Bronze with brown patina. 53 cm high.
Bolted to its own bronze socle with wing-shaped supports.
Signed on the socle GEMITO / PROPRIETA’ / ARTISTICA
Foundry stamp FONDERIA / GEMITO / NAPOLI
In his formative years, Gemito was strongly impressed by the Museo Archeologico in Naples, one of the greatest of its kind in the world. This image of an old man unmistakably evokes the spirit of the ancient world. As various scholars have noted the long locks of hair bound by a fillet, the scraggly beard and the intense gaze conform to ancient portraits of Stoics like the Pseudo-Seneca. But Gemito’s biographers have also pointed to the strong resemblance of this sculpture to Francesco Jadiciccio, called Masto Ciccio, the sculptor’s adoptive father. See here on my website a drawn portrait by Gemito of Masto Ciccio as Winter.
S. Di Giacomo, Vincenzo Gemito, Rome 1923, p. 33;
A. Consiglio, Vincenzo Gemito, Bergamo 1932, tav. 13;
O. Morisani, Vita di Gemito, Pozzuoli 1936, pp. 135/163;
E. Somarè, A. Schettini, Gemito, Milan 1944, plates 36-37, p. 211;
B. Mantura, Temi di Vincenzo Gemito, catalogue of the exhibition in Spoleto, Rome 1989, cat. no. 132, p. 124;
M. S. De Marinis, Gemito, l’Aquila-Rome 1993, pp. 140-145, tav. 154;
I. Wardropper, F. Licht, Chiseled with a Brush, Italian Sculpture 1860-1925 from the Gilgore Collections, catalogue of the exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago 1994, no. 20, pp. 90-91;
K. Mc Arthur, K. Ganz, Vincenzo Gemito (1852-1929). Drawings & Sculpture in Naples & Rome, catalogue of the exhibition in New York, New York 2000, no. 11, pp. 28-29;
D.M. Pagano, Gemito, catalogue of exhibition in Naples, Museo Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortes, Naples 2009, p. 252;
D. Esposito, A. Panzetta, Gemito e la scultura a Napoli tra Otto e novecento, catalogue of the exhibition in Montevarchi (AR), Arezzo 2012, pp. 102-105;
C. Virno, M. Carrera, Gemito, Mancini e il loro ambiente. Opere giovanili, catalogue of the exhibition in Rome, Rome 2017, no. 30, pp, 36-37;
Jean-Loup Champion, Gemito, le sculpteur de l'âme napolitaine, catalogue of the exhibition at the Petit Palais, Paris 2019, pp.162-167.
Vincenzo Gemito, one of the premier Italian sculptors of the 19th century, was essentially self-taught. Discovered on the foundling hospital's doorstep and adopted by a poor artisan, Gemito got work in a sculptor's studio when he was a boy. In his youth, he worked for two local sculptors, Emanuele Caggiano and Stanislao Lista, but neither seems to have had much stylistic influence on him. Gemito's realistic representations of Neapolitan street life marked a dramatic shift from earlier artists' sentimentalizing. His sculpture was so immediately alive and strong that he became famous at a very early age. Gemito sold a statue to the city of Naples when he was sixteen years old; and he was only twenty-one years old when he was commissioned to model the portrait of Giuseppe Verdi. Gemito's Pescatorello (Neapolitan Fisherboy) brought him acclaim at the 1877 Paris Salon, and he stayed in Paris for three years.
Gemito was also an immensely gifted draughtsman. After completing an important public commission, the portrait of Charles V, in 1887, he suffered a mental collapse and gave up sculpture almost entirely: he withdrew to one room, concentrating on drawing and seeing few friends. Around 1909 Gemito resumed sculpting, incorporating Hellenistic influences into his work, inspired by the works of art that the diggings of Pompeii and Herculaneum had brought to light and which were exhibited in the Archeological Museum in Naples. His sculpture demonstrated a delicate sensitivity and detail that ultimately derived from his drawings.