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Brochure The Lydia series
The Forbes Galleries
New York
Sept. 11 - Oct. 16, 2004

Margaret Kelly Trombly


     The Lydia Series by Antonio Ciccone (Italian, b. 1939) is a connoisseur's lesson in the artistic development of a portrait.  As the art critic John T. Spike noted, portraiture captures "a moment stolen from life's unceasing passage."  This series includes two finished portraits (one in charcoal, the other in acrylic), 22 finished drawings and four triptychs.

     The artist has a compelling personal story.  He started life as a shepherd in rural southern Italy and then, because of his artistic talent, was sent to study at the studions of two modern Florentine masters, Pietro Annigoni and Nerina Simi.  It was Annigoni who advised the young artist to devote himself to drawing because "it is the basis of everything."

     In 1960, at the age of 21, Ciccone had his first show in America and came to Malcolm Forbes' attention.  This modern-day Medici's first acquisition was the allegorical Youth and Old Age.  In 1965, when Malcolm became president of Forbes Inc., he commissioned Ciccone to paint his portrait.  Through the years, additional examples of Antonio's work were added to the collection, and in 1977, Malcolm commissioned a portrait series of his daughter, Moira.

     A collector and patron of the arts in his own right, Malcolm's second son, Robert, turned to Antonio Ciccone when he decided to commission a portrait of his wife, Lydia.  The finished work is a fully realized charcoal drawing titled Portrait of Lydia Forbes, 1993.  A series of preliminary drawings laid the growndwork for this portrait and were then reworked and refined by the artist between 1993 and 2003.  These sophisticated drawings explore not only the penetrating, intelligent expressions of the sitter but also reveal the artist's virtuoso handling of line and tonality.  These large-scale drawings stand as independent works.

     Intrigued by his sitter and wanting to push the subject matter further, Ciccone then put Lydia at the center of four triptychs.  This format was originally used for early Renaissance altarpieces and consists of a large center panel flanked by two smaller side panels.  Ciccone has worked with religious subjects throughout his career, and thus it is not surprising that he would use this device in a secular composition.  In a contemporary twist, the artist features Lydia as the nucleus of the family, surrounded by her husband, Robert, and Miguel, their son.  In another instance Lydia is flanked by the artist and her husband.  In two other drawings Ciccone plays with the format of the triptych, condensing it to a single sheet and placing the most prominent figure, Lydia, on the side instead of in the center.  In a lovely gesture, Ciccone parallels Mona Lisa's enigmatic expression with Lydia's gentle one.

     The Lydia Series culminates in Lydia 2002/2003, in acrylic on canvas applied to board.  The hint of a landscape adds to the dreamy quality of this portrait in sherbet colors.  Like the drawings, this portrait exhibits the masterful handling of abstract geometric forms coupled with superb draftsmanship.

     Antonio ciccone makes his home in Florence, where he maintains a studio in the heart of the city. 



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