Alberto Martini: Masks & Shadows is staged at Laocoon Gallery in St James’s, London. It is the second part of a show featuring 70 of Martini’s works from a single-owner collection. The first part took place last year at Laocoon’s gallery in Rome.
The Italian artist had a taste for the macabre, the theatre and women, all of which are reflected in his dark 1905 drawing. It shows him in formal dress, seated against an indeterminate background with hints of his profession around the composition. Before him are two examples of his works –the real versions of which Laocoon sold during part one of the exhibition last year. It also features Martini’s initials, stylised to mimic Dürer’s famous signature, in the bottom right corner.
Offered for £90,000, the self-portrait is far less grisly or mysterious than many of the works in the show. These include illustrations of scenes from Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Horror, first exhibited in London’s Goupil Gallery in 1914.
“There can be no question that these drawings are the most masterly that have been seen in public for years,” a Times reporter wrote of that show over a century ago. Since then, although Martini remains popular in Italy, his works are little remembered in the UK.
Laocoon has featured more than 70 works from a single owner collection in the two-part show. Along with the Tales of Horror pictures are Shakespeare and Mallarmé illustrations, a mysterious set of drawings titled Poem of the Shadow and an oil painting, Le Flambeau du Pantin. Pencil drawings, watercolours, engravings and lithographs are available.