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Vincenzo Gemito


A. Pallesi & C. s.r.l.

Trinity Fine Art

A. Pallesi & C. s.r.l.

Vincenzo Gemito
Saturday 5 JulyFriday 11 July 2008 10 am6 pm daily Saturday and Sunday 11 am5 pm

Trinity Fine Art

29 Bruton Street, London W1J 6QP Telephone 0044 (0) 20 7493 4916 Telefax 0044 (0) 20 7355 3454

Notes on Gemito
by Bruno Mantura In his beguiling essay La seconda vita di Vincenzo Gemito1, Alberto Savinio comments that Gemito was more of a sculptor in his drawings than in his statues, commenting, somewhat enigmatically, that: As a sculptor, Gemito dominates his material by the greatness of his spirit and the strength of his hands, reducing it to the bare minimum, no longer striving for lyricism but for material perfection, and adding Gemitos statues were simply the creators pastime. Savinios text is imbued with profound poetic understanding, an effective way of approaching the work of this great master. And, indeed, as Baudelaire would have wished it, perhaps it is only a poet who may be able to properly decipher the work of this artist. From the start, whilst Gemito was still living, great interest was shown in his drawings. In 1916 Pica published, in the periodical Emporium, a long article in which he compared Gemitos graphic work to that of Constantin Meunier and Auguste Rodin2. Later, in 1944, O.H. Giglioli presented a selection of magnificent drawings from private sources including many from the Minozzi and Consolazione collections3 - demonstrating that Gemito was indeed a born draughtsman. The critic Argan4 was later to describe the artists ability to reveal with a few strokes all that was most immediate and spontaneous in the movement of a body or a face, capturing, with his eye for detail and movement, both the anatomical and the psychological characteristics. Lacking both proper training and education, Gemito yet managed to attach these aspects to the paper surface with the rapidity and power of a bird of prey. As a young boy, Gemito astonished his masters, Emanuele Caggiano and Stanislao Lista, with his ability to draw precisely in red chalk, a medium that allows for little correction. After his somewhat unconventional apprenticeship with Caggiano (for whom Gemito retained fond memories) and then Lista (for whom instead he had less liking, as is perhaps revealed by his later reluctance to discuss the relationship), Gemito was enrolled at the Real Istituto di Belle Arti in 1864. Here, four years later, Domenico Morelli was installed as teacher, demonstrating considerable interest in our sculptor whom he supported in the competition for an artistic scholarship in Rome. Even if Gemito did not greatly admire Morelli, he was undoubtedly influenced by certain aspects of the older painters work; this can be seen, for example, in Gemitos handling of ink wash and in the use of strokes of gouache in many of his sketches, both in turn influenced by Morellis revisitation of Venetian eighteenth century painting (as has been commented elsewhere5). Further, it is likely that the older painters style can be discerned in Gemitos vibrant treatment of the surfaces of his sculptures, rendered with a sense of reality yet tied to a structure of classical origin. Gemitos self-styled personality has always created problems in the interpretation of his work. In the preface to the monograph on Gemito by A. Schettini, published in 1944, E. Somar praised the artistic personality of the Neapolitan artist in elegiac terms whilst at the same time pointing out not only Gemitos lack of formal education but also the absence of any political message or sentimentality in his work. To quote Somar, in his original Italian: La comparsa di un genio che fa epoca, nel senso che riconosce in lui il figlio del suo tempo, mentre il tempo che fu suo simpronta reciprocamente delle sue creazioni; costituisce un portento che si spiega, only in the case of an individual, ..che fa parte a s stesso, come fosse separato dallepoca che assiste al suo processo senza determinarlo and ..rappresenta un assurdo, nel quale la divina o demoniaca libert di un arte indifferente ad ogni cronologia, ci costringe a credere. He adds at the end his view that Gemitos personality is such that one remains perplexed and does not really know how to deal with it critically6. It thus becomes clear that there are considerable difficulties in investigating the work of this Neapolitan genius with the usual critical apparatus. To this it may be added that the documentary, social and biographic details concerning the artist, if not completely

irrelevant, produce further difficulties in that they lead us into the realms of legend. Only the consistency of his stylistic development allows us to discern the source of his stylistic coherence: the Antique (in particular, the excavations at Pompei and the collections of the Museo Nazionale) was the first, powerful visual experience at the start of his artistic career. As an example of the impact of this, one can cite the visual transformation of his model Mastro Ciccio into the form of a pseudo-Seneca. During 1887 Gemito entered into what was to be a lengthy period of dark mental anguish, often and imprecisely described, with the incorrect medical diagnosis, as madness. In reality, several unhappy events had left him deeply perturbed: firstly, on a personal level, the death of his companion Mathilde Duffaut, and, secondly, problems concerning his work on two important royal commissions, the never-to-be-completed thirty-three metre centrepiece commissioned by King Umberto I for the Reggia of Capodimonte and the statue of Charles V, destined for the faade of the Royal Palace. Initially confined to the clinic Fleurent, Gemito managed to return to his home in Via Tasso and there he was to remain, isolated, for nearly twenty years. During this long period of torment, particularly during the first ten years when he almost totally abandoned sculpture, he continued to draw, helped by the loving care of his wife Anna Cutolo, the mother of their daughter Giuseppina. Anna proved to be the patient model for some of his most extraordinary graphic works, sheets totally complete in every detail, amongst which several rennaissance-like works notable for their technical excellence and intense inspiration. It is at the end of this period of segregation, in 1906, that Gemito produced one of his most sublime drawings: the image of Coserella (as Gemito had named Anna) depicted in a pose of intense sadness, shortly before her death. Finally emerging from this self-imposed exile, and divested of any modern realistic concerns, the artist returned to his dialogue with the Antique, now freed from its limitations, as if he wished to penetrate its pure essence. It proved to be a grandiose moment in our artists career, a period when the forms that he developed expand to comfortably fill the figurative space, freed from tension. In these years, when the artist was working on his studies and sculptures of Alexander the Great, one sees the faces open as if infused with light. Gemito worked on the image of the Macedonian king, depicted in profile for a medallion and shown again in the round, images of the Cosmocrator (as Alexander was denominated in the Middle Ages) which shine with a god-like youthfulness. Thus Gemito carried his art into the world of mythology. In this later period of his life Gemito also worked on a Medusa, a subject with a rich and symbolic significance: an example, perhaps intended to evoke Perseuss shield, is cast in silver7. The creation of this Medusa seems to be related to an anecdote (but then, of course, the anecdotes concerning Gemito are infinite): the artist, during his last sojourn in Paris in 1924, searched for a girl with long hair, a fitting model for the Medusa, and he eventually found a dancer with long golden trusses. Once found, he knelt at her feet and exclaimed: You are the Sun.

1 2 3 4 5

A. Savinio, Narrate, uomini, la vostra storia, Milan, 1984, page 69 et seq. V. Pica, Disegni di tre scultori moderni. Gemito, Meunier, Rodin, in Emporium, vol. XLIII, no. 258, pages, 403-425. H.O. Giglioli, Disegni di Gemito, Florence, 1944 S. Di Giacomo, Gemito, la vita lopera, reprint, Naples, 1988, with preface by C.G. Argan. F. Bellonzi, R. Frattarolo, Gemito, Rome, 1952, page 6 (concerning a sheet with a fisherboy, plate III, ..che nella sua calma solenne, con tutta la luce che lo imbeve, affaccia la memoria di un Piazzetta). E. Somar, preface to A. Schettini, Gemito, Milan, 1944, page 9. The silver example is to be found at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

6 7

View of the Gemito Collection, Cairo, Egypt, circa 1940

1. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Portrait of Giuseppina Graphite, drawn on the back of an envelope Signed, in graphite, centre right: V GEMITO . The envelope addressed, in brown ink: Illmo Sig. Vincenzo Gemito artista scultore, Via Tasso N. 24, Citt and printed with the title: Prima Mostra Nazionale dArte pura ed applicata Napoli, Edificio Municipale Galleria Principe di Napoli mm 112 x 145 Gemito married Anna Cutolo, who had modelled for Domenico Morelli, in 1882; their only child, Giuseppina, was born in 1885. He portrayed his daughter in numerous drawings throughout the remainder of his life, as he also did his four grandchildren: Bice, Annita (or Anita), Carlotta and Alessandro. This sketch can be compared with a portrait of Giuseppina, dated 1927, in the Galleria dArte Moderna, Rome1, which depicts her at the age of forty-two. It has not proved possible to find further details concerning the exhibition printed on the envelope, perhaps because Gemito did not in fact participate. Gemito occupied the house in Via Tasso from 1887 until moving to Parco Grifeo in 1910-11 and must therefore have kept this old envelope in his studio, utilising it some twenty years later. His practice of drawing on old scraps of paper that came to hand is well documented and underlines the constant need to draw that persisted throughout his life.

De Marinis, plate 200.

2. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Study of an Archer Graphite Inscribed, signed and dated lower left, in graphite: Sesto istantaneo / V Gemito 1911 and numbered 15 . Watermark: G & CR / Extra Strong mm 420 x 290 The drawing is an elaboration of an earlier sketch in the same series, entitled Primo istantanteo, exhibited here, cat. no. 3. Whilst dating from the years 1908/1911, the whole series of archers is reminiscent of Gemitos earlier studies of young fisherboys, dating from the 1870s onwards. These studies of young boys, often shown in contrapposto poses, continued later in the artists career with sculptures such as La sorgente and Lacquaiolo storto 1.

McArthur and Ganz, nos. 16-17.

3. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Three sheets with studies of Archers Black chalk, graphite and white heightening Inscribed in graphite: Primo istantaneo, Quarto istantaneo, Settimo istantaneo and signed in graphite, lower left: V . Gemito; the first and third dated 1911 mm 104 x 134; mm 190 x 105; mm 120 x 166 These lively life studies are related to several more elaborate drawings of young archers dated between 1908 and 1911; amongst these, two are in the Minozzi collection, one is undated1, and the other is dated 19082. The first of the three drawings presented here is a preliminary sketch for a further drawing in the series, Sesto istantaneo (exhibited, cat. no. 2). Other drawings with the title istantaneo do not appear to be recorded. The inscriptions undoubtedly emphasize the importance that Gemito placed on these quickly-realised life sketches of young male models as a means of capturing a vivid sense of movement.

1 2

De Marinis, plate 284. Ibid., plate 42.

4. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Study after the Libyan Sybil by Michelangelo; study of a head Graphite Signed and dated lower right, in graphite: V Gemito 11 . ottobre 1922 mm 188 x 273 Gemitos evident interest in the works of Michelangelo is testified by this study after the famous figure from the Sistine Chapel, and by other drawings after the master, including several studies of the marble Moses in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome1. The drawing was very possibly made during a visit to the Sistine Chapel since Gemito was in Rome for much of 1922, where, following in the footsteps of Benvenuto Cellini, he was hoping to procure a workshop within the historic precincts of Castel SantAngelo.

De Marinis, plate 91.

5. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Study after the Toilet of Venus (The Rokeby Venus) by Velasquez Black chalk and graphite Signed and dated lower left, in graphite: Studio / Gemito / Parco Grifeo 1913 mm 136 x 222

This is another example of Gemitos interest in the Old Masters (see the preceeding entry); the famous image of Venus seen from the back clearly appealed to Gemito and is indeed echoed in a drawing of 1915 of a sleeping girl1. Gemito moved to a house in the Parco Grifeo, situated between the Riviera di Chiaia and the Villa Floridiana, during the course of 1911.

Private collection, Schettini, plate 85.

6. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Male Torso after the Antique Pen, black ink and wash, over traces of graphite Signed lower right, in black ink: GEMITO mm 239 x 179 This accomplished drawing is a rare example of Gemito working almost solely with a brush and black ink; he uses the pen only to highlight the shape of the torsos thighs. Gemito made a number of drawings of Greek and Roman statues, most notably several studies of Alexander the Great (see no.7 below). The antique original for the present drawing was perhaps a figure in the collection of the Museo Archeologico in Naples. However, the torso is also similar to that of the famous Narcissus, discovered in a house in Pompei in August 1862 and now housed in the Museo Archeologico1. Gemito made a bronze version of this figure in 18852 and it likely that our drawing should be dated to about the same time.
1 2

Haskell & Penny, fig. 141. Mantura, no. 138: McArthur and Ganz, no. 12.

7. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Recto: Two studies of a Head of Alexander Verso: Study for the Head of Alexander in profile; a study for a bust of a Philosopher Two sheets, mounted back to back Recto: black chalk and graphite with traces of white heightening Verso: blue chalk Signed on recto, lower centre, in black chalk: V Gemito . mm 155 x 205

inspired by the antique group in the Museo Archeologico, Naples2, and also by the famous group of Alexander and Bucephalus in Piazza del Quirinale, Rome3. Gemito returned to the subject of Alexander many times in the course of his career. The head in profile on the verso relates to a series of similar heads of Alexander in bronze, marble, gesso and wax, of various dates from 1912 onwards4.

These two views of a head of Alexander are related to a drawing of a similar head on a sheet which also shows the heros rearing horse1, no doubt partly

Schettini, plate 127. Di Giacomo, page XLV . 3 Haskell & Penny, figs. 71-72. 4 Mantura, nos. 155-159.

8. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Self-portrait of the Artist, aged twenty Black chalk, with some black wash Signed and dated lower right, in black chalk: V Gemito 1872 . mm 445 x 327

This self-portrait of the artist at the age of twenty is one of two in which he is depicted without a beard and is possibly the earliest surviving example of the long series of selfportraits that he produced throughout his life. The other beardless self-portrait, a lively (undated) sketch executed in black ink, showing the same wild hair, is in the Minozzi collection, Naples1. In 1872, the young sculptor was concentrating on a series of terracotta heads, using a studio in the old monastery of SantAndrea delle Dame, working alongside a group of young artists, amongst whom the sculptors dOrso and Amendola and the painters Mancini, Buonacore, Ragione and Fabron.

De Marinis, plate 75.

9. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Self-portrait Graphite Signed and dated, in graphite, lower left: V Gemito 1912 . mm 270 x 208 The sixty-year old artist has portrayed himself with his right arm raised as if resting on a shelf. This sensitive and compelling drawing, made at the time of the artists move to his new home in Parco Grifeo, is one of a large number of self-portraits that he made throughout his life. It can be compared with a fine graphite drawing of 1914 in the collection of the Banco di Napoli1.

De Marinis, plate 92.

10. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Study of a River God; a putto astride a skull and the figure of a man, possibly a study for an Evangelist Black chalk and graphite on tracing paper (laid down) Signed lower left, in black chalk: Gemito mm 120 x 430 This study is possibly connected with the numerous sketches executed by Gemito for the neo-baroque silver centrepiece, intended for a table over thirty metres long, commissioned by King Umberto I in 1886. The centrepiece was never completed and, indeed, Gemitos frustrations over this commisssion were one of the main causes of the artists nervous breakdown in 1887. The wax model still exists in the Galleria Nazionale dArte Moderna in Rome1, as do numerous studies, amongst which a fine pen, ink and watercolour sketch of the central section which was exhibited in New York in 20002.
1 2

Di Giacomo, p. 144-5. McArthur and Ganz, no. 14.

11. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Study for a River God, probably the Nile Graphite, on tracing paper Signed lower right, in graphite: Gemito mm 415 x 315

This study of a river god holding an oar relates to another drawing (exhibited Cat. no. 10), also on tracing paper. Like the river god on that sheet, the present drawing is also possibly connected with Gemitos project for the silver centrepiece commissioned in 1886 by King Umberto I.

12. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Study of a Dolphin and a Dolphin Skull Pen, black/brown ink with some wash Signed and dated lower left, in graphite: V Gemito 1923 . mm 230 x 320 There are several drawings by Gemito of fish: two fine ink drawings of scorfani (the French rascasse) are in the collection of the Banco di Napoli1. The present sheet, however, is different in that it would seem that Gemito has copied his dolphin not from life, but from a stylised antique prototype. He has then put this in juxtaposition with a study of a dolphins skull, as if he wished to emphasize the difference.

Schettini, plate 146.

13. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Seated Dog Graphite, black chalk, heightened in white, on light brown paper Signed lower centre, in graphite: V Gemito . mm 560 x 500

This large and lively study of a dog can be dated to circa 1913. The dog resembles that sitting beside the young Laura Bertolini in a fine large drawing, dated 1913, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art1.

The pair of drawings in graphite and black chalk depict Laura Bertolini and her brother, dated respectively 1913 and 1914; each cm. 136 x 78, inv. nos. 199-42&1.

14. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Youth (Enrico Bellisario) in the guise of a Fisherboy seated on a Rock Black chalk heightened with white over traces of graphite, on grey paper Signed lower centre, in graphite: Gemito Inscribed and dated lower left: 31 luglio/compie il 12 anno / 1925 Gemito fece a Enrico Bellisario mm 355 x 240 This fine drawing, made in the summer of 1925 by the still surehanded seventy-three year old artist, shows the model, Enrico Bellisario aged twelve, posed on a rock in a position reminiscent of Gemitos famous compositions of Pescatorelli of fifty years earlier1.

Mantura, nos. 4-6.

15. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Portrait of a Girl with braided hair, drawn over a study of a young boy Black chalk over graphite, the sheet extended by the artist at the bottom and laid down on board Signed and dated lower left, in graphite: Gemito ad Avena 1885 mm 466 x 330 The same young model is depicted with her hair hanging loose over her left shoulder in another more elaborate drawing (watercolour over graphite with white heightening) made in the same year, presumably on the same journey, now in the collection of the Banco di Napoli1. 1885 was an important year in the life of Gemito. His wife Anna gave birth to their daughter Giuseppina and, later, he undertook his second journey to Paris to seek advice from his great friend, the painter Ernest Meissonier, concerning the commission that he had recently received from the king for a large statue of Charles V to be placed in one of the vacant niches on the facade of the Palazzo Reale in Naples. It was a commission that was to cause Gemito many problems, principally in the adaptation of his bozzetto to suit the marble chosen for the finished figure.

De Marinis, plate 163.

16. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Portrait of a Lady Black chalk over graphite Signed and dated lower right, in black chalk: GEMITO / 1925 mm 490 x 340 The girl, possibly one of Gemitos grand-daughters, is depicted with the suggestion of a shawl over her head and with a neck band. Made in 1925, it confirms the continuing ability of Gemito as a draughtsman towards the end of his life.

17. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Head of a Woman, one of the artists grandchildren Graphite Signed lower left, in graphite: V Gemito . Typed label on back of mount: ritratto della nipotina mm 195 x 145 This small drawing of a young woman with a pin in the form of a flower bud holding her hair probably represents one of the three daughters of Giuseppina Bice, Annita or Carlotta (there was also a fourth grandchild, Alessandro). Both the old label on the back of the drawing and the resemblance to Gemitos wife Anna and daughter Giuseppina suggest this is the case. It is probable that the girl depicted is the oldest daughter Bice1. A graphite drawing of Annita, dated 1916, was exhibited in New York in 20002.

Another drawing of a girl, probably Bice, dated 1916, was sold by Christies, Rome, 27 May 2002, lot 251, there erroneously described as a portrait of Gemitos daughter Giuseppina. McArthur and Ganz, no. 27.

18. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Portrait of an Officer Pen, black ink and wash, black, blue and red chalks with white heightening over traces of graphite, on grey paper Signed lower left, in black ink, with brush: V Gemito . mm 530 x 470 It has been suggested that the man in this portrait resembles a drawing depicting the young painter Buonacore1, one of the compagni, a group of young painters and sculptors who worked alongside Gemito in the makeshift workshop in the exmonastery of SantAndrea delle Dame (see no. 8). Whilst there is undoubtedly a resemblance to the young painter of the early sketch, the present drawing, with its evolved technique and delicate use of colour, would appear to belong to Gemitos maturity. It is perhaps more likely that this weary young officer was depicted by Gemito at the time of the First World War.

Di Giacomo, page 42; pen and ink, 1878.

19. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Zingarella Black chalk, graphite and white heightening, on brown paper Signed lower right, in graphite: GEMITO and inscribed in another hand, presumably that of Achille Minozzi, in black ink: alla gentile Signora Catalani / Ac Minozzi / dicembre 1901 mm 415 x 290 The present drawing is closely related to two others in the Minozzi collection in Naples. The first is a black chalk sketch where only the outlines of the girls head are drawn whilst there is some working up of her facial features1. The second is the finished work in black chalk, graphite, white heightening and some red chalk on the girls lips2. The present drawing is a second version of the finished Minozzi Zingarella, differing only in small details such as the lack of red on the girls lips. The pen inscription, which appears to be in the hand of Achille Minozzi, gives some indication of the purpose of this replica: it can be supposed that the signora Catalani must have admired the work already in Minozzis collection and that the collector persuaded Gemito to produce a second version. In 1901 Gemito and his most important collector were still on excellent terms; the later bitter falling-out between the two, caused by a legal battle between them, was to occur in 1911 and continue until the end of the sculptors life.

1 2

De Marinis, plate 141. B. Mantura, no. 101; the Minozzi drawing is undated and measures mm. 350 x 245.

20. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Recto: Study of a Youth reclining, leaning against an urn Verso: Another similar study Black chalk Signed, dated and inscribed lower left, in black chalk: V . Gemito / 1923 / Napoli mm 240 x 345 The staff held by the youth on both the recto and verso, together with the vase against which he rests, suggest that this life study was perhaps connected with a composition for an acquaiolo, a theme to which Gemito returned many times.

21. VINCENZO GEMITO (Naples 1852-1929) Portrait of a Young Woman Pen and black ink over traces of graphite Signed and dated lower right, in black ink: V Gemito 1919 . mm 415 x 275 This superbly drawn head of a young woman, viewed in profile with her hair gathered up, is a good example of Gemitos style of hatching, here used to emphasize the contours of the shoulders and head. Another similar drawing of a young woman in the same technique is in the Treccani collection in Milan, dated 19191; the same collection has another head of a woman (1918), similarly shown in profile but executed in black chalk heightened with white2.

1 2

Schettini, plate 101. Ibid., plate 100.

Select Bibliography
A. Schettini (introduction di E. Somar), Gemito, Milan, 1944 F.Haskell & N. Penny, Taste and the Antique, New Haven and London, 1981 S.Di Giacomo, Vincenzo Gemito, la vita lopera, Naples 1905, reprinted (ed.M. Bonuomo),Naples, 1988 M. S.DeMarinis, Gemito, Roma, 1993 B.Mantura (ed.), Temi di Vincenzo Gemito, exh. cat., Spoleto, 1989 K.McArthur and K.Ganz, Vincenzo Gemito (18521929) Drawings & Sculpture in Naples and Rome, exh. cat., New York, 2000


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Catalogue no. 33 First published to accompany the exhibition

Vincenzo Gemito Drawings

5 to 11 July 2008 at Trinity Fine Art Ltd, London Trinity Fine Art Limited 29 Bruton Street London w1j 6qp 2008 Trinity Fine Art Limited Texts copyright the authors All rights reserved.No part of this publication may be transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any storage or retrieval system,without the prior permission in writing from the copyright holders and publisher. Printed in Italy by Fotolito dArte s.r.l.