Ubaldo Gandolfi

The Artwork of Ubaldo Gandolfi

Ubaldo Gandolfi was born in San Matteo della Decima, near Bologna, on 14 October 1728. His father, a man of some standing in society, allowed him to move to Bologna when he was barely over the age of ten in order to begin studying drawing. He studied under Baroque painter Felice Torelli before moving in 1748 to the school of painter Ercole Graziani the Younger. 

At the same time, Gandolfi began to frequent the Accademia Clementina and won the much-prized Fiori Award for attendance and for quality in the depiction of the nude in 1746. Gandolfi’s tireless practice of drawing from life, from posing models which became a constant feature of his mindset, was organized under the academic teaching of the anatomist Ercole Lelli.

Gandolfi’s first public success came in 1759 in the shape of an altarpiece with the “Assumption of the Virgin and Saints” for Castel San Pietro in Verona, preceded by a small rough clay model, now in the Uffizi Museum. The altarpiece owes a debt to the models of painter Guido Reni and to painters and teachers Ludovico and Annibale Carracci in the attitudes and gestures of its figures. Ubaldo’s renown grew to the point where he was made a full member of the Academy in 1760, and his work was  sought even by the Empress Catherine II of Russia.

Gandolfi’s colleagues in the Clementina entrusted him in 1766 with painting a fresco in the Eleventh Chapel in the Portico of St. Luke, depicting the Resurrection of Christ. “The Resurrection” is a magnificent example of Ubaldo Gandolfi’s fervent style with its evocative, theatrical character. For the senatorial nobility Gandolfi  produced ancient and modern myths, such as the “Four Seasons’” on a wall and “Aurora” on the ceiling at the Palazzo Segni Facchini.

In 1769 Gandolfi painted figurative frescoes for nobleman Conte Bentivoglio, who commissioned the decoration of the rooms on the ground floor of his palazzo in order to mark his term as magistrate. But Ubaldo Gandolfi’s ability to convey the solidity of his figures’ bodies was to allow the artist to produce superb results in secular fables, for instance in his 1770 paintings “Perseus and Andromeda” and “Diana and Endymion”, commissioned by  Senator Marchese Gregorio Casali; the “Mercury About to Behead  Argus” commissioned for the Marescalchi family palace; and the six mythological stories painted some time later for the Marescalchi family’s Palazzo Dall’Armi.

The painter’s renown grew in the field of religious painting thanks to his highly theatrical Baroque pieces, such as the Medicina Altarpiece in the church of San Mamante with its “Christ in Glory and Saints” or his “St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata”, a composition of passionate gesture. This highly productive decade ended with a large canvas for the church of Sant’ Agostino in Imola, depicting “St. Nicholas of Tolentino Preaching to the Crowds”.

Throughout his career, Ubaldo Gandolfi produced portraits of young girls, children, apprentices, men and women portrayed from life, and old men with intense features. These works, for instance the “Young Woman” now hanging in the Louvre, were extremely popular in the 1770s. In his graphic work, Gandolfi produced numerous very fine studies from life, displaying a certain inclination to portray the natural, an inclination that showed prominently in his pen and ink studies of heads.

Ubaldo Gandolfi died of malaria in Ravenna, where he had just recently moved, on July 24, 1781.

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