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Umberto Boccioni

(1882 Reggio di Calabria – 1916 near Verona)

Madre che cuce (The Artist’s Mother Sewing). Drypoint on chamois-coloured wove paper. 13.7 x 11.5 cm (plate­mark); 50.2 x 40.9 cm (sheet size). Signed. (1910). Bellini 28, only one state, version A (of B).

Boccioni repeatedly took portraits of his mother Cecilia Forlani – an indication of the special affection he felt for her. The artist achieves an extraordinary degree of artistic concentration and expressiveness in these highly personal depictions. The simplicity and intensity of observation in the present por­trait undoubtedly make it one of his finest and most touching works. Boccioni preferred to depict his mother reading or per­forming daily chores. The lighting is evocative and conjures up an atmosphere of domestic intimacy. The striking chiaroscuro effects inevitably bring Rembrandt’s etchings to mind.

The work probably arose in 1910; in view of its pronounced tonal effect and the dense, very tight hatching pattern it belongs to the group of so-called “dark” etchings and is thus typical of the prints in Boccioni’s late period. The artistic stylishness Boccioni brings to the medium of etching is quite astounding. The portrait is covered with a dense, compact network of lines and hatchings in which the printer’s ink condenses, creating a velvety black tonal effect. The brightly polished areas shine forth, producing stark visual contrasts. This print is also of exquisite rarity and is available here in version A, which shows a tiny mark on the seamstress’s index finger. Bellini records a total of six impressions pulled by the artist; the present impression was unknown to him.

A superb, very richly inked and contrasting impression, printed with considerable tone, with the full margins. Minor soiling and discolouration, unobtrusive creases in the margins, otherwise in excellent condition.

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