Portrait of a young girl

Vincenzo Gemito
Naples 1852 - 1929
Portrait of a young girl
Black and coloured chalks, heightened with white, on light brown paper
367 x 278 mm

This work is one of the numerous portraits, executed by Gemito after 1910. They demonstrate the interest that the master has always had for portraiture, requested by a wealthy bourgeoisie who had to provide him with useful economic income. Furthermore, his self-portraits should not be forgotten, of which there are numerous examples in the latter part of his life.
The identity of the young woman is not known: it is the study of the three-quarter portrait face with strong lines and strong shading, with the addition of red chalk shades for the complexion. In the drawing we perceive the sculptor's plastic qualities in the roundness of the face with its delicate shades which is contrasted by the richness in defining the hair in waves and curls that adorn the head. Precisely this skill in describing hair reveals the many similarities that the master pursues in sculpture, always intent on arriving, through the meticulous and harmonious definition of the whole, at classical and Hellenistic perfectionism. The ancient world was studied by Gemito with great attention and passion.

S. Di Giacomo, Vincenzo Gemito, Rome 1923.
E. Somarè, A. Schettini, Gemito, Milan 1944.
B. Mantura, Temi di Vincenzo Gemito, catalogue of the exhibition in Spoleto, Rome 1989.
M. S. De Marinis, Gemito, l’Aquila-Rome 1993, pp. 140-145, tav. 154;
D.M. Pagano, Gemito, catalogue of exhibition in Naples, Museo Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortes, Naples 2009, p. 252;
Jean-Loup Champion, Gemito, le sculpteur de l'âme napolitaine, catalogue of the exhibition at the Petit Palais, Paris 2019, pp.162-167.

Black and coloured chalks, heightened with white, on light brown paper, lined in pen. 367 x 278 mm. Signed at bottom right Gemito.

Price on application

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.