Portrait of a young Woman
  • Vincenzo Gemito
  • Naples 1852 - 1929
  • Portrait of a young Woman
  • Pencil, partly heightened with white bodycolour, on a wooden panel
  • signed with pencil on the lower right: GEMITO.
  • 178 × 125 mm
Collection Gian-Carlo Baroni, Paris

As an orphan, Gemito was adopted by a craftsman in Naples and grew up in very modest circumstances. Even before the age of 10, he was enlisted to earn money for the family, and thus practised in various studios of painters and sculptors. There, his astounding graphic talent and ability to capture spontaneity garnered attention, such that Gemito – at the mere age of 12 – was accepted into the Art Academy in Naples, where he met his lifelong friend, the artist Antonio Mancini (1852-1930). Gemito simultaneously attended evening courses at the Domenico Maggiore Academy in his hometown. He had achieved amazing success even as a 16-year-old, when King Victor Emmanuel II purchased one of the young artist’s terracotta statutes from an exhibition and donated it to the Museo di Capodimonte.

From 1877-1880, the ambitious painter and sculptor lived in Paris, where he was allowed to show his works both at the salons and at the World’s Fair in 1878. His sculpture of a Neapolitan Fisher Boy was triumphantly celebrated there, and generated many important follow-up commissions for Gemito; during his lifetime, Gemito was especially famous throughout Europe as a portraitist.

In 1883, he established his own foundry in Naples, where he revived forgotten casting techniques from the Renaissance. After a nervous breakdown in 1887, however, Gemito withdrew from public life and worked exclusively on drawings for the next 20 years. Only at the turn of the century did he resume sculpture – with an unbelievable creativity – and created his masterful late works.