Pasquale Romanelli (Florence, May 28, 1812 – Feb 11th 1887) was an Italian sculptor, apprentice of Lorenzo Bartolini. Father to Raffaello Romanelli and grandfather to Romano Romanelli, Pasquale was the first generation of what became a family dynasty of reputed Florentine sculptors.
Born in Florence in 1812 to Luigi Romanelli and Beatrice Chelazzi. At a young age he was orphaned from his mother.
Pasquale married Elisa Mangoni, and together they had 6 children, Laetizia, Raffaello....
Pasquale entered an apprenticeship in a studio producing alabaster sculptures, studying in his free time and reading every book he could procure. Alabaster, or Castellina marble, being much softer to carve than other marbles, makes it a very good material with which to begin learning the required sculpting techniques. Pasquale made such progress that soon, at barely fifteen years old, he joined the apprentices in the studio of Luigi Pampaloni, in Piazza San Marco, who trained him in the skills of working Carrara statuary marble. He was quickly promoted to assisting the master in the carving of the statues of Arnolfo di Cambio and of Filippo Brunelleschi, now placed in the Piazza del Duomo in Florence.
Pasquale’s skill was such that the already famous Lorenzo Bartolini, professor of sculpture at the Accademia delle Belli Arti di Firenze, invited him to enter his studio in Borgo San Frediano and to attend his courses at the academy. He became Bartolini’s most gifted pupil and certain commissions were passed-on to him. Pasquale worked on the statue of Francesco Ferrucci 1847, which was then placed in an alcove of the loggiato of the Uffizi Gallery in Piazza della Signoria. He soon opened a studio of his own.
In 1840 Pasquale exhibited for the first time a piece of his own work entitled The Son of William Tell. The sculpture alluded to the people’s desire for independence. It met with such success that it was subsequently given a prize at the New York Exhibition of 1854 and also at the 1861 first Great Italian exhibition which followed the Unification of Italy in 1860. The statue was bought by Italian king S.M. Vittorio Emanuele II.
Alongside his love of art, Pasquale had a passionate love for his country. He became a member of the revolutionary groups Giovine Italia that urged the war of independence from the Austrians. He enrolled in the volunteers to fight and following defeat in 1848, in 1849 he was forced to go into hiding in the wild countryside of Maremma. It was not until calm reigned again in 1850 that he was able to return to Florence to continue with sculpting.
In that same year Lorenzo Bartolini died, Pasquale acquired the studio in Borgo San Frediano and he was entrusted with completing several of Bartolini’s great monuments that were unfinished at the time his death. The first of which was to transform the plaster of Fiducia in Dio into a marble, which now resides in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
Pasquale created the portrait bust of Bartolini for the funeral monument dedicated to Bartolini in Basilica Santa Croce in 1858. He had already made several marble portraits of his master during his time as his pupil, one of which was exhibited in the museum of Poldi-Pezzoli in Milan and another in the Palazzo Pitti, in Florence and in the Florence’s Gallery of Modern Art in 1845. It is thought that he continued to transform Bartolini’s plaster models into marble up until the 70s. The most important commission that Romanelli won was to complete on Bartolini’s behalf the immense monument to Prince Nicolai Demidoff, a complex work with many figures beside the Prince. It was unveiled at the end of the year 1871.
In the meantime Pasquale also focused on his own works, creating The Genius of Italy 1853 and Italy Deluded, both exhibited in Paris in 1855, but the pre-unification mood of Italy had made them too politically sensitive to exhibit them until 1859. In fact the Genius of Italy arrived in Paris with its legs broken. The statue had been vandalized by Pasquale’s enemies and Pasquale subsequently refused to sell it at any price so it has remains in the possession of his descendants at the Galleria Romanelli to this day. In 1861 Pasquale completed a group piece of the Sons of Mrs Whyte as well as the Nymph of the Arno.
After Italian unification in 1861, Florence became the capital of the newly founded Italian Kingdom and commissions flowed in. Pasquale received numerous commissions from America and from England. He opened an art gallery on the Lungarno Acciaioli where completed works could be sold directly to the public, including the many travelling on the fashionable Grand Tour. Pasquale’s fame grew and he won numerous prizes. In 1863, he made the monument dedicated to Fossombroni at Arezzo, in 1864 the monument dedicated to Count Alessandro Masi for the Certosa of Ferrara.
In 1868 he was appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, Florence.
Amongst his works were The Boy Washington, bought by H.R.H Prince Amedeo of Savoy, portraits of king S. M. Vittorio Emanuele II, of H.R.H. Prince Albert, the consort of H.M. Queen Victoria. He also made two portraits of Bartolini on show at the Galleria Romanelli, one was made for the monument erected on Bartolinis tomb in the Church of Santa Croce.
Giovanni Rosadi, In Memoria di Pasquale Romanelli, 24 Giugno 1922 | G. Spinelli & C.
A. Panzetta, Nuovo dizionario degli scultori italiani, Turin, 2003, p. 781; p. 815, fig. 1606