The sculpture as genre work

Childhood games

Vincenzo Vela
Mantelpiece mirror
1865-66, marble
Vincenzo Vela, Mantelpiece mirror, 1865-66, marble

In what was the villa's drawing room – in which the female nudes on either side of the fireplace demonstrate the master's extraordinary skill in working marble – an attempt has been made to bring together examples of the genre work of the two sculptor brothers, Lorenzo (1812-97) and Vincenzo (1820-91). The latter’s production was what is referred to as "genre portraiture", which is highly suited to a natural and engaging representation of childhood. His older brother focused instead on genre sculpture as it is traditionally understood, in which he succeeded in articulating a charming and, with regard to the modelling, an inventive, anecdotal form of expression, often resorting to his favourite theme, the world of animals.

Portrait of the Young Contessa Leopoldina d'Adda with a Dog
plaster, original model
Portrait of the Young Contessa Leopoldina d'Adda with a Dog, 1852-54, plaster, original model

A highly refined example of child portraiture, this is the young daughter of Marchese Carlo d'Adda and Mariquita Falcò in an enchanting genre scene, accompanied by her dog - a well-tried formula in coeval painting. In the middle decade of the century this was a successful combination for Vincenzo Vela. The rendition of the details is masterful without becoming affected, as the freshness and spontaneity of the modelling are skilfully combined with a masterful composition. The sculptor's constant ability to translate the formal lessons of the past into fashionable representations - making use of "contemporary" themes - was one of Vela's great gifts.
Marble, 1852-54, Venice, private collection

The work Three Bathers was supposed to be a life-size group portrait of the three daughters of Marchese Ala Ponzone, who are seen on the bank of a pool, on the point of entering the water.
This attractive and natural plaster model revolves around the skilful and carefully proportioned arrangement of the young girls' bodies. However, a marble copy was never made of the model, due to a misunderstanding between the artist and his client.
Unexecuted work

Vincenzo Vela
Three Bathers. Portrait of the Daughters of Marchese Ala Ponzone
1863, plaster, original model
Vincenzo Vela, Three Bathers. Portrait of the Daughters of Marchese Ala Ponzone, 1863, plaster, original model