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August 3rd, 2007
An Advanced Look At Antonio Mancini: Nineteenth-Century Italian Master

Antonio Mancini: Nineteenth-Century Italian Master (October 20, 2007 - January 2008)

One of the most prominent Italian painters of the late 19th century, Antonio Mancini (1852-1930) was at the forefront of Verismo, the Italian response to realism. A brilliant colorist and technician, Mancini is known for his daring and innovative painting methods characterized by unusually thick impasto and the inclusion of glass, metal foil and other materials onto the surfaces of his paintings. In the fall of 2007, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present an exhibition of some 40 works by Mancini, celebrating a group of paintings and pastels that recently entered the Museum’s collection as a gift from the estate of the American collector and dealer Vance N. Jordan (1943-2003). The exhibition will survey the major themes of Mancini’s career. It will include not only his haunting portrayals of circus performers, street musicians, and impoverished children from the streets of Naples, painted in the years following his studies at the Istituto di Belle Arti, but also the portraits Mancini produced for society patrons and several of his reflective self-portraits which chronicle periods of both inner turmoil and the serenity brought by old age and fame.

The international loan exhibition, the first solo exhibition devoted to Mancini in the United States in more than 100 years, will highlight the paintings from the Vance Jordan Collection together with important works from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as private collections in the U.S. and Europe. The exhibition is being organized by guest curator Dr. Ulrich Hiesinger.

“The gift of Vance Jordan’s collection of paintings and works on paper by Antonio Mancini complements the Museum’s deep and distinguished holdings of 19th-century European painting,” said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Here Mancini’s art finds rich context in the work of his contemporaries, including Italian colleagues, mentors, and friends such as Vincenzo Gemito, Mariano Fortuny y Carbó, Giovanni Boldini, Giuseppe De Nittis, and Adriano Cecioni,”

The 15 paintings and pastels by Mancini in the Vance Jordan Collection survey Mancini’s output over more than 30 years and include both genre pictures and the vigorously painted portraits for which he was later known. Mancini experimented with techniques and materials, mixing glass shards and silver foil with his paint and growing increasingly free in his use of color and brushwork. Self-portraits in a variety of mediums are a common theme in his work and two striking self-portraits, one lent by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and another on loan from the Palazzo Pitti, also in Florence, will be on view.

Mancini’s large painting The Saltimbanco depicts a street urchin named Luigiello Gianchetti who Mancini discovered in Naples and painted in various settings, often in elaborate costumes. The Saltimbanco reflects Mancini’s interest in the Cirque Guillaume, which he attended in Naples with Gemito. Completed while Mancini was living in Paris, The Saltimbanco was exhibited at the Salon in 1877 and once belonged to Count Albert Cahen d’Anvers, the Belgian composer who was an important early patron. Luigiello Gianchetti reappears in Boy with Toy Soldiers (1875), an enigmatic portrait of a boy dressed in a velvet suit and wearing a single black glove.

After suffering a disabling mental illness, Mancini settled in Rome, where he managed for many years to eke out a precarious existence. Through his friendship with the American painter John Singer Sargent, who famously declared Mancini to be the greatest living painter, the artist was introduced to important American and English patrons including Isabella Stewart Gardner and Mrs. Charles Hunter. Mancini invented which he called a graticola (a wooden frame with strings stretched across it, vertically, horizontally or diagonally) to achieve proper tone and perspective, which resulted in prominent grid patterns sometimes left by the artist on his heavily layered canvases.

About the Artist
Born in 1852 in Rome, Mancini trained from age 12 at the Istituto di Belle Arti in Naples. In 1868 he produced his first major oil painting, The Street Urchin (Lo scugnizzo). He was strongly influenced by the 17th-century Baroque tradition in Naples and painters such as Bernardo Cavallino, Massimo Stanzione, and Mattia Preti; he was also a great admirer of the 19th century Spanish painter Mariano Fortuny y Carbó, who worked in Naples in the 1860s. Mancini’s own work was marked by vivid naturalism and subject matter drawn from street life. He traveled to Paris twice in the 1870s where he met Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and John Singer Sargent. He was committed to a mental asylum in Naples from 1881-1882. Aside from two extended stays in England and Ireland (1901-02 and 1907-08), where he painted portrait commissions, Mancini worked principally in Rome for the remainder of his life.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue written by Dr. Ulrich Hiesinger, guest curator for this project in the museum’s Department of European Painting Before 1900. The catalogue is co-published by the Museum and Yale University Press. This extensively illustrated volume will be the first book devoted to Mancini in English as well as documenting the important collection of Mancini’s paintings that has made the Philadelphia Museum of Art the largest repository of his works in the United States.

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