Etching, 1880; a fine impression of the first state of two, richly and skillfully printed with grayish ink, on strong ivory wove paper. Signed LConconi in the film of ink left in the plate in wiping. Titled and signed in pencil on the bottom right La casa del Mago / LConconi. With large margins, in very good condition. To the platemark 383 x 275 mm, the entire sheet measuring 536 x 420 mm. See M. Bianchi, G. Ginex, Luigi Conconi incisore, Milan, 1994; cat. no. 7.
I am not sure about the existence of the second state described and reproduced by Bianchi and Ginex. I deal with Conconi prints since several decades and I never met an impression of it. Also, considering the reproduction of this supposed second state in the book by the two scholars, I strongly suspect that it is a photomechanical reproduction of a drawing, not an etching.
The print shows the interior of the desecrated Milanese church of San Vincenzo in Prato, turned into a chemical factory. The decay of this building has been repeatedly depicted by Conconi in paintings and etchings. See, for example, the etching Le streghe. The chemist who worked in the church was Paolo Gorini (1813-1881), the creator of a method for keeping the corpses.
To understand the meaning of acquaforte monotipata it is useful compare two different impressions of this print (this specimen is on the left).
Conconi studied architecture at the Accademia di Brera and the Politecnico di Milano. He came into contact with members of the literary and artistic circles of the Scapigliatura – the Italian equivalent of the French Bohème– notably Tranquillo Cremona and Daniele Ranzoni, both of whom influenced his early paintings. In the 1880s Conconi moved from the Realism of Scapigliatura toward Symbolism. The awards he received in Paris in 1900 and Munich in 1913 led to his international recognition.
Conconi, who personally saw to the production of virtually all his plates, was the leading exponent in Lombardy of Acquaforte monotipata. This technique involved the artist drawing directly onto the ink covering the plate, prior to pulling the impression. In this way each resultant print has different characteristics.