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 Performance
La Ragazza del Manifesti (Girl with Posted Bills)
Below is her press release which I’ve translated into English.
( 1852 – 1930)
Dr. Cinzia Virno, Italian Art Historian and Curator at the Galleria d’ Arte Moderna di Roma Capitale.Catalogue RaisonnéAntonio 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.
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.
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
The Japanese Fan