a discovery and a revelation. I was writing with a pen of different design than the Pelikans and Japanese pens I was used to but with outstanding performance qualities. This purchase was quickly followed by the Musk version:

 

Visconti Musk.jpg

Visconti Musk 2.jpg

 

And then, throwing financial discipline to the winds, I also bought the beautiful “Sandal Wood” coloured version from Ray:

 

Sandal Wood capped.jpg

Visconti Sandal 1.jpg

 

As I had the income to collect then, I quickly added (from eBay) a Demonstrator version:

Visconti demonstrator 2.jpg

Visconti demonstrator 1.jpg

 

 

Later on came a “Starry Night” version:

Visconti starry night.jpg

Visconti starry night 2.jpg

 

And a “Fantasia”:

Visconti Fantasia 1.jpg

Visconti Fantasia 2.jpg

 

And finally, an Ivory version (sometime also called a Vanilla, but I think Ivory is more appropriate):

 

Visconti Ivory 1.jpg

Visconti Ivory 2.jpg

 

There are other colours available, and these sometime turn up on eBay or at Pen Shows. From my online searches, I gather that the other VGM colours are Cappuccino (sometimes called Espresso), Black, plain Green, bright Yellow and Mint Blue. If there are other colours I would be interested to know from readers.

 

Design
These pens are in the “oversize” range. They are slightly larger than the Pelikan M800, but slightly girthier and heavier as the weight is increases with the metal central band.

 

Visconti and Pelikan M800 side by side 2.jpg

 

Personally I don’t like oversize or very large pens and have therefore never bought the more recent range of large Viscontis like the Homo Sapiens and similar, which I find simply too large and bulky. The VGMs are therefore, for me, at the size limit of what I enjoy writing with, especially as I prefer to post my pens.

The pens fit comfortably into my hand while writing (either posted or unposted)

 

As always beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in my view, these pens are beautiful and very stylish. They have a happy, joyous range of colours with strikingly stylish bodies.

 

Clips

Their clips are the signature “Ponte Vecchio” arches and these are very flexible, making them easy to place in a pocket.

One controversial aspect of the design is the screw on the top of the cap, which keeps the clip in place.

 

Back clip screw.jpg

 

For some this is a serious error in design, detracting from the overall aesthetics with a rather “industrial” and crude intrusion in colourful body. Personally I don’t really notice the screw as I have the cap posted with the clip showing on top, so that the screw always remains in the unseen underside of the pen, but I agree with the critics: Visconti could have produced something more visually pleasing (like the design of the Pineider clips which have a more discreet clip holder mechanism).

 

Locking mechanism

The Visconti locking system changed over time. Initially, Visconti used a “3K” twist fastener system, where the cap was secured with a twist locking it on three threads. 

 

The system is not really satisfactory: I found that it uncaps inside a pocket which is irritating as then the nib stains ink on a shirt through the inner jacket pocket’s lining. More concerning were reports by some users of cracking of the barrel through the pressure involved in locking the “3K” twist system. So it was discontinued and replaced with threaded locking:

 

Filling system

The VGMs have cartridge converter filling systems. The system allows international size cartridges which is helpful as one of the really irritating aspects of Japanese pens or some European pens like Aurora or Lamy is having to use proprietary cartridges! The converters are threaded which makes them secure. They do sometimes have a tendency to “rattle” unless the top section is tightened, which is the case in one of my seven VGMs.

 

 

Nibs

 

The nib is, of course, the soul of a pen. In this respect, Visconti excelled themselves in producing superlative writing nibs. My own preference is for fine nibs and Visconti’s nibs tend on the wetter side. From my research the VGM nibs ranged from EF, F, M, B and Stub. Generally, the VGMs have 14 carat nibs but I have one 23K Palladium fine nib.
These have beautiful decoration as shown below

 

The Visconti nibs.jpg

 

These nibs are wonderful writers. The fine duo tone VGM 14K nibs glide smoothly on the page, with just enough feedback to make the writer conscious of the grain of the paper on which the nib writes. The 23K “Dreamtouch” fine nib is also a joy to write with, although it lacks the flexing quality of the 14K nibs.

An added bonus is that these nibs can we swapped between different VGMs, rather like the way Pelikan nibs can be swapped between pens.

 

 

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

These Visconti pens are among the finest pens in my collection (which is mainly composed of Pelikans and Sailors). Their design, joyous range of colours and wonderfully expressive nibs make them a set of pens that give constant pleasure whenever used. Although I would, if pressed, prefer the Pelikan M800 or the Sailor 1911 Large range of pens, these old style Viscontis are a treasure that I cherish.

These Viscontis are now sadly discontinued and, in my view, one of the worst decisions taken by the Florentine manufacturer was to produce the modern steel nib Van Gogh series. While these are perfectly decent writing pens, with attractive colouring, they simply cannot match the exquisite precision of the VGM gold nibs and style of their design. If only Visconti would revive them, just as Pelikan has begun to revive old discontinued models!

Attached Images

  • Visconti Tortoise 2.jpg
  • Visconti Tortoise 2.jpg

Edited by Quadratus, 03 May 2020 - 19:30.


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#2 sansenri

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 17:32

Thank you for the very interesting review.

I have a problem accessing the photos. Can you check?



#3 Quadratus

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 18:37

Will check the photos! Thanks for pointing out that they don't upload.

 

I think the problem is that some of the photos were above the 2MB permitted size.


Edited by Quadratus, 03 May 2020 - 19:03.


#4 Quadratus

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 19:32

Hi Sanseri

I have now revised the post adding the pictures in a way which I hope now works.  However, for some reason I can't work out, there are two extra photos of the Van Gogh Maxi Tortoise at the end of the review but I can't find a way of getting rid of them.

Anyway I hope the review and photos are now accessible and readable!



#5 como

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 19:48

Quadratus: thank you for the detailed review and for sharing your beautiful collection. I have the newer Van Gogh version with the steel nib. I wish that Visconti offered them with gold or palladium nibs. The steel nibs on the newer version are nails, though I've had mine adjusted to a wet smooth stub at least.



#6 sansenri

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 20:06

thank you, photos showing now.

Now I can enjoy reading it with more care.

I agree this is a very nice pen. I own a Starry Night maxi (but also a Midi and Mini in different colours).

Such a pity the gold nib offer ended back then. The Visconti steel nibs in the subsequent series are nice but these gold nibs were better!



#7 sansenri

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 20:39

Here are my Van Goghs Maxi and Midi.

I believe the colours are Starry Night and Ocean Blue (I'm not 100% sure, these were the colours declared by the sellers, as I bough both of them on the bay years ago, the Maxi is NOS).

 

These were really nice pens and nibs, Visconti has gone forward to make so many other pens, but I think they had a winner with this one.

(Another pen I really like from them is the Opera, wonderful nibs on that one too).

 

The metal section bothers some, but I find it ok, partly also because I hold pens high up, so my fingers tend to go partially on the threads, and here again design is key, the threads are very rounded (it's even visible in the photo) so you hardly feel them, and the barrel is flush with the section, so great! no step downs. It's a simple design, but very comfortable in the hand, and the colours make up for the looks.

 

By the way, If I recall, the screw at the back of the cap is supposed to finetune the spring mechanism of the clip, i.e. you can tighten it.

(I have not tried so don't take my word for it).

 

Great review and photos!

 

fpn_1588537485__p1140820-3_visconti_van_


Edited by sansenri, 03 May 2020 - 21:00.


#8 sansenri

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 20:59

and here is my other Midi in red. I'm not sure of the exact colour as defined by Visconti

fpn_1588538691__p1140817-3_visconti_van_



#9 langere

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 22:10

Ah, how beautiful!  Thanks for sharing!

 

I have three of the old Van Goghs, and only one Maxi.  I love all three - they are superb writers.  And the plastics are extraordinary.  For me, with this series Visconti really took off and became popular.  It showed a distinct style that became the basis for many of its newer pens.  

 

Erick


Staedtler Corium Urbes Buenos Aires "F" nib running Sailor Jentle Ink Black

Leonardo Officina Italiana Momento Zero Grande "F" nib running Waterman South Sea Blue

Stipula Adagio "F" nib running Monteverde Citrine

 


#10 gary

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Posted 03 May 2020 - 23:41

Thanks for the post and the pics.

At the time these were the "must-have" pens.

#11 jchch1950

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Posted 04 May 2020 - 03:42

Thank you for the review. The Van Gogh(s) are nice and colourful pens and as they are C/C they seldom need complex repairs.



#12 Quadratus

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Posted 04 May 2020 - 09:50

Hi Sanseri

 

Thank you for posting pictures of your Visconti Van Goghs.  I think the reddish VG midi pen you have is probably a "sandal wood" colour version but the patch of dark yellow is unusual (although very attractive!): it may be the result of the resin's formation when manufactured.  Certainly the cap looks very much like a "sandal wood" VG.

 

I have never owned a VG Midi and would be interested to see one compared in size with a Maxi.  It would be nice to own a further example of this series.  I have read rather negative reviews of the Minis which people say are simply too small, unless you really want a pocket pen.

 

And thanks for the suggestion of getting a Visconti Opera: when I save enough money, I will look out for one but pens, I find, are getting more expensive every year and I am semi-retired so don't have the income for buying pens that I had several years ago!



#13 sansenri

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Posted 05 May 2020 - 20:26

Thank you yes, I suspect my red midi is a sandal wood too, although I'm not sure 100% and I have always called it Amber.

I have been trying to find reference to the original Visconti colours that were issued but it seems difficult.

The Visconti Maxi, Midi and Mini are a bit like the Pelikan Souverain series (or the Omas Arte italiana) they are proportionally identical but in different sizes, so unless you see them side by side you cannot really tell...

however if you check my photo above, post #7, the two blue pens are a Maxi on the left and a Midi on the right!

You can tell the difference especially if you compare the cap.

The Midi is smaller but not dramatically smaller. I use both comfortably.

There is more difference in width than in length.

 

PS you can also tell by the nib, the one on the Maxi is no doubt bigger and nicer to write with, I assume size 6 and size 5.


Edited by sansenri, 05 May 2020 - 20:29.


#14 sansenri

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Posted 05 May 2020 - 20:41

as we are at it... here is the Mini.

Again in red, and presumably sandal wood.

The section is slightly different, shorter.

It's a lovely little pen though

sorry but no comparison photo available at the moment...

fpn_1588711079__p1170122-3_visconti_van_



#15 sansenri

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Posted 05 May 2020 - 21:57

I'm curious to correctly name mine too...

I've searched a bit

I have found with silver trim, in the series with gold nib but the new clip with Visconti in black background (not the early series clip with Visconti written on top of the clip)

Musk, (dark Green streaked with yellow)

Turtle, or Tortoise (with a partially transparent body)

Ocean Blue (I assume Starry Night is not correct, this is the name of the blue version in the subsequent series inspired directly to the paintings - my Midi was in fact referred to as Ocean Blue by the seller)

Sandal wood (confirmed the browny red is mentioned as Sandal wood in various other sites)

Vanilla (the ivory colour)

There is then a Cappucino with gold trim

and a green/white swirl probably called Laguna Verde with silver trim made for Swisher pens.

Found mention of a Fantasia with palladium nib (this seems to be one of four LE pens made for La Casa dela stilografica in Firenze)

I have not found others so far.

According to PensinAsia (a know online shop) the first series Maxi dates 2004.


Edited by sansenri, 05 May 2020 - 22:59.


#16 sansenri

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Posted 05 May 2020 - 22:28

PS becoming more interesting

Ghost Plane has a nice collection showing the colours

http://www.fountainp...-1389534826.jpg

besides the Swisher I mentioned, and musk, there seem to be another green, far right

the musk also seems to have gold trim

a black maxi also seems to exist (or not sure if the far right is the musk and the one next to it the black)


Edited by sansenri, 05 May 2020 - 22:55.


#17 sansenri

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Posted 05 May 2020 - 23:04

gradually recovering past info on FPN...

http://www.fountainp...an-gogh-colors/

 

http://www.fountainp...pecial-edition/

The shiny finish of these LE editions is not so much my cup of tea...

 

I think Ghost Plane listed the existing standard colours correctly in 2009

http://www.fountainp...s/#entry1040558

musk green
ocean blue
sandal wood (red)
tortoise or turtle?
vanilla
black
solid yellow [exclusive for that Miami seller?]
Laguna Green (pastel green) [Swisher's]

(cappuccino showing in the photo too)

I'm missing to see the yellow though, although this was a Special edition for a seller too


Edited by sansenri, 05 May 2020 - 23:06.


#18 Quadratus

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Posted 09 May 2020 - 09:55

Hi Sanseri

Thank you very much for your replies last week.  Those photos from the FPN back in 2009 of all the Van Gogh maxis were wonderful.  We are so lucky to have the FPN as a resource for collectors doing research!  

Obviously my small collection of 7 maxis is nowhere near comprehensive... I will keep looking for affordable models on Ebay and, maybe, in pen shows.  The cappuccino version is very attractive- I saw one on Ebay recently but it was far too expensive.

On the other hand, with 7 in my collection, maybe I can use any "pen collecting money" for buying another interesting pen by another manufacturer...



#19 PatientType

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 20:28

I concur with everything in your review. I have a couple of the Van Gogh Maxi pens. They're all gold nib versions and are smooth and reliable writers. The Van Gough Maxis were a lovely mix of rich color, sleek style, and solid functionality.



#20 tinta

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 22:06

All are absolutely gorgeous pens.  I do prefer the "old style" clip though.


*Sailor 1911S, Black/gold, 14c. 0.8 mm. stub(JM) *1911S blue "Colours", 14c. H-B "M" BLS (PB) *2 Sailor 1911S Burgundy/gold: 14c. 0.6 mm. "round-nosed" CI (MM) & 1.1 mm. CI (JM) *Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Spec. Ed. "Fire",14c. (factory) "H-B" *Kaweco SPECIAL FP: 14c.,-0.6 mm BLS, (PB) *Kaweco Stainless Steel Lilliput, 14c "M" -0.4 mm.BLS, (PB)





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