I’ve seen a lot paintings by quite a number of painters over time, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone handle paint quite like nineteenth century phenomenon Antonio Mancini.
I call him a phenomenon, both because his remarkable talent manifested itself at an early age, and because academic master Jean-Léon Gérôme called him that. John Singer Sargent reportedly called Mancini “the world’s greatest living artist”.
Mancini used paint as thin as a breath on the canvas and so thick it looks like it was laid on with a masonry trowel — often in the course of the same composition. He also juxtaposed rough chunks of paint that look like they were launched as the canvas by trebchet with passages of sublime modeling worthy of Renaissance greats. In some of his later work, he embedded bits of mirrors and broken glass, buttons, metal foil and other ephemera in his paint. He also left in the grid-lines of visualizing string grids.
I was fortunate to see the premier exhibition of Mancini’s work in the U.S., which marked the donation of 18 of his works to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007. Since then, the museum usually has at least 2 Mancini’s on display, Il Saltimbanco (above top), and a rotation from among the others.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick at the time to pick up on the catalog, which quickly went out of print.
Contemporary painter Leo Mancini-Hresko (no relation, see my post here) happily reports that a new Antionio Mancini Catalogue Raisonné is due to be published in 2014 by Italian publisher De Luca Editori D’Arte. Whether there will be an English version, I don’t know; but I’m looking forward to it either way.
See Macncini-Hresko’s article on the book which includes Antonio Mancinci images you won’t find reproduced elsewhere on the web at the moment, as well as additional background on this remarkable painter.