Antonio Mancini started his studies at the age of twelve at the Institute of Fine Arts in Naples, where he studied under Domenico Morelli (1823-1901), a painter of historical scenes who favoured dramatic chiaroscuro and vigorous brushwork, and Filippo Palizzi (1818-1899), a landscape painter. At the same time the Italian literary movement Verismo, was taking place and Mancini developed himself as one of the important protagonists of this movement. The very goal of the poeti veristi was to represent, in their prose, the real essence of society: daily scenes of the lower classes. Antonio Mancini was able to recreate in paint what poets were writing about.
Mancini was obsessed by the effects of light in his paintings. His knowledge of Impressionism, which he became acquainted with during his stay in Paris in the 1870's, helped him to push his boundaries and try new colouristic techniques on the canvas, to make border lines dissolve and to introduce new elements along with the oil: tinfoil and glass were often used to multiply the effects of light in his works. The fruit in the present lot, for example, is expressed by glass splinters directly applied to the canvas. Painted in the 1890's the present lot shows a diverse palette with a striking impasto technique. The canvas really incorporates the essence of Antonio's philosophy: a young boy (or a scugnizzo, as the painter used to call his male subjects), with darker skin, collecting some fruit. The subject reflects the common life of that period, nothing else than a true and realistic vision of society: his straw hat, the clothes and the environment play a great role in the composition.
Like the American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) - who called Mancini 'the greatest living artist' - the Dutch Hague School painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag was a great admirer of his oeuvre. In the twenty years that Mesdag acted as Mancini's patron, he acquired about 150 of his paintings and drawings. From 1885 onwards, Mesdag regularly sent money to the Italian artist in Rome, who sent him paintings and drawings in return. He had every confidence in Mancini, granting him full freedom to produce what he liked. Mesdag kept some works for himself but he sold most of them on to other people. It is very likely Mesdag sold the present lot directly to the Hague collector and physician dr. Jan Daniël Cornelis Titsingh (1821-1899). Mesdag organised three exhibitions for the artist over the course of the years. Mancini already had an established reputation at that point, in part thanks to Mesdag's patronage.