V. Gemito - Figura femminile genuflessa
(Napoli, 1852 – 1929)
Figura femminile genuflessa / Kneeling Female Figure, 1916
pencil and watercolour on paper, cm. 47 x 33
signed bottom right in pencil: “V. GEMITO”
Milano, Collezione d’arte della Fondazione Cariplo
This work entered the collection in 1993, as a gift from the Cariplo president Roberto Mazzotta. The work was from the collection of Maria Guzzelloni, the wife of his brother Antonio Mazzotta, the member of the Cariplo board responsible for purchases to expand its art collection. Antonio probably came into possession of the work in 1954, when the Cariplo opened negotiations with Anita Gemito, the artist’s niece and heir, for the purchase of Philosopher (Masto Ciccio), now part of the Cariplo Collection.
With a quick stroke of the pencil and a few touches of watercolour, the artist conjures up the intensely realistic image of a kneeling woman looking upwards and stretching out her hand with an expression of astonishment and devotion. Unquestionably drawn from life, the figure is completed with the insertion of an element, easily identifiable as part of a cross, set in an invented architectural frame sketched very lightly in pencil.
The work displays close similarities with a drawing of the same size known as Study for a Funerary Monument, signed and dated 14 March 1916, which shows the same model wrapped in a large cloak in a pose almost identical to that of the figure in the Cariplo version. The presence of the cross, an iconographic attribute of religion, suggests that both drawings belong to the group of studies produced by the artist in the March and April of 1916 for the figure of Faith in connection with his intended participation in the competition held by the Vatican for the funeral monument of Pius X, who died in 1914. These preparatory studies, drawn during a stay in Rome, also appear to include a standing figure of classical composure dated 3 April 1916, which probably marks the conclusion of the artist’s work on the subject.
The large-sized overall model (Rome, Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea) completed in June was followed by a study of the main group in gilded wax showing the pope being borne up to heaven by angels (Naples, Museo di Capodimonte). The monument was to be installed above a doorway in a space bounded by two Corinthian columns beneath a coffered ceiling between the second and third chapels in the left aisle of Saint Peter’s, with the statue of Faith occupying the lower section. The plans failed, however, to satisfy the board of judges, who awarded the commission to the sculptor Pier Enrico Astorri with the collaboration of the architect Florestano Di Fausto.