Antonio Basoli (1774-1848)

Antonio Basoli (1774-1848)

Antonio Basoli (Castel Guelfo, near Bologna, 1774 – 1848 Bologna)

Two Female Figures in a Wooded Landscape

Pen and brown ink, 175 x 158 mm (6.9 x 6.2 inch)

Inscribed on the verso: ‘Il Prof. Antonio Basoli / d. Bologna fece’

Private collection, Germany


Antonio Basoli was a painter, interior designer, engraver, and professor at the Accademia delle Arti di Bologna from 1804 to 1826.1 During his time at the Accademia he developed a close affinity towards Domenico Corsini and Pelagio Palagi. His education was motivated by an insatiable and constant interest in Classical art, early and contemporary literature, and the works, decorations and inscriptions of Piranesi. He was also much influenced by the new discoveries of ancient Egyptian art.2 His first teacher was his father, Lelio Andrea Basoli.

Basoli worked as a set and curtain designer, as well as decorator for various theaters around Bologna such as the Marsigli Rossi Theatre, the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and, in particular, the theatre Contavalli (1814). In addition to his decorations at these theatres he also decorated palaces around the city such as the Palazzo Rosselli del Turco, Palazzo Sanguinetti and Palazzo Hercolani. Sadly most of his works survive only through references to them and by detailed production sketches, watercolours and engravings, notably the aquatints from the Collezione di varie scene teatrali, started in 1821.

Basoli was offered work by theatres in Rome in 1815 and in Naples in 1818, which he both declined. However, in 1818 he did decide to take a trip to Milan, where he visited the Sala Sanquirico, the studio of the most important scenic designer of La Scala, from which Basoli found inspiration for the set design for the opera Semiramide in 1820, the set for a production of Oedipus the King at the theatre Contavalli in 1822, and, lastly, the background paintings for the scenes at the theatre of Cavalieri dell’Unione in Santarcangelo di Romagna 1822. During this same period he furthermore produced important works at the Palazzo Hercolani, the Villa Marescalchi, the Palazzo Baciocchi, and his house in 1823.

Our drawing, which can be dated c. 1810-20, shows a highly distinctive draftsmanship and a close understanding of decorative art, while at the same time it is deeply influenced by contemporary modernist Neoclassical influences. Drawings by Basoli are rare; most surviving examples are more finished and academic than the present fluent sheet. A typical example is the Elevation and Ground Plan for a Papal Throne of 1841 in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (see last fig.).3


1. For the artist, see the biography in Saur Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, Munich 1992-, vol. 7, pp. 372-73.

2. See S. Sermisoni, Fantasie e Studi di Cose Egizie - Antonio Basoli, Milan 1985.

3. Pen and brown ink, grey wash, over graphite, 416 x 295 mm; inv. no. 1976.606; see R.J. Wunder Architectural, Ornament, Landscape and Figure Drawings. exh. cat. Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, 1974, cat. no. 10, repr.

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Antonio Basoli (1774-1848)
Antonio Basoli (1774-1848)
Antonio Basoli (1774-1848)
Antonio Basoli (1774-1848)
Antonio Basoli (1774-1848)
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