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Antonio Mancini (Italian, 1852-1930)
Antonio Mancini (Italian, 1852-1930)

L'Angelo che costruisce una cattedrale

Antonio Mancini (Italian, 1852-1930)
L'Angelo che costruisce una cattedrale
signed 'AMancini' (lower right)
oil and mixed media on card and paper laid down on canvas
61 ¾ x 28 in. (156.7 x 71 cm.)
Fernand Du Chène de Vère, Rome.
Pignatelli collection, Rome.

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Lot Essay

This picture was painted between 1912 and 1917 while Mancini was based in Frascati at the Villa Jacobini working for his host and patron, Fernand Du Chène de Vère. It is possible that the work was held in the Du Chène collection from the time of its creation and then passed by descent to the Pignatelli collection.
Mancini’s career can be characterised by two distinct artistic phases distinguishable by the artist’s use of colour and his technical approach. In the early years of his career, Mancini was grounded by a distinct Neapolitan artistry; he used a muted palette and produced works striking for their use of chiaroscuro. In the later phase of his career, of which this picture is highly typical, Mancini’s painting matured into the highly original and inventive style for which he acquired international acclaim. The artist was increasingly bold, with his use of dramatic colour and the creation of striking impasto with deep swirling brush strokes. By the late 1890s, Mancini’s experimentations with texture and attempts to capture light in his canvasses had led him to incorporate materials such as glass, mirror fragments, sand, buttons and metal foil into his thickly painted surfaces. The artist’s exploitation of unusual materials reached its exuberant climax in works such as this, produced while he was working in Frascati under the encouraging patronage of Du Chène.
This dreamlike painting depicts an angel in front of a cathedral which, as the title suggests, she has constructed. The blocks of colour and indistinct forms of the objects which surround the angel create a sense of confused perspective and suggest the scene is more apparition than reality. The substantive quality of the scene is challenged further still by the surreal positioning of a glinting spade which appears to hang weightlessly in the air beside the angel’s limp arm. Yet, in the midst of this hazy scene built up with thickly stratified paint, the face of the angel retains a softness and clarity which penetrates through the composition.

We are grateful to Dott.ssa Cinzia Virno for her assistance in cataloguing the present lot which work will be included in the catalogue raisonné on the artist, currently in preparation, and edited by Cinzia Virno, De Luca Editori d'arte, Rome.

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