Fortunino Matania’s father was one of the best known painters and illustrators of Italy. He taught his son not only to paint and draw, but also to model, carve, and work in metal or wood.
Above: Fortunino Matania (1881-1963), ”Rienzi, Roman Deliverer,” Brittania & Eve, February,1931.
Young Fortunino was a child prodigy, sculpting a whole zoo full of animals at age 11. By age 13 he was working as an illustrator for Italy’s primary illustrated journal.
He made furniture in the style of Rome and other classic eras, and he made replicas of historic costumes, and miniature figures from Egyptian and Elizabethan times. (Source: Percy Bradshaw, The Artist magazine, April, 1943)
Matania’s grandson, Robert, told me in a recent letter:
“My grandfather died when I was 9 years old….I remember sitting with him sometimes while he painted and chose some of the colours. From what my aunt told me, when I was older, he had many models that came to his studio and posed and he also used members of the family. I have seen several paintings where one can see objects from his studio such as mantelpieces and furniture etc.
“I remember he would make a light but fairly detailed sketch before painting because in some of his water colours one can still see the pencil lines especially where he decided to make changes.
“He painted many scenes from Roman history and he would often make certain objects himself and then use them in his paintings. He constructed accurate replicas of Roman furniture complete with mother of pearl decoration as he was a skilled carpenter and cabinet maker.”
Book Palace is in the process of publishing a book on Matania, and their website has many excellent reproductions
Previously on GJ: Matania, Without a Net (An eyewitness account where an observer watches him work with no references).