Romualdo Locatelli (1905-1945), a commissioned painter for both the Vatican and the Royal House of Italy, was perhaps most renowned for his stunningly diverse and wide array of portraits. Working primarily for the nobility and others in high society, the artist traveled to lands as far away as Africa and Southeast Asia to paint for wealthy patrons, and it was on these journeys that he developed his penchant for the genre. Moved by the different quirks and characteristics of each of his subjects, Locatelli sought the challenge of capturing on canvas a person's character and he mastered this through skillfull depiction of nuanced body language and abstract presence.
Ritratto di Fu Ku Ko (Lot 326) traces its roots back to Locatelli's 1938 visit to Java, where the artist was invited as the guest of honor for the launch of the Tyitialenka, a merchant ship owned by Mr Ching Chang Fu. Fu, an affluent shipbuilder, requested that Locatelli paint his wife, Fu Ku Ko (Eriminia Locatelli Rogers, Romualdo Locatelli Memoirs 1938-1946, Darga Fine Arts Editions, Jakarta, 1994, p. 30).
The resulting portrait is a stunning example of Locatelli's pioneering pairing of Western painting technique and Eastern pictoral symbolism. Here, Mrs Fu's distinctly Asian heritage stands out from her delicate physicality and gesture. The viewer can feel her soft smile, and the contrasting mineral tones exude warmth and tradition. The Buddha and pipa, a traditional Chinese lute, only add to the oriental overtones.
Yet it is flair that makes this painting stand out and that is achieved by Western technical execution. The light brushstroke and its pearly texture emanate Impressionism, and transforms the surface of the canvas into a silky texture. It is precisely this use of Western technique that adds to the Eastern soul that is the hallmark of Locatelli's legacy. Beauty inspired all of Locatelli's paintings and portraits became important because the artist successfully suggests the spirit of the poser, reflecting every facet of every portrait he painted.
"To the memory of the Italian artist Romualdo Federico Locatelli Whose love of beauty was deeply expressed in art. He inspired paintings brought joy to many collectors throughout the world..." (ibid., p. 7)
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