Return to Previous Page

October 9th, 2007
Exhibition Surveys the Achievements of Antonio Mancini, Italian Master of Verismo

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. Antonio Mancini: Nineteenth-Century Italian Master, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (October 20, 2007 - January 20, 2008) includes more than 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 surveys the major themes of Mancini’s career, which brought him from the legendary slums of Naples to Paris, Rome and English country houses. It includes 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, it highlights the paintings from the Vance N. Jordan Collection together with important works from museums in Boston, Chicago, New York, Paris, London, Dublin, Turin, Florence, Naples, and Rome, as well as private collections in the U.S. and Europe. The exhibition was organized by guest curator Dr. Ulrich Hiesinger, an independent scholar who has written widely on nineteenth century art.

“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 reflect 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, inserting glass shards and metal foil into his paint surfaces 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, is on view.

Mancini’s large painting The Saltimbanco depicts a street urchin named Luigi Gianchetti (Luigiello) 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 Vincenzo 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. Luigi 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. His work was much admired by the American painter John Singer Sargent, who introduced him to important American and English patrons. Among these were Isabella Stewart Gardner, Mr. And Mrs. Daniel Curtis, 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 impastoed 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 Rome and 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 for four months in 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 most important repository of his works in the United States.

Social Media
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr/YouTube: @philamuseum

We are Philadelphia’s art museum. A landmark building. A world-renowned collection. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.

Return to Previous Page