Simona Dolci

The Paintings of Simona Dolci

Born in 1950 in Pesaro, a city located on the Adriatic Sea, Simona Dolci is an Italian realist painter and architect. In 1975, she earned her doctorate in Architecture from the University of Florence under Leonardo Ricci, a leading figure in the Italian architectural scene of the Second War World and a proponent of social and landscape-bound architecture. Dolci was assistant Professor in the university’s Department of Architecture from 1976 to 1980. After her tenure at the university, she studied painting and drawing at Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti. 

In 1983, Simona Dolci continued her training at the Florence atelier conducted by painter and educator Nerina Simi, the daughter of Italian painter and sculptor Filadelfo Simi, himself the student of the famous French painter Jean Leon Gérome. From 1988 to 1991, Dolci completed her studies in painting and artistic techniques at Florence’s renowned Cecil Graves School of Art, a private atelier focused on classical techniques of drawing and oil painting. 

Since 1991, Dolci has taught drawing and painting skills at her own studio, an old monastery in the heart of Florence, as well as at the city’s Academy of Art. Starting in 1995, she also taught the Academy’s summer painting and drawing courses, and became its Program Director in 2005. Dolci has been Director of the Academy’s Intensive Drawing Program since 1998. 

Simona Dolci has participated in numerous  solo and group exhibitions over the years, including the 2007 exhibition “The Art of Seduction” at Dublin’s Gormleys Gallery, where she showed her paintings together the figurative work of Irish sculptor Paddy Campbell. In 2018, she presented new works at “The Sweet Noise of Life”, a major exhibition in Pietrasanta, Italy. That same year Dolci was awarded the prestigious “Caterina de Medici Prize” by the International Medicean Academy of Florence, reserved to great contemporary women who have distinguished themselves in their professional careers. Her paintings are in many private collections in Italy, France, Mexico, and the United States.

“You will draw figures so that this will be sufficient to demonstrate what the figure has inside its soul; otherwise your art will not be commendable” -Leonardo Da Vinci

Bottom Insert Image: Simona Dolci, “Vulcano”, 2015, Oil on Canvas on Panel, 65 a 85 cm, Private Collection

Note: For those interested in a scholarly article on Simona Dolci’s realistic work, I recommend art curator Anita Valentini’s article “Simona Dolci: Portraits of Contemporary Archetypes, The Sweet Sound and Memory of Life” which can be found at the link below:

Click to access Scritto-critico-EN.pdf

 

Mario Mafai

Paintings by Mario Mafai

Born in Rome in February of 1902, Mario Mafai was an Italian painter. He and his wife, the sculptor Antonietta Raphaël, founded the Scuola Romana art movement. With its firm approach to European Expressionism, the Scuola Romana  sought to counter the orderly, neoclassical character of Novecento Italiano, the Italian art movement founded in 1922 which rejected European avant-garde movements and became associated with Fascism. 

Although Italian dictator Mussolini had little personal regard for the visual arts, he understood its value as propaganda. For years, his regime supported artists regardless of style, from the futurists who hated tradition to the classically inspired Novecento group which was initiated by art critic Margherita Sarfatti, Mussolini’s mistress. Artists of varying degrees of political commitment entered the official exhibitions and received awards given by the regime for their work. The regime decreed in 1927 that all exhibitions must be authorized by the government and published in the official journal of record, the Gazzette Ufficiale. While the state did not dictate art’s content, it established control over the structure that enabled the art to reach a wider audience. 

Mario Mafai left traditional education early in his training and, along with fellow student Gino Bonichi, chose to attend the free Scuola Libera di Nudo, a life drawing component of Rome’s Academy of Fine Art. Most of Mafai’s formative art training was gained through readings in the Fine Arts Library at Palazzo Venezia and by studying artwork at Rome’s many galleries and museums. Influenced by the style of modernist painter and printmaker Giorgio Morandi, Mafai focused on the tonal quality of his work; he represented everyday objects with subtle color graduations that lent a magical existence to the painted image. Mafai painted from reality and portrayed his many views of the city of Rome with a fresh sense of curiosity.

In 1925 during their studies at the Academy, Mafai met Antonietta Raphaël, a graduate in piano from London’s Royal Academy of Music, who was studying sculpture and painting. They began a lifelong relationship that encompassed both their private life and the arts. In 1927, they relocated into apartment number 325 on Via Cavour which soon became a meeting place for the literati of Rome, among which were the poets Giuseppe Ungaretti and Libero de Libero, and artists such as Corrado Cagli and Mafai’s friend Gino Bonichi, known in the art world as Scipione.

In 1927, Mario Mafai had his first exhibition, organized by the National Association of Artists, at a gallery in Via Margutta. His second show was held in the following year at the 94th  Exhibition of the Society of Amateurs and Connoisseurs of Fine Arts. Along with a collective group of young artists, Mafai exhibited his strong anti-impressionistic paintings at the 1929 Young Painters Convention held at the Palazzo Doria. He was deeply critical of Mussolini’s urban transformation of Rome, which razed many working-class housing districts. This criticism was particularly expressed in Mafai’s 1936-1939 “Demolition of the Suburbs”, a  series of city views illustrating the destruction of these districts.

In 1938, Italy passed and began enforcing its discriminatory Racial Laws, This was a series of separate bills, between 1938 and 1944, that excluded Italian Jews and native inhabitants of the colonies from school, academia, politics, finances, and the professional world. Civil rights and travel were restricted, books were banned, and assets and property eventually taken. Mario Mafai and his wife experienced the cruelty of Fascism personally, as Antonietta Raphaël was the daughter of a Lithuanian rabbi. He and his wife left Rome and relocated to Genova where they found help from friends and collectors of their art. 

Despite being declared a second-class citizen with no rights, Mafai was drafted into the reserve Italian forces during World War II. During the war years, he  painted his “Fantasies” series, violent war scenes inspired by Francisco de Goya’s engravings “Disasters of War”. Mafai’s brutal reflections on the war depicted soldiers as sinister, spectral forms committing brutal acts against civilians. Mafai returned to Rome in 1943 and continued working on his principal themes.

At the end of Mussolini’s dictatorship, the importance of Mafai’s work became widely recognized. Entered in exhibitions throughout Italy, his paintings won many awards. For a period starting in 1957, Mafai rejected his previous artistic path of figurative work and started using a bold smashing of colors and shapes in an abstract form. Thirty of these works, which reduced the image to its essence, were shown in an exhibition entitled “Ropes”. 

Mario Mafai died in Rome on the 31st of March in 1965. After his death, he was celebrated with an important retrospective of his work at Rome’s Ninth Quadrennial in 1965. Established as a widely exhibited sculptor, Antonietta Raphaël died ten years later in Rome. 

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Mario Mafai in His Studio”, 1938, Gelatin Silver Print

Second Insert Image: Mario Mafai, “Paesaggio (Lungara)”, 1948, Oil on Canvas, 38 x 41 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Mario Mafai, “Self-Portrait”, 1928, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Mario Mafai, “Osteria al Neon”, 1952, Oil on Canvas, 77 x 77 cm, Private collection, Rome 

Corrado Cagli

The Artwork of Corrado Cagli

Born in the city of Ancona in February of 1910, Corrado Cagli was an Italian painter of Jewish heritage. Little information on his formative years is available; however, it is known that, at the age of five, his family relocated to Rome. Cagli grew up in a largely assimilated secular family, who had come to terms with its Jewish religion as antisemitism became more aggressive in Fascist Italy. His ties to his Italian heritage were always strong; even in his later years of exile from Italy, it was important for him to maintain a tie with his homeland. 

Corrado Cagli’s first commissioned work was a 1927 mural painted on a building in Via Sistina, the street at the top of  Rome’s Spanish Steps. In the following year, Cagli received another commission in Rome for a mural in Via Vantaggio. He had a remarkably early success in Italy; still in his twenties in the early 1930s, he was already famous nationally. Cagli had his first solo exhibition in 1932 at Rome’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna and showed at the Milan Triennale in 1936.

Along with other artists such as Emanuele Cavalli and Giuseppe Capogrossi, Cagli was a member of the Scuola Romana, an art movement of Expressionist painters in Rome who were active between 1928 and 1945. A rising star of the Scuola Romana, Cagli was supported by Italy’s Fascist regime despite being both Jewish and a homosexual.  He was chosen to represent Italy at the 1930 Paris Exposition, the Venice Biennale, and other prestigious expositions. 

In 1938, the Leggi Razzial were promulgated by the Fascist government; this series of laws enforced racial discrimination in Italy, directed mainly against Jewish Italians and inhabitants of Italy’s colonies. Two of Corrado Cagli’s murals were censored by the government as they did not fit with the regime’s rhetoric and stylistic preferences. With the enactment of the Racial Laws, Cagli was forced into exile, first to Paris, a place he had visited as a young star painter from Italy, and then to the United States, where he later became a citizen. His first showing was at the Julien Levy Gallery, a source for surrealist work. 

Corrado Cagli rarely had a proper studio during his exile years, which made painting difficult. Most of his work done in the United States is on paper. Cagli had always valued drawing as an art form; in his exile, they became the primary instrument of his artistic search. His use of paper as a medium was also the result of a crisis he went through with his idea of painting. In the 1930s, despite having been forced into exile, Cagli still retained the artistic ambitions of Italy and saw painting as a public art essential to constructing an Italian national identity.

Cagli enlisted in the United States Army and was recognized for his artistic talent. During his training he painted barracks, made his own drawings, and illustrated a military magazine. Later during the war, he worked as a military artist drawing scenes from the campaigns. Cagli fought at the 1944 Normandy landings and, later, in Belgium and Germany. Near the end of the war, he drew a series of dramatic drawings based on the liberation of the Buschenwald concentration camp. 

After the war, Cagli returned in 1948 to Rome and made it his permanent residence. Because of his past as a former regime-endorsed artist and a Jewish exile from Fascism, Cagli did not fit into any of the factions of Italy’s post-war heated cultural disputes. He arrived into Italy’s art world with a metaphysical route towards abstraction which was opposite to the Neo-Cubist trend that dominated postwar Italian painting. Settled in Italy, Cagli began a series of experimental works  in multiple mediums, including ceramics, mosaics, tapestries, architectural decoration, ballet scenery, and costumes. 

Corrado Cagli helped organize the Gallleria La Cometa in Rome and, along with poet Libero De Libero, created an artistic circle of musicians, writers, architects, painters and sculptors. He was involved with New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s 1949 exhibition, “20th Century Italian Art” and facilitated the 1950 opening of the Catherine Viviano Gallery in New York City. In August of 1972, Cagli was commissioned as the official banner painter for the Palio di Siena, the twice yearly equestrian competition held in Siena, Italy. 

Cagli was awarded the Guggenheim Prize in 1946 and, in 1954, the Marzotto Prize, given by the Marzotto fashion company for his contributions to the cultural rebirth of Italy after the war. Corrado Cagli died in Rome in 1976. 

Notes: An article on Corrado Cagli’s 1936 mural “The Battle of San Marino”, now housed in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery,  can be found in a previous posting on this site.

An interview between author Raffaele Bedarida and Alessandro Cassin, Director of Centro Primo Levi, entitled “Corrado Cagli, the American Years” can be found online at Printed_Matter located at: http://primolevicenter.org/printed-matter/corrado-cagli-the-american-years/

Top  Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Corrado Cagli”, Circa 1930s

Second Insert Image: Corrado Cagli, “Ritmi Cellulari in Chiave di Giallo, 1949, Mised Media on Canvas on Paper, 90 x 70 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Corrado Cagli, “narcissus”, Date Unknown, Silkscreen Print, Edition of 50,, Sheet Size 90 x 85 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Corrado Cagli in His Studio in Rome”, December 1969, Radiocorriere Magazine, Gelatin Silver Print

Donald Britton: “These Things Have No Beginning”

Photographers Unknown, These Things Have No Beginning

The start of a new era
Of desperation is starting over.

Meanwhile you and your bronze friend
Run naked through the yellowed broom sage,
Suspended vaporously above life
Like high pressure systems. A redolent
Cascade of voices from the lawn
As the next new hope something will happen
Ascends the orangerie steps, an endless
Unpunctuated sentence that seems at the time
To illuminate everything, as if a giant
Had stepped between you and the sun,
Sucking the light and punching a hole
In space, revealing infinite vistas
Of anticipation and delay.

These things have no beginning, or rather
Were set in motion long before we became
Their facsimile, thinking ourselves privileged
To secret information, not sensible
Of how the world contrives with enormous
Duplication of labor to rid itself of us
And perform its little routines
Solo in the galactic swimming pool
That is at last a total stage. It is
The amusing notion life might someday
Not be confusing that coordinates
Our award-winning sentiments these last days
Of summer, preparatory to the paint-by-number
Rush of autumn, the colors balking
Within their lines, which as a kid
Was the hardest part and apparently still is.
You must do something, though, not caring
What it is, so long as when the day ends,
You’re able to claim that this thing
has been accomplished, brought nearer
The perfection toward which it ludicrously
Aspires, then put aside to be resumed
At a point just over the next rise yonder
Where suddenly pertinent trees now loom.

Donald Britton, Here and Now, In the Empire of the Air, 2016

Born in San Angelo, Texas in 1951, Donald Eugene Britton earned his Bachelor of Arts and his Master of Arts in American Literature at the Austin campus of the University of Texas in 1976. He earned his Doctorate in Literary Studies in 1979 from the American University in Washington DC; his dissertation was on modernist poet Hart Crane’s poetics of praise. 

Britton lived in New York City and became part of a circle of avant-garde artists and poets, later known as the third-generation of New York poets, which included Dennis Cooper, Joe Brainard, Tim Dlugos, Brad Gooch, and Bernard Weh, among others. After several years in the city, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked for the advertising firm of Brierly and Partners.

Donald Britton was not a prolific poet; as a self-depreciating perfectionist, he spent a great length of time and effort on each of his poems. In his poems there is the lack of a defined self; the poems are not personalized in the traditional sense of confessional poetry but are more abstracted and generalized. Britton’s poems are not subject-centered nor do they have topics in the conventional sense. He writes more about the states of mind, in which he follows the wandering of a particular consciousness as it encounters bodily experiences.

Britton’s work was published in the gay-oriented New York magazine “Christopher Street”, Cornell University’s EPOCH magazine, and the literary journal “The Paris Review”, among others. They also appeared in several anthologies including “The Sons of the Male Muse”, “Coming Attractions: An Anthology of American Poets in Their Twenties”, and “Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Poems”.

Donald Britton essentially stopped writing poetry in the late 1980s. The only collection of his work published during his lifetime was the 1981 “Italy” which featured short introductions by novelist Edmund White and poet John Ashbery. Britton was to publish a second collection of his work, entitled “In the Empire of the Air”; however, due to financial difficulties, it was never published in his lifetime. The collection was edited by poet Reginald Shepherd and author Philip Clark, and finally published in 2016 by NightBoat Books .

Britton wrote a two-part essay, entitled “The Dark Side of Disneyland”, on the death imagery of some of its rides, in which he argues that Disneyland is a monumental artwork memorializing dead children. This essay appeared in the art magazine “Issue”, now online, and later in his friend Bernard Welt’s 1996 essay book, “Mythomania”. Four of Britton’s poems were included in the 2010 “Persistent Voices”, a compilation of poetry by writers lost to AIDS.

Donald Eugene Britton died, at the age of forty-three, of complications from AIDS in 1994. He was survived by his partner, David Cobb Craig, whom Britton met in 1983.

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Donald Britton (Third from the Left) at New York City’s Ear Inn”, Early 1980s, Gelatin Silver Print

Notes:   A short memoir written by David Cobb Craig entitled “Life and Times with Poet Donald Britton”, which includes their first meeting in 1983, can be found at the Gay & Lesbian Review site located at: https://glreview.org/article/life-and-times-with-poet-donald-britton/ 

Donald Britton’s doctorate dissertation on Hart Crane’s poetics of praise can be read at the American Library’s Digital Research Archive located at:  https://auislandora-stage.wrlc.org/islandora/object/thesesdissertations%3A791

I wish to acknowledge poet and author Reginald Shepherd as the source for most of the information in this article on Donald Britton’s life and work. The author of many essays on gay poets and writers, Shepherd passed away in the fall of 2008. His blog site with its wealth of material is still available online at: http://reginaldshepherd.blogspot.com

Alex Folla

The Paintings of Alex Folla

Born in 1980 in Oggiono, a northern town in the Province of Lecco, Alex Folla is a contemporary Italian artist. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Painting at Milan’s Accademia di Brera and a Masters Degree in Visual Arts from the Accademia di Bella Arti in the city of Carrara. He currently lives and works in Milan, Filorera located in the Italian Alps, and Moscow.

Trained in the history and techniques of the Renaissance and Baroque artists from Michelangelo to Caravaggio, Alex Folla uses his classical training to tackle contemporary life though metaphoric images. He creates profoundly technical and pictorial realistic images which incorporate such human issues as the frailty of the body, illness, holiness and strength. In many of his works, Folla takes traditional sacred imagery and, using its classical composition and his stylistic choice, reconstructs it to form symbolic images of a more contemporary nature.

In his 2016 show “BulleTime”, Alex Folla based his work on the idea of martyrdom  and reinterpreted the classical images of the Christian martyrs in a more contemporary way. The figures of the martyrs, often substituted with either a self-portrait or one of  friends, were painted in seventeenth-century techniques with gold leaf backgrounds used in early traditional Byzantine paintings. Folla’s paintings in this series are contemporary in appearance by his use of the “bullet time” cinematic technique, a slow-motion film shot enabling you to see every moment of the scene, typically when the protagonist dodges the incoming bullet. With the use of this technique from movie culture, Folla focuses the attention of the viewer towards each of the paintings’ figures, who are seen moving from their position as if to avoid an object’s trajectory and their inevitable martyrdom.

Alex Folla’s paintings have appeared in multiple group exhibitions throughout the world including the 2010 Castello Dei Pico Exhibition, where he won the Volturno Morani Prize; the 2014 International Alla Prima Exhibition in New Delhi; the 2016 LA Art Show in Los Angeles; the 2014 and 2016 SWAB International Exhibitions in Barcelona; and the 2017 Ostrale 17 Biennale in Dresden, Germany, among others.

Alex Folla’s fist solo exhibition, entitled “Black and White”,  was in 2013 at Milan’s Union Gallery. Since then, he has had multiple solo shows including two at Moscow’s Triumph Gallery: “Miracles” in 2014 and “#unknownmonk” in 2015; the 2014 “Football Players” at the Savina Gallery in St. Petersburg; the 2016 “bulleTime” at Los Angeles’s Building Bridge Gallery; and the 2016 “#unknownmonk 2.0” at Los Angeles’s Italian Institute of Culture in collaboration with the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Additional images, exhibition dates and contact information can be found at the artist’s site located at: http://www.alexfolla.org/saints3.html

Top Insert Image: Alex Folla, “Patrocio”, 2020, Oil and Gold Leaf on Canvas, 145 x 145 cm

Bottom Insert Image: Alex folla, “Aiace”, 2020, Oil and Gold Leaf on Canvas, 145 x 145 cm

Piero Fornasetti

The Artwork of Piero Fornasetti

Born in Milan, Italy in November of 1913, Piero Fornasetti was an eclectic artist who was an important figure in the Italian design scene. A prolific creator of designs, he was involved in many aesthetic disciplines including painting, drawing, graphic design, and product design. In the course of his career, Fornasetti created over ten thousand works and was responsible for one of the largest outputs of diverse objects and furniture of the twentieth-century. 

The first child of a wealthy family, Fornasetti was already at the age of ten drawing and displaying an innate inclination towards art. In 1932, he enrolled at the Academia di Brera, Milan’s public academy of fine arts; however, two years later he was expelled for insubordination. Although he applied to Milan’s Superior School of Arts Applied to Industry, Fornasetti was unable to adhere to the schools dogma due to his rebellious nature. 

Beginning in the early 1930s, Piero Fornasetti began a individual and comprehensive study of  engraving and printing techniques. With this knowledge and his developed technical skill, he began to print artist books and lithographs for many of the great artists of the time, including composer and playwright Alberto Savinio, painter Fabrizio Clerici, and painter and writer Giorgio de Chirico. The Fornasetti Art Printshop became the source of quality printing for many artists of his generation. Fornasetti, through his constant experimentation, later developed a printing method for graphic effects on silk; this innovation brought him  to the attention of designer and publisher Gio Ponti, with whom Fornasetti would develop a close creative partnership. 

From the early 1940s and onward, Fornasetti produced a vast series of limited edition graphic works, which included calendars, holiday gifts, and images for advertising, theater, posters, and publications. He produced sketches and drawings for the Esino Lario School of Tapestry, whose fine silk tapestries were produced by local village girls. In 1940 Fornasetti began to publish his own work in the architectural design magazine Domus, and for two years designed a series of almanacs for Gio Ponti. Taking refuge in Switzerland in 1943 during the war, he continued his graphic work, expanding into watercolors, oil portraits, drawings in ink, and the creation of theatrical sets for Albert Camus’s 1938 “Caligula”.

Upon his return to Milan, Piero Fornasetti and Gio Ponti began a close creative partnership which centered on architectural concepts in design and decoration. With the beginning of the 1950s, they put their theories into practice developing new simple and functional designs for the interiors of homes, apartments, cinemas and even ship cabins. Their initial project, the “Architettura” trumeau, a furniture design concept seen in an image above, was exhibited at the 1951 Triennale IX in Milan. This piece of furniture became an icon of Italian design in the interwar years of economic growth. 

Fornasetti is best known for his designs using fanciful motifs such as the moon, sun, playing cards, animals, and other surrealist imagery; most of which were executed in black and white. In 1952, he began work on his iconic and best known series, “Tema a Variazioni (Theme and Variations)”, a facial portrait of opera singer Lina Cavalieri, who was renowned at the time as a true archetype of a classical beauty. This image continues to appear today on a series of everyday objects from porcelain and fabrics to furniture and wall coverings. This portrait series entered into the world of theater as set designs in  Fornasetti’s production of Mozart’s two-act opera, “Don Giovanni”. These designs were used in the December 2016 performances at Milan’s Teatro dell’ Arte and in the  January 2017 performances at Florence’s Teatro della Pergola.

In 1970, Piero Fornasetti, along with a group of friends, operated the Galleria dei Bibliofili, where he exhibited his own work and the work of other contemporary artists. His paintings at this time contained both layered abstractions, with interacting colors done in various techniques, and figurative works done in a new pictorial style, where bodies and faces were composed of fruits and bottles. After the death of Gio Ponti in 1979 and the opening of London’s “Themes and Variations” design gallery in 1980, Fornasetti’s work and his idealogical concepts of form/function gained new interest both at home and abroad. 

Piero Fornasetti died in October of 1988 during a minor operation in hospital. In 2013, Silvana Annicchiarico, the director of the Triennale Design Museum, dedicated a first retrospective of Fornasetti’s work at the museum; this exhibition later went on tour to Paris’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs and Seoul’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza. A 1987 collaboration between Fornasetti and fashion writer and publisher Patrick Mauriés, which became a monograph entitled “Fornasetti: Designer of Dreams”, was published posthumously in 2015 with an introduction by Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass. Piero Fornasetti’s work can be seen in the collections of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. 

Note” An example of the range of Piero Fornasetti’s oeuvre can be found at the online Fornasetti website located at: https://www.fornasetti.com/bd/en/

Michele Giambono

Michele Giambono, “Man of Sorrows”, ca  1420-1430, Tempera and Gold on Wood Panel,  47 x 31.1 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Born in Venice circa 1400, Michele Taddeo di Giovanni Bono, known as Giambono, was an Italian painter whose work reflected the International Gothic style with a Venetian influence. There are no known portraits of Michele Giambono and very little is known of his personal life, except for knowledge of a marriage in 1420 and his death circa 1462 in Venice.

Giambono was active as an artist between the years 1420 and 1462. He was influenced by the works of Jacobello del Fiore, a Late-Gothic style painter whose mature work displayed a local Venetian style;  Gentile da Fabriano, a painter of altarpieces and frescoes, whose 1423 “Adoration of the Magi” is regarded as one of the masterpieces of the international Gothic style; and Antonio di Puccio Pisanello, one of the most distinguished fresco painters and medalists of the early Italian Renaissance. 

Michele Giambono is known for his mosaic designs in the Mascoli Chapel of San Marco in Venice. In the left vault of the chapel, two elaborately decorated mosaics depict the Birth, the Presentation at the Temple, and the Annunciation. On the right side of the chapel, the life of the Virgin is continued with the Visitation and the Death, or Dormitio Virginis. The architectural elements in the mosaics are triangular in shape, slightly askew with rounded arches of Corinthian and Florentine style.

The paintings attributed to Giambono include “St. Chrysogonus on Horseback”, circa 1450, done in the International Gothic Style with suggested movement and gilded highlights; “Virgin and Child”, located at Galleria Franchetti in Venice and completed circa 1450, a painting by which Giambono became one of the first Italian artists to use iconographic images in a Christian context; “Portrait of a Man”, a tempera and silver on wood panel painting,  which is one of very few surviving early fifteenth-century Venetian portraits; and the five panel “Polyptych of Saint James”, located at Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.

Michele Giambono’s small, tempera and gold on wood panel painting, “The Man of Sorrows”, is one of his earliest known works, executed between 1420 and 1430. The central, well-rendered figure of Jesus was conceived as a focus for meditation. He is depicted upright in his tomb, his hands extended to display his wounds, and his  blood and crown of thorns rendered in relief. A diminutive Saint Francis , standing on the left, receives the Stigmata and becomes a surrogate for the viewer. Elaborately framed, with the reverse painted to imitate porphyry, a stone with imperial associations, the painting would have been a precious object of devotion, perhaps for a Franciscan friar. The pattern on the deteriorated background derives from Islamic textiles.

Note: The International Gothic is a period of Gothic art which began in Burgundy, France and northern Italy in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth-century. It then spread rapidly through Western Europe, although, most of the style’s development occurred in Italy. Initially a style of the courts of nobility, it gradually spread, becoming more robust in appearance, to the mercantile classes and lower nobility. Artwork of the period is known by the use of light, bright colors and especially gold in panel paintings, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, and polychromed sculptures. Stylistic features included a dignified elegance, a more practiced use of perspective in the modeling and setting, and an attention to realistic detail in plants and animals. 

Top Insert Image: Michele Giambono, “Virgin and Child Enthroned”, circa 1440-1450, Tempera and Gold on Linden Wood, 121.5 x 56.5 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Bottom Insert Image: Michele Giambono, ‘San Grisógono a Caballo”, circa 1450, Oil on Panel, 199 x 134 cm, Venice

 

Claudio Massini

The Artwork of Claudio Massini

Born in Naples in 1955, Italian painter and photographer Claudio Massani spent his early years living in Trieste, a seaport on the Adriatic coast. At the beginning of the 1970’s, he obtained a diploma from Trieste’s art school and, following his family’s move to Naples, he attended Naples’s Academy of Fine Arts. During these years Massini’s works were based on performance actions with an urban and social context. 

Starting in 1975, Massini developed his personal style of extremely precise relief canvases constructed of multiple layers of both organic and inorganic pigments. These he exhibited in the 1975 Rome Quadriennale, as part of “The New Generation” exhibition promoting Italian contemporary art, and in the 1976 Venice Biennale.  After moving to Treviso in 1980, Massini focused his work on acrylic paintings, often with sculpture influences and bleak undertones.

An agreement with Naples’s contemporary art advocate and gallery owner Lucio Amelio  led to Massini’s constant participation in important exhibitions, including a solo show in 1989 at the Lucio Amelio gallery. In the 1990s Massini channeled his energies and time into the development of the Padiglione Arte Contemporanea in Milan, a venue for meetings and exhibitions of national and international artists.

Over the course of his career, Claudio Massini has developed, through the research of different materials, a glazing technique of color and effects to place his painted elements on a relief plane only a few millimeters in thickness. The different elements, either opaque, translucent or dusty in appearance, retain their recognizable forms, such as stars, tables or flowers, in a balanced organic or architectural form.  

Now living in Casier, Italy, Claudio Massini exhibited in 2003 at Bologna’s Gallery of Modern Art and at the Mücsarnok Kunsthalle in Budapest. In 2009, his solo show “Fili Fatali (Fatal Threads)” was exhibited at the Civic Museum Sartario in Trieste and six other galleries in the city. Massini’s exhibition “Lago Sacro (Sacred Logo)” was exhibited in 2010 at the San Zenone Civic Gallery in the city of Campione d’Italia. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Treviso, Casa Robegan, hosted Massini’s solo show “The Body of Painting”.

The artist: https://www.instagram.com/claudio_massini/?hl=en

Bottom Insert Image: Claudio Massini, “Joueur au Filet”, Date Unknown, Oil on Panel, 137.2 x 185.4 cm, Private Collection

Agnolo Di Cosimo

Agnolo Di Cosimo (Agnolo Bronzino), “Saint Sebastian”, 1533, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

Agnolo Di Cosimo, known as Agnolo Bronzino, was a prominent artist of the second-wave of Italian Mannerism in the middle of the sixteenth century. Born to a poor Florentine family in 1503, he started his art education at the age of eleven as a pupil of Raffaelino del Garbo, a Renaissance painter from Florence. In 1515 Bronzino undertook an apprenticeship in Florence with the man who would become his biggest artistic influence and, some say, adopted father: Jacopo Carucci, better known as Pontormo.

In 1525, Pontormo called upon his pupil Agnolo Di Cosimo to help with what would be Pontormo’s masterpiece, the  “Deposition from the Cross”. This altarpiece was painted in the Florentine church of Santa Felicità. Pontormo was commissioned to decorate the entire church with frescoes; in a testament to Pontormo’s trust in and affection for his pupil, Pontormo enlisted Di Cosimo to assist in the work.

After the Siege of Florence in 1530 which reinstalled the Medici family as rulers, Agnolo Di Cosimo fled to Urbino. There he was commissioned by the Duke of Urbino to paint a nude Cupid above an arch of the Imperiale vault. He was also commissioned by a prince of Urbino to paint his portrait. As Di Cosimo became known for his portraits, he became the official portraitist for the Medici family members. Di Cosimo is known mostly for these portraits, perhaps his greatest contribution to Italian Mannerism.

Agnolo Di Cosimo’s painting technicus is extremely controlled and meticulous, with immaculate attention to detail..His brushstrokes appear non-existent, which give his works, particularly his portraits, an extremely realistic, almost life-like appearance. Di Cosimo used the tehnique of chiaroscuro to bring attnetion to the light-colored figures in the painting, pushing them forward against the dark background. Chiaroscuro is an effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly or from a particular direction on the subject of the painting.

 

Luigi Bonazza

luigi bonazza

Luigi Bonazza, “Contributo dell’Operaio all’Esercito Combattente” (The Worker’s Contribution to the Army Fighter)”, 1914-1915, Oil on Board

Luigi Bonazza was an Italian artist born in the provence of Trento. He studied under Luigi Comel, a professor of drawing and painting, at the Royal Elizabethan School in Rovereto. He returned to Trento in 1912, at which time he and other artists founded the Artistic Circle Trentino. Bonazza lived in Vizzola Ticino between 1916 and 1918, working for Italian aviation pioneer Giovanni Caproni and producing watercolors and engravings of aircraft and flight. Later in his life, he decorated the Palazzo delle Poste in Trento and painted mostly landscapes and portraits.

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Antonio Canova

Antonio Canova, “Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss”, Detail, 1787, Marble, Louvre Museum, Paris

“Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss” is a marble sculpture by Italian artist Antonio Canova, who was raised by his stonemason grandfather, Pasino Canova. Antonio Canova valued his independence as an artist, believing that art was above politics. However, through pressure by the French on the papacy, he was forced to accept titles and honors.

The marble sculpture is in a Neoclassical style but shows characteristics of the then emerging Romantic movement. There were two versions of this piece; the image shown being the prime version, which was acquired by Joachim Murat, Marshal of France and Admiral of France under the reign of Napoleon. After Murat’s death, the sculpture entered the Louvre Museum in 1824.

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Giorgio Vasari

Giorgio Vasari, “Six Tuscan Poets”, 1554, Oil on Canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis,Minnesota

In this group portrait “Six Tuscan Poets” by Giorgio Vasari, six distinguished poets and philosophers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries are shown as if engaged in a literary conversation. Each was revered for his role in the development of lyric poetry, which helped establish the Tuscan dialect as the standard language in Italy.

The seated figure is Dante Alighieri, author of the “Divine Comedy”. Facing him is Guido Cavalcanti, acclaimed for his love sonnets. The standing figure in clerical garb is the humanist and classical scholar Francesco Petrarch; to his right is Giovanni Boccaccio, author of the “Decameron”. The figures at the far left are two authoritative commentators on their works, the humanist and writer  Marsilio Ficino and the platonic philosopher Cristoforo Landino.

All four of the main figures wear laurel wreaths, symbolic of literary achievement. The objects on the table represent various scholarly disciplines. The solar quadrant and celestial globe denote astronomy and astrology; the compass and terrestrial globe, geometry and geography; the books, grammar and rhetoric.

Fabio Novembre

Fabio Novembre, The S.O.S. Chair, 2003, Fiberglass, Polyurethane

Fabio Novembre was born in Milan in 1966. An architect since 1992, he became famous through a large series of design projects for restaurants, nightclubs and shops in Italy and abroad, as well as through his unique pieces of Italian furniture designed for Cappellini, Driade and Flaminia.

Novembre proposes works that highlight curvaceous forms and elegant and innovative lines. He often emphasizes sex within his creations. He stands on the boarders of provocation and poetry, contemporary art and design with his pieces.

The S.O.S. line is a joinable system of armchairs and chaise longue realized in a cubic form with a structure in lacquered matt black fiberglass. The sitting area is covered with a bielastic stitch spread in polyurethane and PVC, in a golden color.

Imperatore Constantino

Artist Unknown, Imperatore Constantino, Musei Capitolini, Rome, italy

The colossal statue of Constantine I,  sculpted in marble, was one of the most important works of late-ancient Roman sculpture The remaining segments are at the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome and were dated between 313 and 324. A hand and the right arm, the two feet, the knee and the right femur, the left calf and the head are the only remaining parts of the statue. The origin statue judging from the remains was a seated form that reached approximately 12 meters in height.

The head, which was originally decorated with a metallic crown, is grandiose and solemn, presenting the characteristics of Roman art of that era, with the stylization and simplification tendencies of the lines.  The face is squared, with hair and eyebrows rendered with very refined and “calligraphic” marble engravings, but still completely unnatural looking. The eyes are big, almost huge, with the well-marked pupil looking upwards; they are the focal point of the whole portrait.

The Emperor’s gaze seems to scrutinize the surrounding environment and gives the portrait an appearance of extraterrestrial austerity. The hair is treated as a single swollen mass deeply furrowed by the streaks that separate some locks. The face posesses an aquiling nose, long, thin lips and a prominent chin. This is an idelaized face, despite the classical importation, which seeks to show an aura of holiness.

Andrea Mantegna

Andrea Mantegna, “Saint Sebastian”, 1456-1459, Oil on Panel, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Saint Sebastian was the subject of three paintings by the Italian Early Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna. The Paduan artist lived in a period of frequent plagues; Saint Sebastian was considered protector against the plague as having been shot through by arrows.

According to Battisti, the theme refers to the Book of Revelation. A rider is present in the clouds at the upper left corner. As specified in John’s work, the cloud is white and the rider has a scythe which he is using to cut the cloud. The rider has been interpreted as Saturn, the Roman-Greek god.

Instead of the classical figure of Sebastian tied to a pole in the Rome’s Martial Field, Andrea Mantegna portrayed the saint against an arch, whether a triumphal arch or the gate of the city. Characteristic of Mantegna is the clarity of the surface, the precision of an “archaeological” reproduction of the architectonical details, and the elegance of the martyr’s posture. The vertical inscription at the right side of the saint is the signature of Mantegna in Greek.

Carlo Crivelli

Carlo Crivelli, “Saint Stephen”, 1476, Tempera and Gilding on Panel, national Gallery, London

Carlo Crivelli painted in tempera only, despite the increasing popularity of oil painting during his lifetime, and on panels, though some of his paintings have since been transfered to canvas. His predilection for decoratively punched gilded backgrounds is one of the marks of this conservative taste, in part imposed by his patrons. Of his early polyptychs, only one, the altarpiece from Ascoli Piceno, survives in its entirety in its original frame. All the others have been disassembled and their panels and predella scenes are divided among several museums.

This panel showing Saint Stephen is part of the large “Demidoff Altarpiece” made for the high altar of San Domenico in Ascoli Piceno, east-central Italy.

Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr. He was a lay assistant to the priest of the first Christian community in 1st-century Palestine and was responsible for a daily distribution of food to the poor. Accused of blasphemy against Moses and God, he was tried by a religious council. As he spoke in defence of his belief in Christ as the Messiah, those watching him saw the face of an angel. Enraged, the council stopped the trial and took him out of the city where he was stoned to death.