Next question was the size. The Mini is delightful, but simply too small for my hand. The Midi is OK, but I really wanted a gold nib. So the Maxi it was. (And truth to tell, all my favourite pens are larger ones.)
Finally, ths is a 2nd generation pen, with screw cap rather than the clever 3-cam system on earlier models. I can't help feeling the latter may be more collectable in the long run, but I was concerned about warnings on temperature change and the pen simply pulling apart. So I went for proven, pre-classical technology: the screw!
The pen has a pure, uncompromising shape to which I find my eye being constantly drawn. Everyone will find their own analogies, but it reminds me of the Japanese bullet train, or perhaps more appropriately, one of those 1920s Italian Futurist posters of streamlined planes and trains.
The resin used is pitch black, glossy and flawless, as you'd expect in a higher mid-price pen. This is perfectly matched by the clip, which looks to me like highly polished alloy and is internally, smoothly sprung and adjustable via a large screw on the reverse. A post-modern touch, perhaps. The band around the base of the cap is broad, also alloy I think, and reminds me a little of a cigar band (appropriate, since you could also say the pen is shaped like ... well, you can see the picture for yourself!)
The pen is quite hefty: 33g (1 1/8 oz) on my kitchen scales. The weight distribution is interesting; the pen is cap-heavy, and when capped, rests on a table with the barrel off the surface. More on this later.
5 3/4" capped, the Van Gogh becomes 6 5/8" when posted. It really is a substantial pen, just a little larger than a Parker Duofold Centennial. Filling is by converter or standard International cartridge, which is a little disappointing; imagine how much ink a pen this size could contain with a piston! Also disappointing is that if you put in a second International cartridge as backup, it will rattle around annoyingly.
Pick it up, and you find that the pen is nib-heavy because of the metal section. This will suit some and alienate others. But this is where that heavy cap comes in ... post it, and the balance becomes neutral! Personally, I prefer it like this, but then I almost always post my pen caps - much to the distress of some of the barrels. However, the Van Gogh shows no sign of posting marks after some of this treatment. Yet, at least.
I wondered why the designer should have built in this slightly odd balance to the pen. My guess is that the company had fallen in love with the clip mechanism (who wouldn't?), but found it weighty. This obliged them to use a metal section as a counterbalance. This works fine, but it does mean the pen rests entirely on its cap when closed because the section and clip are then in the same area of the pen.
All this may be entirely wrong, and if anyone knows better, please do speak up. But it does seems to me like real Italian design; beauty comes first, theoretical function second. Which seems to me the absolute best possible way of designing luxury objects (Ferrari anyone?).
Nib and section
Finally, the crowning glory: the nib. Immediate impression is of a beautiful object, large, elaborately engraved, ideally proportioned to the pen. Mine is an F, and the length of tine gives a pleasant springiness, though nothing that could be described as flex. It may be my imagination, but this spring in the nib gives a slight flourish to my writing (which needs all the help it can get). It certainly has a different character to my other F nibs.
The nib is nowhere near as smooth as say a Phileas or a Pelikan, but instead seems to offer a little more control. It has some 'tooth', which does help feedback from the page. I wouldn't recommend a nib like this to a fountain pen first-timer; it's designed for people who are used to FPs, can appreciate the very distinctive feel and don't mind working for their pleasures. In short, it's like a fine single malt whisky rather than a blend.
The Van Gogh is my first Italian pen, and has an entirely different character from any of my British, American and German pens. To my eyes, it's the best looker of the lot, not necessarily the most likeable, but probably the most individual. To say I want to explore Italian pens further is an understatement.
Which is why I've just ordered a Marlen! But more on that later ...
Edited by RichardS, 10 November 2005 - 09:36.