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Umberto Boccioni

(1882 Reggio di Calabria – 1916 near Verona)

Quattro ritratti e un bambino. Drypoint on chamoiscoloured wove paper. 18.2 x 28.7 cm (platemark); 41.0 x 50.2 cm (sheet size). Signed. (1907/09). Bellini 16, only one state, version A (of B).

The central position in this work by Boccioni is taken up by his sister, Amelia, portrayed in profile as she sits reading. The woman’s head next to her is probably that of Ines, the artist’s friend and lover, whose surname is not known. Boccioni has included portraits of himself on the left and right-hand edge of the picture, while a boy in a smock is stood at the bottom right. Boccioni made the etching simply as a study sheet with no attempt at compositional coherence. It is a finger exercise aimed at honing the artist’s technical skills. The striking style and accurate linework illustrate the degree of craftsmanship Boccioni had acquired in a short period of time. According to Bellini, the etching was not completed at one go, the artist continuing to work on the plate over a period of several years. Boccioni probably etched the composition sketch for the portrait of his sister reading at the end of 1907. However, he then broke off the work and only sketched the other figures in 1909. A brilliant, extraordinarily powerful impression of version A; with the rich burr typical of version A and the fine vertical line intersecting the left arm of the woman sat reading. With the full margins. The etching is extremely rare. Bellini records a total of four impressions of version A; the present proof was unknown to him. Minor soiling, slight handling traces, otherwise in very fine, unrestored condition.

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