(1852 – Rome - 1930)
Woman in a Straw Hat
Signed & dated top left:
A. Mancini / di Roma. Napoli 80
Oil on canvas, 18 3/4 x 14 7/8 in
Collection of Barone Berlingieri; Collection of Papocchia; Property of Giosi; Sale, Minerva Auctions, Rome, 26 May 2016, lot 189.
Rome, 1931; Napoli, 1938.
N.G. Fiumi, Ritratti di Antonio Mancini, in "The Studio", vol. 95, n. 419, February 1928 p. 89; A. Lancellotti, Antonio Mancini, Istituto Nazionale "Luce", Bergamo 1931, n. 4; A. Lancellotti, La prima quadriennale d'arte nazionale, Rome, exhibition catalogue, Enzo Pinci Editions, Rome 1931, p. 21 repr.; C. Lorenzetti, La giovinezza di Antonio Mancini e il Reale Istituto di Belle arti di Napoli, part II, in "Rassegna dell'Istruzione Artistica", II, May 1931, n. 3, p. 156; Prima quadriennale d'Arte nazionale - Mostra retrospettiva di Antonio Mancini 1852-1930, Rome, January - June 1931, Enzo Pinci Editions, Rome 1931, n. 24 repr. (inside cover); P. Scarpa, Capolavori di Antonio Mancini - alla "Quadriennale" Romana d'Arte, in "II Messaggero", 6 May 1931, p. 3; A.M. Comanducci, I pittori italiani dell'Ottocento, Casa Editrice Artisti d'Italia, Milan 1934, p. 389; Piccola guida della mostra della pittura napoletana del '600 - '700 - '800, Castelnuovo, Naples, March0 June 1938, p. 110, sala XXVII; M. Borghi, Galleria d'artisti italiani. Antonio Mancini, in "Rivista delle Province", Rome, a. LII, n. 1, January 1960, p. 47; A. Schettini, La pittura napoletana dell'800, E.D.A.R.T., Naples, 1967, vol. II, p. 172.
One of Italy’s greatest modern painters, Antonio Mancini is best known for the theatrical virtuosity and bold brushstrokes that he “whipped” into his portraits. Often teetering between painterly abstraction and realism, Mancini's working methods were daring and innovative. The visionary artist achieved glistening surfaces by applying thick impasto, occasionally enhanced by adding pieces of glass, metal foil and other materials. In the present work the artist portrays a young woman in a straw hat adorned with flowers, framed by a dense and sketchy array of leaves. The brunette, who appears in other paintings from this period, gazes demurely at the viewer. Her fair face appears in soft focus behind the pronounced ivy leaves and shafts of wheat in the foreground. With his assured and fluid brushwork, Mancini boldly applies thick impasto to highlight the right side of subject's face. He then adds a brilliant slice of red to the underside of the woman's hat, which reflects on her rosy cheeks and mirrors her coral-colored lips. This well-documented painting was first exhibited in Rome just a year after Mancini's death in 1830.
Mancini was a precocious child, admitted to the institute of Fine Arts in Naples by the age of twelve and exhibiting at the Paris Salon by twenty. In the 1870s Mancini travelled to Paris to try to make a name for himself in the capital of the art world. There he met Degas and Manet and became friends with Ernst Messonier and John Singer Sargent; the latter famously declared Mancini the greatest living painter. It was upon his return to Naples that Mancini found the success he sought in France. Signed and dated 80, our portrait was painted two years after the artist's final return from Paris. The bright colors and airy outdoor setting indicate that Mancini executed the painting with the French market still in mind.
As talented as he was, Mancini's career was plagued by disabling mental illness. He eked out a precarious existence with the support of fellow artists, American and Dutch patrons. In 1881 he suffered a mental collapse that necessitated a prolonged hospital stay. By 1883 the painter was stable enough to move to Rome where he remained for twenty years until he settled in Frascati, where he lived until 1918. Though at times destitute, Mancini was kept afloat by his principle patron, the marque Giorgio Capranica Del Grillo and by a circle of wealthy English patrons introduced to him by Sargent. He produced notable society portraits for these clients and for American patrons who traveled to Italy. Even before he found success in Italy, Mancini was a much-discussed controversial figure in America, supported by a small group of artists and patrons there. The fragile artist was also supported by the successful Dutch painter, Hendrick Mesdag, who sent Mancini a regular allowance for twenty years and sold his paintings for him. Mancini sent Mesdag works of art in return for his support, around one hundred and fifty in all. In the years following World War I Mancini found more stability, and his work reflected that renewed serenity until his death in Rome in 1930.