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Techniques


In the Boudoir
In the Boudoir, c. 1886
Antonio Mancini, Italian
Pastel on paper
Sheet: 15 7/16 x 18 5/16 inches (39.2 x 46.5 cm)
Vance N. Jordan Collection, 2004
2004-108-1
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Mancini invented a number of highly personal working methods. One was a device he called the gratìcola—or perspective grid—made of a wooden frame with strings stretched across in all directions. One such frame was placed in front of the subject, while another was placed against the canvas in use. Mancini described this mysterious apparatus variously as a means to obtain the exact perspective of his painted objects or to capture the important element of tone. Very often the artist allowed the marks of the gratìcola strings to show in the finished painting, sometimes subtly, but at other times quite aggressively. In extreme cases these grid marks impart a textured, almost quilted decorative quality to the painted surface.

Those who witnessed Mancini painting never forgot the experience, particularly the unusual procedures that emerged in connection with the artist’s first mental crisis. Eyewitness accounts of his working methods convey a sense of intense—even harrowing—involvement, as described by a visitor to his studio:

There at the back, before a little table on which I see scattered an infinity of bric a brac, cloth flowers, embalmed stuffed birds, an inexpensive doll, there is the model Aurelia, an insignificant type of woman with olive complexion and an aquiline nose. She was posing as a vendor. Mancini, in shirt sleeves, extremely nervous, bustled about delivering brush strokes, that resembled blows of a whip, onto a canvas supported on the back of a chair. He snorted, he muttered to himself, he cursed at the model who wasn’t able to remain still, then he quickly distanced himself from the subject and bent down on his knees. Plump and not too flexible as he was, he stooped down and withdrew from his pocket binoculars which he used to view her in reverse. All of this while panting out of breath, and raving like someone obsessed.

To complete the scene, Mancini's doddering father, stood off to the side interrupting him the whole time with constant chatter. "Anto," he said over and over again, "Anto, let's go to dinner."

Quote from Augusto Jandolo, Le memorie di un antiquario (Milan: Casa Editrice Ceschina, 1938), p. 176

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