Two from Antonio Mancini

I plan to do the third post in my “Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art” series soon, but until then I will put up a couple of quickies. These two paintings are by the Victorian/Edwardian-era Italian painter Antonio Mancini. You’d think that an artist once described by John Singer Sargent as the greatest living painter would be better known, but he is considered a minor painter by art historians, which is ironic because he often painted minors. Usually boys, but not always.

This first image is likely a boy (going by the hairstyle and the angularity of the child’s body, but it’s ambiguous enough that I decided to post it anyway. At any rate, I think it’s a nice piece regardless of the child’s gender. The pose is quite feminine, I think.

Edit: I’ve completely revised my position on this. I’m quite certain the child is, in fact, a girl, based on the hair and the pose. Mancini was too good a painter to have made a compositional mistake that would leave the child’s sex so ambiguous. The entire dark swath has to be hair. The front of her hair is oddly short, but I’ve seen hairstyles like that for girls in other Victorian-era works. Moreover, the pose is classically feminine. The biggest clue, however, is the rosary. A nude boy wearing jewelry, even religious jewelry, is pretty much unheard of. This is a girl. – Pip

Antonio Mancini – Young Antiquarian (1885)

The subject of this next work, however, is certainly a girl. I’ve always liked those wrap-around bracelets worn on the upper arm. It’s just a nicely exotic look.

Antonio Mancini – The Little Ballerina

2 thoughts on “Two from Antonio Mancini

  1. The pose of the first girl is very sexualized, like a prostitute on Manet’s Olympia painting. The second one is quite similar to the pose of roman slaves for sale, like alot of other paints, but remember me the painting “escrava romana” of brazilian painter “oscar pereira da silva”.

    • I’m not fully convinced the first child is a girl. The hair trimmed close to the skull suggests a boy, although the blackness flowing down could be long hair rather than shadow. It’s either an odd choice, or a bad one on the part of the artist, depending on whether he intended it or not. As for the pose, it certainly mimics erotic poses I’ve seen, but I don’t think that’s the artist’s intent. The child is wearing a rosary. If Mancini meant the child to be erotic, then that is amazingly blasphemous for Victorian art; the rosary is being fetishized in that case. I’m quite certain he wasn’t doing that.

      I suspect the artist just didn’t want to show the child’s genitalia, especially if it was a girl (that was still fairly taboo in the Victorian era when this was painted), and the pose was simply the most practical for that purpose. It’s tough to discern what the artist had in mind here. Whatever it was, the child, whether boy or girl, is definitely feminized by the artist through both the pose (intentional) and the shadow that looks like hair (likely unintentional).

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