Artist:Antonietta Raphaël Mafai


1895 — 1975, Rome

Information:Sculptor/Painter, Lithuania/Italy

Antonietta Raphaël Mafai



Antonietta Raphaël Mafai was born in Kovno, a village close the Lithuanian capital, most probably in 1895. In 1903 following the death of her father Simon, a rabbi in the local community, she moves to London with her mother. Here she studies music, she graduates from the Royal Academy and makes a living by giving piano and music lessons in the East End. In 1919 soon after the death of her mother, she transfers to Paris where she falls in love with the figurative arts and has the opportunity to meet figures of the European Expressionist movement. In 1924 she decides to move to Rome to attend the Fine Arts Academy. While in the capital she meets Mario Mafai, a twenty-two year old who attends the free school of the nude in Via Ripetta, an annex of the academy. A bond grows between the two that soon develops into a long-distance relationship: while Mario remains in Rome, Antonietta moves to Florence to continue to make a living giving  music lessons. In the space of a few years Antonietta gives birth to three daughters Maria Raffaella (Miriam), who will become a journalist and writer, Simona, a future senator, and Giulia, a costume maker and screenwriter.

In 1927 Mario and Antonietta move to a large apartment at number 325 via Cavour, , where one part becomes a studio. The apartment becomes a meeting place for intellectuals (among whom Enrico Falqui, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Libero De Libero, Leonardi Sinisgalli) and artists such as Scipione and Mario Mazzacurati. The upper room that Roberto Longhi defines as “the school in Via Cavour”, enjoys a particularly intense two years. More than a trend, the first nucleus from there is renamed la “Scuola Romana” [the Roman School] a group of artists linked by an Expressionist vein, in complete contrast to the Novecento Italiano artistic movement and the “return to order”.

Antonietta Raphaël debuts in 1929 at the I sindacale in Lazio. In 1930 she resumes her roaming, dividing her time between Paris (where she meets the sculptor Epstein) and London for two years, during which time she abandons painting to dedicate herself exclusively to sculpture. In 1933 she returns to Rome to rejoin Mario until in 1938 she is forced to flee to the countryside and Genova in order to escape the racist laws. Only in 1943 does she return to Rome, after the fall of fascism, and she remains there until the end of the Second World War.

After the war she begins to earn the first significant critical appreciation for her work and she participates in notable artistic exhibitions. In 1948 she opens at the Rome Quadriennale and the Venice Biennale (where she takes part in all subsequent editions until 1954). In 1952 she sees her first major anthology exhibition at the Galleria dello Zodiaco in Rome and four years later wins a “purchase premium” at the fourth edition of Premio Spoleto. Her works are then exhibited in Peking [Beijing] and soon after takes part in many collective exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the United States.

In the 1970s she produces sculptures and large paintings of biblical themes, in some which she refers to the death of Mario which occurred in 1965. Towards the end of the decade she the creates bronze castings of some of her earlier plaster sculptures and she dedicates herself to lithography. She dies in Rome in 1975.

Personal exhibitions

1952Roma, ItaliaGalleria dello Zodiaco
1955Milano, ItaliaGalleria La Colonna
1955Roma, ItaliaGalleria La Tartaruga
1956Roma, ItaliaGalleria L’Incontro
1956Firenze, ItaliaGalleria La Strozzina
1956Torino, ItaliaUnione culturale
1960Ivrea, ItaliaCentro Culturale Olivetti
1960Torino, ItaliaGalleria Narciso
1960Roma, ItaliaGalleria La Nuova Pesa
1962Milano, ItaliaGalleria Minima Toninelli
1964Salerno, ItaliaGalleria L’Incontro
1966Roma, ItaliaGalleria Zanini
1968Roma, ItaliaGalleria L’Asterisco
1968Torino, ItaliaGalleria Narciso
1968Parma, ItaliaGalleria della Steccata
1969Roma, ItaliaGalleria Zanini
1969Roma, ItaliaGalleria 32

1970Roma, ItaliaL’Arco studio internazionale d’arte grafica

1971Firenze, ItaliaGalleria Menghelli
1972Milano, ItaliaGalleria Sant’Ambrogio
1972Roma, ItaliaGalleria Querinas
1985Milano, ItaliaPadiglione d’Arte Contemporanea
1991Modena, ItaliaGalleria Civica
2003Matera, ItaliaChiese rupestri Madonna delle Virtù e San Nicola dei Greci
2007Roma, ItaliaMusei di Villa Torlonia

Collective exhibitions

1929Roma, ItaliaI mostra del sindacato laziale fascista degli artisti Palazzo delle esposizioni
1937Roma, ItaliaVII mostra del sindacato fascista delle belle arti del LazioMercati Traianei
1938Roma, ItaliaVIII mostra del sindacato fascista delle belle arti del LazioMercati Traianei
1946Milano, ItaliaPremo di scultura della SpigaGalleria della Spiga
1948Venezia, ItaliaXXIV Biennale Internazionale d’Arte
1949Argentina, ArgentinaPrima mostra di pittori e scultori liguri in ArgentinaGalleria Muller
1950Venezia, ItaliaXXV Biennale Internazionale d’Arte
1951Roma, ItaliaVI Quadriennale nazionale d’Arte
1952Venezia, ItaliaXXVI Biennale Internazionale d’Arte
1954Venezia, ItaliaXXVII Biennale Internazionale d’Arte

1955Milano, ItaliaTerza mostra nazionale di pittura contemporaneaPalazzo Reale
1956Pechino, CinaSelezione di opere di artisti italiani
1957Roma, ItaliaLa pittura italiana fino alla seconda guerraGalleria La Bussola
1957Monaco di Baviera, GermaniaArte italiana dal 1910 a oggiHaus Der Kunst
1957Roma, ItaliaSculture italiane: 1911-1957Galleria La Bussola
1959Roma, ItaliaVIII Quadriennale nazionale d’arte
1963Firenze, ItaliaXIV mostra Nazionale Premio del FiorinoPalazzo Strozzi
1963Berlino, GermaniaKleine Italienische BronzenKongresshalle
1965Roma, ItaliaIX Quadriennale nazionale d’arte
1967Firenze, ItaliaArte moderna in Italia, 1915-1935Palazzo Strozzi
1967Carrara, ItaliaV biennale internazionale di scultura
1969Parigi, FranciaII.e Exposition Internazionale du petit bronze
Musèe d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
1970Hannover, GermaniaModerne italienische BildhauerKunstverein
1970Lisbona, PortogalloEscultores italianos contemporâneosFundação Calouste Gulbenkian
1971Buenos Aires, ArgentinaEscultura italiana contemporaneaMuseo Nacional de Bellas Artes
1972Città del Messico, MessicoEscultura italiana contemporaneaMuseo de Arte moderno
1972Tokyo, GiapponeScultori italiani contemporaneiGrandi magazzini Tobu
1972Roma, ItaliaX Quadriennale nazionale d’arte
1997Parigi, FranciaEcole Romaine 1925/1945Les Musées de la Ville de Paris
2000Roma, ItaliaIl ‘900 scolpito da Rodin a PicassoMuseo del Corso
2014Roma, ItaliaArtiste del Novecento tra visione e identità ebraicaGalleria d’Arte moderna