November, 2013

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  • Upcoming Antonio Mancini Catalogue Raisonné


    Il Prevetariello- The Little Seminarian

    Il Prevetariello- The Little Seminarian


    Cinzia Virno, Italian Art Historian and Curator at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Roma Capitale has been working for years with the Antonio Mancini archives, cataloging his works, photographs and correspondence.  Her first project is nearly finished, which will be a complete work of his oil paintings.  The planned following volumes will be on his pastels and drawings.

    The images in this article are from the upcoming monograph, which will be published in 2014.  Dr. Virno was kind enough to provide me with the images during our recent email exchange.  They are in chronological order to display Mancini’s artistic progression.


    Saltimbanco, After the Show

    Saltimbanco, After the Performance


    La Ragazza del Manifesti (Girl with Posted Bills)



    Below is her press release which I’ve translated into English.


    Antonio Mancini

    ( 1852 – 1930)

    Dr. Cinzia Virno,  Italian Art Historian and Curator at the Galleria d’ Arte Moderna di Roma Capitale.

    Catalogue Raisonné
    Antonio Mancini, celebrated artist of the Italian 19th century, appreciated the world over, for the first time will have his life reconstructed, outlining his entire artistic journey.
    Based on the writings and photos of the artist from his official archives, sourcing the wide bibliography on the artist in Italy and abroad, this catalogue compiles more than 1,000 of his paintings, documenting his life in detail.  After years of work, new paintings have now been identified, whether works long considered lost or pieces, though important, still unknown to the public.
    This detailed study allows us to see unknown aspects of his life and complex, prolific career.  In chronological order, his works are examined, placing his paintings within their unique cultural setting.  In his success, Mancini emerged as one of the greatest artists of his era, one of the most admired and sought-after artists of his day.


    Self Portrait, Madness Period



    Scugnizzo Reading, The Little Orphan



    Portrait of Signora Pantaleoni



    The Mengarini Family


    Born in Rome in 1852 into a poor family, Mancini lived for some years in Umbria, home province of his parents.  Trained in Naples, Mancini presented himself to the international art market at the young age of 17, sending two works to the French Salon of 1872.  From Napoli, Mancini went to stay in the French capital twice, participating again in the Salons of 1876, 1877, 1878 and the World’s Fair.
    Returning to Italy, Mancini began to exhibit signs of mental illness and was hospitalized at the beginning of the 1880’s.  During this time, his ‘Madness Period’, Mancini did not stop painting, instead producing many notable works including numerous striking self-portraits.
    In 1883 Mancini moved to Rome where he would reside until his death, except his trips abroad, and from 1911 to 1917 when he worked under contract for the entrepreneur Fernand Du Chéne de Vère in Frascati.
    His early work, striving for a style of realism derived from his teacher Domenico Morelli (1826-1901), is balanced of 17th century light effects, a preference for genre scenes, primarily of ‘scugnizzi’, young street urchins, and the rare excursion into landscape painting.  Although seemingly uninterested with the conquests of the impressionists, after his stay in Paris, Mancini lightened his palette and began searching for light in his painting.
    Having arrived in Rome, while not abandoning his scenes of humble people, Mancini began painting commissioned portraits of the aristocracy, artists, and politicians.  He continued to tenaciously pursue realism, though never merely likeness, but above all, in composition and color.
    From the mid 1880’s he began using, as a painting tool, two string gridded wooden rectangles- one he would place in front of the model, the other on the face of his canvas.  The goal of this method, which left visible marks on his paintings, was to reproduce the figure, life size, with the correct relationships of light and color.  During this period, thanks to his close relationship to the dutch marine artist and collector Hendrick Willem Mesdag, many of Mancini’s paintings are sold in Holland and in the United States.


    View of Cave, Lazio

    8 Ritratto del padre 618x1024 Upcoming Antonio Mancini Catalogue Raisonné

    The Artist’s Father



    The trips he took to England, Ireland and Germany around the turn of the century, along with the shows he took part in abroad, established his fame internationally, so much so that the great John Singer Sargent called him ‘the greatest painter alive’.
    In his search to represent light on canvas, layer by layer, his paint became physically thicker, until finally he began inserting mirror fragments, broken glass, buttons and metal foil underneath his colors- a process which peaked during his stay in Frascati.
    During his late years painting in Rome, he used his nephews as models almost exclusively, and began again painting the occasional landscape.  Some of his most touching self portraits are of this period, showing him with all the signs of age.  Artistically, these ‘family’ subjects were not Mancini retreating into himself, but in fact are among his most original works, proof of his technical ability, and confirming him to be undoubtedly, the most modern artist of the Italian 19th century.
    Acknowledgements: A particular thanks to Fabrizio Russo of Galleria Russo, whose contribution and help made this project possible.



    This is great news, there has been mounting appreciation for Mancini’s works over the past few years.  The 2007 exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art brought his work back to America’s attention, his striking technique and unique, brash realism resonating deeply with the public.  The accompanying catalogue was the first modern text published on Mancini’s work in English.  Unfortunately, it sold out almost immediately, has not been reprinted, and is now only available at the highest prices, new or used.  It really is high time for a new, scholarly work to be done on his oeuvre.

    Virno’s text will soon be given to the editor, and will be published in 2014 by De Luca Editori D’Arte.  The work has been sponsored by Fabrizio Russo of Galleria Russo in Rome.  The finished volume catalogues over 1,000 works, with extensive writings on Mancini’s paintings.

    I, for one, am very much looking forward to this.



    Portrait of Hugh Lane



    To My Sir


    11.Il ventaglio giapponese1 Upcoming Antonio Mancini Catalogue Raisonné

    The Japanese Fan

  • White Test 2013

    As a sort of continuation of my earlier post on colors, here is a fresh example of a test that I do every couple of years.  In most every painter’s box, white is your most important color.  Used in abundance, it affects the overall look of your painting, drying time, gloss, and brushwork.

    Unless you compare whites, many aren’t aware of the vast differences in color between them- whether a white ground in Linseed or Poppy oil, or that Titanium Dioxide is a far brighter, bluer pigment than Lead Carbonate.  This is a multifaceted issue that I spend a long time on when I give materials lectures.  Paint is affected by the quality and color of its pigment, any additional particulate that is added to the paint (whether binder or straight filler) the quality and color of its oil, and at times even the material of the paint rollers mulling the paint itself.

    Another issue is that paint simply looks different after drying than when it does fresh out of the tube.  Linseed oil darkens over time, and to varying degrees, as the quality of linseed oil varies greatly from brand to brand.  Painting a light blue sky only to have it turn green over time is really something you would like to be aware of in advance.  For flesh painting, usually yellowing is of lesser consequence, unless painting a white dress or particularly fair skin.



    Here’s the fresh white test on the studio bulletin board


    Whenever possible I like to compare store-bought paints with my hand ground, to compare the oil I’m currently using with whatever industrial comparison’s on the market.  After drying for a month or so I’ll put it away in a drawer or a corner and forget about it.  You really need to view the colors fully dried, with the full effect of the oil darkening to compare them.  The above test is only a few days old, still wet- though you can’t really judge the colors definitively, it’s interesting that a tube of W&N Lead from the 70′s at this point appears much smoother, and nearly as bright as the gritty modern W&N Lead white in Safflower oil.  I’ll see if that relationship stays the same over the next few months.


    People have written for years about the great tensile strength that Lead White gives your painting, and in modern days folks been talking about the dangers of Zinc White delaminating.  A simple paint test like this is a great way to check a paint’s durability.  Cracking is a big concern if you want your paintings to last, especially if you like to paint on stretched canvas.

    Five or six years ago, before I had ever tested Zinc, I bent a piece of canvas that had a swatch of Robert Doak’s suspiciously light and bright ‘Lead White’ on it.  Not only did the swatch break and fall off the canvas but it hit the floor and broke into a million pieces.  I later made the Zinc connection, and have since included Zinc on all my white tests.  I also stopped using Doak’s white.


    The below white test is well over a year old.  After letting it dry for considerable time it’s been in the dark for the past six months.  As you can see, there’s a much greater variety in color.  The dark quality of the whites ground in Linseed will fade over the next couple of weeks.  I do find, however, that Williamsburg Flake to be especially unacceptable in color.



    This is a white test from early 2012


    The above sheet had a couple of Zinc Whites and Zinc/Titanium blends on it.  I bring these sheets occasionally when teaching, and after bending it a couple times to demonstrate none of the Zinc stuff remains on the canvas.  Pretty shocking, but important to remember that people don’t often go around bending paintings.  It will take some pretty significant mistreatment to get zinc to fall off a stretched painting.  Philip de László reportedly used Zinc for all his impastos, and his paintings that I’ve seen are in great shape.  Personally, though, I avoid the stuff entirely.

    Also worth noting in the above test is that the Gamblin Titanium has livered horribly.  It’s also far too dark in respect to other Titanium Whites.  This leads me to believe it’s got a huge oil content from some filler they’re using, Titanium White’s surface livering like that doesn’t happen on its own.  Who knows, though, as even batch to batch manufacturers paints vary.

    Generally speaking, my hand ground whites are nearly always the brightest in the lead/linseed category, as long as I wash my linseed oil first.  Handground paint in Walnut Oil is often among the brightest whites at the end, whether Titanium, Zinc or Lead white.  Bending the canvas, neither Lead nor Titanium Whites fall off the canvas. Titanium has a propensity for a brittle crack once in a while though.  Lead really does seem far more durable, at least in my years of testing.

    I find these sort of tests to be valuable, but rather than taking my word for it I would recommend this sort of test to be done by everyone, it doesn’t take time, and really furthers your understanding of what’s in your paint box.  Not all paints are created equal.


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