Published: October 31, 2016
PORTLAND, MAINE — Gaetano Chierici’s (Italian, 1838?-1920) “The Mask,” a Nineteenth Century scene characteristically rich in the “picture seller” style of the artist, was the top lot at Barridoff Galleries’ international fine art auction on October 28, achieving $117,500, including premium.
Signed and dated “Chierici Gaetano [sic] 1871” lower left, the 31-by-41-inch oil on canvas, property of the Georgetown, Maine, estate of William F. Herman, had been purchased by the consignor’s great grandmother in Italy around 1874 and had never since been for sale privately or at auction. A copy of a letter written in Italian by the artist in which he refers to the painting’s purchase accompanied the lot.
Chierici was one of the leading artists of the Italian School during the Nineteenth Century. His subjects, here as everywhere, gave freshness to old themes. The Magazine of Art wrote in 1881: “We owe much to a painter who gives us homely subjects treated with sincerity and directness. He has made poor Italian interiors his own, and paints the peasant and his children with an intimate sympathy and cordiality. Chierici has lived among his subjects, and paints people and things with a sincere and intense reality.”
That kind of description is rarely ascribed to a Nineteenth Century masterpiece. In “The Mask,” however, the artist masterfully demonstrates how hand, paint and brush can work together with intuition to create illusion of what today we would call photographic. This particular image proved to be extremely popular and it was reproduced several times both by the artist himself and by competent followers. Several of these images have appeared on the market, and prices realized have ranged from $2,000 to nearly $300,000, according to Barridoff. The image offered by the auctioneer on October 28 is dated 1871, most likely the earliest known of unquestionable authenticity. It further stands as unique because it was purchased in Italy by the great grandparents of the Maine family that consigned it to auction.
Watch for further review of the sale in an upcoming edition.
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