(Turin 1858 – Milan 1928)
Birichino or Gavroche;
Bronze, height 29.7 cm, with a small screwed plate, fused with the sculpture, on a base formed by a reworked fragment of an antique base in breccia marble, height 13.8 cm.
Under the base are glued two old labels, a rectangular one on the right, 45 x 64 mm, with the red ink stamp of the Lorenzin Collection, diagonally: Collezione / Romano Lorenzin / Milano, and overwritten by hand, in blue ink: Medardo Rosso / “Birichino ‘/ già Collezione Angelo Sommaruga; the other earlier, circular, diameter 22 mm, more worn, in the left corner, of the Sommaruga Collection, with written by hand, in capital letters: ROSSO / 1 (this number is scarcely legible and could be otherwise interpreted).
Sources and documentation: none
Provenance: Angelo Sommaruga collection, Milan / Paris; Romano Lorenzin collection, Milan; Lorenzin heirs, Brescia; private collection
State of conservation: excellent
Bibliography of the exemplar: none
For a general bibliography of the Birichino or Gavroche, the dating of the first exemplar to 1882, the numerous titles, the historico-critical history and the transfer of the sculpture to photograph, see P.Mola, I. L’opera e la serie, in P.Mola, F.Vittucci, Medardo Rosso. Catalogo ragionato della scultura, Skira, Milano, 2009, pp. 58-65, with previous bibliography; for the exemplars documented by the sources see, F.Vittucci, II. Catalogo delle sculture documentate, pp. 227-233, with previous bibliography; for the original exemplars not documented by the sources see, P. Mola, III. Per un catalogo delle sculture non documentate, pp.350-351, III.2a. – III.2e., with previous bibliography; for the castings by Francesco, son of Medardo Rosso, see , P. Mola,IV. Le fusioni di Francesco Rosso, p.362, IV.1., with previous bibliography.
Having examined the work at first hand, from examination of the sources, from comparison with other original casts of the Birichino and from scrutiny of the literature, the following emerges:
– the modelling of the work, rough and unprettified, fully corresponds to the rare quality of Rosso’s original bronzes;
– the richness and devil-may-care nonchalance of the form of the face as of the cap, and in particular the shaping of the ears, chin and shirt, correspond to the originals;
– the attaching of the work to the base with a flat strip, a bolt and nut corresponds to Rosso’s practice;
– the accidental and almost cutting finish of the edges along the edge of the shirt corresponds to Rosso’s practice;
– the opaque patina corresponds to the fashion of Rosso originals;
– the maintenance, in some areas, of the sand from casting so as to enrich the coating of lighter and more colourful chromatic inserts, while insisting with the roughness of the material corresponds to Rosso’s mastery.
The base in breccia is coeval and aesthetically an integral part of the sculpture, similar to other bases of the Milan period before departure for Paris in 1889 when Rosso used fragments of more ancient bases, or fragments of architectural mouldings, to complement his work, in a true and proper assemblage. It should be remarked that the base was cut and readapted by the artist himself.
In the light of the above, and for others less obvious but no less significant reasons, I consider this bronze an original personally cast by Medardo Rosso, attributable to the Milanese period, around 1887-1888, before he left for Paris in June 1889.
The labels still preserved under the base of the sculpture attest the important collections of origin: the direct purchase by the legendary publisher, collector and dealer Angelo Sommaruga (Milan, 1857-1941), who frequented Rosso from the Milan years, and then the passage into the famous collection of Romano Lorenzin (Pola 1916 – Milan 1976), also purchaser of a large number of drawings by Rosso from the Sommaruga collection, (on the figure of Sommaruga and some of his Rosso drawings see, P.Mola, Rosso. Opere scelte/ Rosso. Selected works, Skira, Milan 2011, pp. 42-51).
Apart from the importance of provenance, the rarity of this bronze is to be emphasized, deriving from its excellent and rare state of preservation, having escaped the clumsy cleaning that unfortunately, in other original exemplars, has eliminated the residues of refractory sand deliberately left by Rosso as an integral and fundamental part of the chiaroscuro, chromatic and material construct of many of his works. It is to be recommended that the work be kept in its current state and any “restoration” or professional cleaning be avoided.
This exemplar is to be added to the catalogue of the original works of Medardo Rosso kept by the Archivio del Museo Rosso in Barzio.
Milan, 21 February 2018