Domenico Mastroianni


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Domenico Mastroianni






Domenico Mastroianni was born in Arpino on 1st January 1876, in via dell Arco, 35. His fatherís name was Pietro Mastroianni and his motherís name was Angela Redivivo.

In 1903 he married Adel Durante in Rome, and later that year they moved to France where their two children were born: Alberto in 1904, and Adriana in 1906.

He received a basic education and, however, far from any approach to art, if not but through working in his fatherís carpentry workshop.

He had his first contacts with clay, thus with modelling, working as an apprentice in the ceramic workshops and in the terracotta laboratories of Arpino, active since the beginning of the 19th century.

Then finally the encounter with one of the most famous industrial upper class families of Arpino, the Quadrinis, collectors and art connoisseurs

Don Carlo Quadrini took Domenico with him to his Roman house in via del Babbuino, where, still self-taught, the artist began to amaze sculpture lovers with his incredible skill in modelling any type of material: from marble to wood, from clay to plasticine, from wax to plaster.

Vienna Then, still very young, he heads towards adventure, becoming a real bohemian. London, Berlin, Paris, then and Budapest became the places of his artistic maturation, even though Paris remained the city of his real formation (he affirms that he lived in Paris for twelve years!).

In this same city he met the most representative artists of the "fin de siecle", from the impressionists Degas, Renoir, Pissarro and Manet, to the fascinating and incisive contacts with the first Art Nouveau representatives in France.

In Vienna he confronted himself with the works of Gustav Klimt and Alfonse Mucha, from whom he developed his splendid female portraying style and the best works carried out in the certainly most flourishing period of his artistic production.

Above all the art of Rodin taught him a way of modelling that, if opportunely developed, would have made him one of the most talented artists of the Art Nouveau style.

In Italy, instead, he was considered rather at the limit with Kitsch, and he was often snubbed for his weak cultural preferences.

His versatility and his instinctive genius, his skill based only on his extraordinary artistic vein brought him to create a rare and original form of sculpture: the illustration of the lives of the most famous historical, literary and religious characters.

The particularity of this work consisted, in fact, in modelling significant scenes of their lives with astonishing speed and skill on plates size cm 50 x 70, for example: The Old Testament; The life of Napoleon; The life of Jesus, The life of St. Giovanni Bosco; The life of St.Caterina da Siena, I Promessi Sposi.

The bas-reliefs so created where then photographed and destroyed to prepare the next scenes.

This method made him famous as a graphic sculptor! He sold the reproduced images on cards in numerous prints, all gathered in fancy caskets.

In that period photography had found the right way to prove it a new and modern artistic language thanks to the many battles begun by Daguerre and by the very popular Nadar.

Domenico Mastroianni proved to have perfectly understood the incredible potentials of this new means of expression, and he used it wisely both technically and artistically, as shown by the splendid way he perfects the lights, admirably underlining the deepness and the characters of his bas-reliefs

Therefore, he produced thousands of photo-sculptures, or as they were called in France: Sculptogravures, and thanks to them today we possess an exhaustive documentation of his incredible productive fertility and of his marvellous plastic art.

He came back to Arpino and opened a studio in the Castle of Ladislaus in 1913.

Here, quite a difficult period began for our artist, both because of the Italian economical situation and the outbreak of the First World War.

Only immediately after the war did he starts carrying out the works that we can still admire today: the War Monument of Arpino, of which a second model still exists (property of Dr. Mario Redivivo), the splendid Victory of Carnello and the War Monument of Casalvieri, work that was later fused to provide bronze for the nation!

The transfer to Rome was inevitable for an artist that evidently couldnít find fortune in the province. He moved in the 1920s with his family, and opened a popular studio in via Margutta (the artists street), which later became the workshop of his son Alberto, and where the sign.

Domenico Mastroianni-Sculptor can still be read on the door. He worked in the Palazzo del Quirinale (today the residence of the President of Italy) obtaining the title of Cavaliere della Corona (Knight of the Crown) from King Vittorio Emanuele II.

In Rome he continued to work with his photo sculptures and created many pieces for churches and aristocratic buildings.

In Italy the majority of his photo sculptures were published in Milan by the editor A. Traldi.

Until 1931 these cards were of a small format, but after this date they were brought to a normal size. Domenico held many exhibitions

all over Italy: in Genoa at Valetta Venchi; in 1950, and in the same year at Marguttina in Rome; in Palermo in 1952 and in 1960 at Palazzo Santoro, Viterbo.

His last works were dedicated to the realization of magnificent horses, characters from the Promessi Sposi by Manzoni, and unexpectedly he started to paint.

Domenico Mastroianni died in 1962 in Rome.

He always kept his good-natured character, working up until his last day, attached to his birth place and his people, to whom he dedicated all his works and efforts.