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Boldini: nato sotto una buona stella

Boldini: born under a lucky star


If we compare the biographies of many painters, from Caravaggio to Van Gogh, we read of tormented, problematic and unrecognized lives until the end. For them luck and notoriety will come after death.

For Giovanni Boldini no. We could compare it to "Gastone" Donald Duck's cousin.

He was born on December 31, 1842 in Ferrara, eighth of thirteen brothers and sisters. His mother, Benvenuta Caleffi, was wealthy and his father, Antonio Boldini, was ... a painter.

No need to "fight" to devote yourself to art, because his father lived on art. And in fact he learned to draw even before writing. But "Zanin", the affectionate nickname with which they called him, was really gifted. He carved out a space in his home barn and became his "atelier".

At the age of fourteen he paints his self-portrait oil and, to see it, it looks like the work of an adult and champion painter. Giovanni could hardly bear impositions and didactics and it was thanks to his father who, with wisdom, knew how to pass on solid academic and technical foundations, proving to be an excellent teacher.

Not even a teenager received commissions to copy fifteenth-century paintings, such as the Madonna della Seggiola by Raphael, which he did with rare skill.

It was time to lend military service, but Giovanni was only 1.54 "tall" ... one centimeter less than necessary. And he was exonerated.

Some time later his uncle Luigi died who, in the absence of direct descent, handed over his assets to his great-grandchildren, allocating more than 29,000 lire to “Zanin” (today it would be about 200,000 euros).

So it was that he could only devote himself to art and began to travel. He began to frequent wealthy foreign landowners whom he portrayed and, as he was endowed with charm, he knew how to weave fiery relationships with wealthy foreign ladies who did not fail to finance him and introduce him to the "beautiful world".

His style, despite his personal acquaintances with the Macchiaioli first and then the Impressionists, he remains well anchored to his fifteenth-century "origin" and to prefer the portrait. Do you remember Giuseppe Verdi's face with the white scarf? Boldini did it.

Paris suited his temperament very well (his pupil Giovanni Fattori judged him vain and vacuous). He liked the good life, aristocrats, beautiful women: he was the perfect interpreter of the “belle epoqué”.

Travel, rich women, artistic and economic awards, in every part of the world he went to; even in New York. His style was as unmistakable as it was not very imitable: you had to have an extraordinary "hand".

In 1919 he was also awarded the Legion of Honor and became a great officer of the Order of the Crown.

He died in Paris in 1929, but he wanted to be buried in Ferrara. Perhaps he had never forgotten that his lucky star began to shine there, which he knew how to listen to.

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