Leoncillo (1915-1968)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF FABIO AND GRAZIA SARGENTINI, ROME
Leoncillo (1915-1968)

Grande mutilazione (Large Mutilation)

Leoncillo (1915-1968)
Grande mutilazione (Large Mutilation)
signed 'Leoncillo' (on the side)
gres and enamel
85 7/8 x 15 3/8 x 15 3/8in. (218 x 39 x 39cm.)
Executed in 1962
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owners in 1962.
E. Mascelloni, Leoncillo, exh. cat Galleria Maggiore, Bologna, 2002, p. 8.
Rome, Galleria L’Attico, Leoncillo, opere recenti, 1962
Naples, Modern Art Agency, Leoncillo, 1968.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Mariolina Bassetti
Mariolina Bassetti

Lot Essay

While this work has been exhibited and listed
both as Mutilazione and Grande mutilazione,
we prefer to attribute the latter title, since it
is more powerfully conveys the ‘great making’
which encapsulates the whole of Leoncillo’s
late production. In this last decade of his
life (1958-1968), Leoncillo realised various
monumental sculptures, no longer for public
commissions, but for his own, private, and
we would add obsessive, experience and
exploration of the material and the form.

During this final phase of his career,
Leoncillo, whom the critics Longhi and
Brandi considered among the greatest of
three Italian sculptors of the 20th Century
(of course, they disagreed about the other
two), was residing in his studio in Rome,
enjoying a solitude that was free from
social distractions and the succession of
art movements and trends that dominated
contemporary art. At this time, the sculptor
had an exclusive relationship with Bruno and
Fabio Sargentini’s Galleria L’Attico, Rome.

Like Francis Bacon or Alberto Giacometti,
Leoncillo was at this time obsessed with a
small number of reoccurring forms and motifs,
among which the great vertical sculptures
are the most renowned. These works are the
result of a complex process that, through the
supreme, violent and non-figurative act of the
cut, recalls forms that had always been part
of his oeuvre, since the early Van Gogh-esque
olive trees of 1932-1935, and San Sebastiano
of 1939: as the artist explained, ‘I am forced
in the new phase to a continuous recovery of
what I carry along’ (from Piccolo Diario, 1960).

In the vertical works of the last years, not for
nothing titled San Sebastiano, Corpo dolente,
Grande mutilazione (without worrying too
much about interchanging the titles), there is in place a dramatization
of the matter that tends to the absolute vertical axis, emphasised by
a nervous and gestural shaping. In the present Grande mutilazione, in
each of its facets, the cut removes and shapes matter and places itself
as a vertical sequence, lending the work an even greater visual drama.

In a forthcoming publication of Leoncillo’s notes and sketches, the
genesis of Grande mutilazione has been illuminated: ‘Hallucination of
the mutilation. Hallucination of what is being adding’. It could be added,
considering the centrality of the cut, that a hallucination of what is being
subtracted is also in place.

Another work of the same title, similar in size and form is recorded in
the Banca Popolare di Spoleto Collection. Moreover, there are various
sketches (around 50 cm. high) that are known, as well as a series of
ink and mixed media works on paper, which were created with rips and
glues which recall the final work, although with variations of both colour
and matter.

The artwork of 230 cm., including the original wooden base, is the
highest ever realised by Leoncillo, except for Partigiana veneta already
exhibited at Giardini di Venezia and destroyed during a fascist attack.
From 1972 it has been always kept in the Sargentini family villa in
Umbria, and it has never been exhibited or loaned to museums after
that date. - Enrico Mascelloni.

Powerfully ascending from a wooden pedestal, totemic, monolithic and
startlingly visceral, Grande mutilazione is among the largest examples
of Leoncillo’s mature glazed ceramic sculptures. One of the leading
sculptors of 20th Century Italian art, Leoncillo had in the 1950s moved
away from the realism and figuration that characterised his pre-war
work and embraced an Informal-inspired mode of abstraction that
refected his experiences of war, as well as his overriding interest in the
material properties of clay. Like Lucio Fontana, with whom Leoncillo
had collaborated at the XXVII Venice Biennale of 1954, the artist
sought to explore the dynamic concepts of space, matter and light in
his sculpture; animating, liberating and energising the surface of his
gestural works with dynamic, vigorous, Baroque-inspired modelling, as
well as cutting and incising his medium. In this way, Leoncillo ofered a
new conception of ceramic sculpture in the post-war era, ‘exalting [clay]
from its artisanal status to its most autonomous and rarefied form’
(C. Brandi, ‘Destino di Leoncillo’¸ Rome, 1982, in C. Spadoni, Leoncillo,
Rome, 1983, pp. 7-8).

Simultaneously modelled and cut, textured and fat, coloured and
colourless, Grande mutilazione rises from the ground with a powerful,
organic quality, as if the clay is a living entity, swelling, growing and
moving as it reaches over two metres in height. Yet, this sense of the
natural is tempered by the fattened, white glazed planes that cut
through the richly expressive, amorphous surface. This corporeal quality
is heightened by the evocative, powerful title of the work, Grande
mutilazione, which, like other works of this period that were entitled
with phrases such as Mutilazione and San Sebastiano, lends a sense of
violence and anguish to these abstract sculptures.


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