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Michele Sangiorgi

Italian, 1785 - 1822

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Michele Sangiorgi was born in 1785 in the Emilian city of Faenza and studied drawing there with Giuseppe Zauli. He acquitted himself favorably and was rewarded in 1805 by a five-year annual subsidy granted by the Congregazione di Carità in Faenza to enable him to further his painting studies in Rome. He circulated there in the orbit of Tommaso Minardi, also from Faenza and two year his junior, and Felice Giani. According to the somewhat jaundiced opinion of Minardi, Sangiorgi descended into a dissolute way of life in Rome and for several years was engaged in quarrelsome disputes with the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna, to whom he was obliged to send regular evidence of his progress but who complained of his laxness as well as of his production of certain nudes deemed by them unacceptable. In fact, few paintings are known by Sangiorgi. There is a large Portrait of Pope Pius VII in the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Bologna, signed and dated 1817, and a Saint Peter of the same year in the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna.

His death in 1822 at age thirty-seven in Rome is attested in a letter written by Minardi stating: "L'immatura morte del Sangiorgi troncò belle speranze. Un non so quale avverso destino, forse da lui in parte fabbricato, ii fe esser poco fortunato" (The premature death of Sangiorgi cut short any high expectations. I don't know what bad luck, possibly of his own doing, made him so unfortunate; see Biblioteca Civica, Forlì, Fondo Piancastelli, box 288, no. 58; quoted by Ottani Cavini in L'età neoclassica a Faenza, 1780 - 1820. Exhibition catalogue edited by Anna Ottani Cavina, Franco Bertoni, et al. L'arte del Settecento in Emilia e in Romagna. Bologna: Alfa, 1979, p. 125). Minardi went on to commend Sangiorgi's high promise and to regret that he produced so little. The above facts were provided with full documentation by Anna Ottani Cavina (ibid.), who was the first scholar to investigate Sangiorgi in detail and to make the difficult distinction between his and Minardi's drawings.

Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2004), cat. 65.

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