However, he briefly found acclaim for his fantastical carved sculptures and mirrors.
His career high was his stand at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893, although this was sadly where he died.
Toso’s most discussed work at the exhibition was a pair of ‘life-size’ carved pine and fruitwood models of Faustian demons – apparently similar to a pair of sculptures that appeared at the sale of Furniture, Works of Art and Clocks at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on October 21.
The Chicago versions, seemingly inspired by the characters Marguerite and Mephistopheles, were “carved from opposite sides of the same block of wood, their life-like forms reflected in a mirror, so that they seem to be walking together”.
These two figures at W&W – measuring 6ft 2in (1.9m) high – come from a long tradition of Venetian wood carving. Originally designed to stand in front of a shop entrance to capture the attention of passers-by in the manner of tobacco store figures, they would have held cards in outstretched webbed hands.
This pair came for sale from an owner in Boston, Massachusetts.
The guide of £15,000-25,000 ultimately proved modest as they sold to a private UK collector over the phone at £70,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).
A closely related pair, formerly in the collection of Italian fashion queen Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973), was sold by Christie’s in Paris in December 2018 to a London dealer for €145,000.
In her autobiography, Schiaparelli recalled buying the figures she called ‘Monsieur and Madame Satan’ two years apart from the same old store in Edinburgh in the 1930s.