Although Mancini was a passionate and celebrated artist, he suffered from mental illness that placed him on the brink of psychological and financial collapse throughout his career. He was kept afloat by his principal patron, the Marquis Giorgio Capranica del Grillo (whom he portrayed in 1889, The National Gallery, London), as well as a circle of English, Dutch and American buyers. A visitor to the artist’s studio described Mancini's disposition and eccentric working methods: “There at the back, before a little table on which I see scattered an infinity of bric-a-brac, cloth flowers, embalmed stuffed birds, an inexpensive doll, there is the model Aurelia, an insignificant type of woman with olive complexion and an aquiline nose. She was posing as a vendor. Mancini, in shirt sleeves, extremely nervous, bustled about delivering brushstrokes that resembled blows of the whip onto a canvas supported on the back of the chair. He snorted, he muttered to himself, he cursed at the model who wasn't able to remain still, then he quickly distanced himself from the subject and bent down on his knees. Plump and not too flexible as he was, he stooped down and withdrew from his pocket binoculars which he used to view her in reverse. Cancel painting out of breath and raving like someone obsessed” (translated from the Italian, Augusto Jandolo, Le memorie di un antiquario, Milan, 1938, p. 176).
In the present work, Mancini has apparently taken two distinct approaches to his subject. In the upper half of the composition, he has clearly modeled the girl’s likeness with a clarity and sensitivity that is absent from the swiftly painted forms in the lower half. The girl’s shoes, dress, his palette and brushes and her feet are reduced to abstract, gestural strokes when viewed from a close proximity. The thick, luscious application of pigment reveals Mancini’s delight in the process of painting.
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