4 December 2019
From 13 March to 28 June 2020, The Mesdag Collection in The Hague explores the turbulent life and work of Italian artist Antonio Mancini (1852-1930) in the exhibition ‘Mancini. Eccentric & Extravagant’.
The Italian artist Antonio Mancini (1852-1930) was so far ahead of his time that his paintings astonished the public. He was also in favour with members of the international high society, who clamoured to have their portraits painted by him. One of Mancini’s admirers was Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915), a painter and collector from The Hague. During the course of 20 years, Mesdag shipped some 150 works by Mancini to the Netherlands – not only for himself, but also to exhibit and sell on.
The exhibition Mancini. Eccentric & Extravagant uses Mancini’s Italian circus boys, magnificent portraits and painted pasta plates to offer an overview of the artist’s turbulent life and work.
An idiosyncratic artist
Antonio Mancini was a living legend. He made a name for himself during his time in Paris (1875 and 1877-1878) and established an international network of devotees in France, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, America and Germany. When he painted a portrait, he selected a point some four of five metres from his easel, which he carefully marked with a cross. From here, he ran back and forth to his canvas, palette in hand, cursing, laughing or mumbling as he applied his brushstrokes.
Mancini incorporated shiny materials such as glass, metal, mirrors or pieces of empty paint tubes into some of his paintings: an unprecedented technique. He sometimes painted himself as a serious artist, while on other occasions, he appears to be sticking his tongue out on the reverse of a painting.
For the first time in the Netherlands
From 13 March to 28 June 2020, The Mesdag Collection in The Hague will use some 40 of Mancini’s paintings, pastels, drawings and letters to explore his fascinating life. The exhibition introduces visitors to the world of Mesdag as Mancini’s patron in The Hague, to that of Mancini in his simple studio in Rome and to the high society of London, Dublin and Rome, where Mancini painted portraits in imposing country houses and city palaces.
Works including Self-portrait with a Straw (c. 1880, private collection, with thanks to the Bottegantica art dealers in Milan), The Marquis del Grillo (1889, The National Gallery, London) and Portrait of Sir Hugh Lane (1906, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane) will be on public display in the Netherlands for the first time, as will two of the plates that Mancini painted as payment in restaurants when he was broke.
The Mesdag Collection
The Dutch artist and collector Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915) was a significant patron of Mancini. Mesdag commissioned about 50 paintings and some 100 drawings and pastels from Mancini, of which 15 works are still in The Mesdag Collection.