With Galleria Corona, Naples (inventory number 001831).
Antonio Mancini (1852-1930)
Antonio Mancini, recognized by art historians as a pivotal figure in Italian art of the late 19th Century, continues to captivate modern day audiences even to this day. Born outside Rome in 1852, Mancini received his earliest artistic training at the local Art Academy in Naples under Domenico Morelli and Filippo Palizzi. For this reason, Mancini is often associated with the Neapolitan School of Verismo yet a further examination of his oeuvre over the course of his career reveals that Mancini resisted association to any one particular movement of painting but rather chose to pioneer an independent and totally unique style. The following group of works by this Italian master showcases the many facets of Mancini's artistic production and highlights different phases from his successful and often tumultuous career.
Mancini would explore a wide range of subject matter from genre scenes to nudes and landscapes, yet his most significant contribution would be in the area of figure and portrait painting. He was particularly adept in penetrating the psychological persona of the sitter. Despite the fact that later in his career when much of his production consisted of society painting, Mancini's heart remained indebted to narrating the story of the daily life and struggles of the common people - street boys, scugnizzi, dancers and musicians.
In 1875, the Spanish painter Mariano Fortuny discovered Mancini's work in Naples, recognizing his talent, urged the young painter to set his sights on Paris. In the fall of 1875 he made his first journey to Paris where he set up a small show. The years 1875-1878 found Mancini living and working between Paris and Naples.
Around 1878 Mancini began to exhibit signs of mental and psychological unrest that would eventually lead to a nervous breakdown. He returned to Naples to recover and, during that period, painting became an obsession, his output increased. Finally in 1883, he took up permanent residence in Rome. In Rome, Mancini focused mostly on commissioned portraits. Having met John Singer Sargent who had earlier introduced him to members of London society, Mancini's work was in demand among the high society. It was also during this time that he began to develop and perfect a new painting technique whereby he would place a wire grill with a series of squares in front of his model in order to ensure that the proportions of the portrait were correct.
Upon closer stylistic examination of Mancini's work, it is possible to distinguish two distinct artistic personalities: his early career or fase giovanile when his art was fueled by pure spontaneity linked with the more Neapolitan chiaroscuro (lot 73); and that of his mature phase, when his technique would become increasingly flamboyant in his use of both color and heavy flourishes where the brush deliberately left strong traces of raised impasto (lots 75 and 76). Even later in his career beginning in the late 1890's he became more experimental often enriching his paints with bits of glass and sand as if to satisfy a desire to make the canvas came alive through the addition of extraneous materials.
Mancini's artistic sensibility, while rooted in a distinct Neopolitan artistic vocabulary evolved and matured into a truly innovative style of painting which catapulted him to a level of international acclaim. John Singer Sargent considered him the best contemporary painter Italy ever produced. Yet, it is important to note that his early training and observations of people and life in Naples remained instinctively ingrained in him and thus continued in on many levels to permeate his art. One critic noted that the genius behind Mancini was his ability to create a distinctive and uniquely individual art taking into account the Carravaggio inspired chiaroscuro, the more intense and exuberant flourishes of the Baroque style and the sensuality of Venetian color, while at the same time finding an enthusiastic market for buyers.
(fig. 1) Antonio Mancini, Self-Portrait, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Florence, Italy, Alinari Art Resource, NY.