Sigismondo Meyer, born in San Benedetto del Tronto from a family of Swiss origins, moved to Rome to attend the Academy of San Luca. Subsequently, he attends the lessons of Roberto and Augusto Bompiani at the Raffaello Sanzio School. From them he acquired that technical skill and that predilection for genre scenes and landscapes that characterize his entire first production.
The beginnings, between landscape and genre scene
The beginnings of Sigismondo Meyer are accompanied by the choice of small scenes and figure studies, which he begins to exhibit starting from 1900, at the Exhibitions of Amatori e Cultori di Belle Arti in Rome. They preserve the flavor of a nineteenth-century painting characterized by an impeccable technique, as can be seen from the works Fruttivendolo, Aspasia, In sul calar del sole, all exhibited in 1903.
The landscapes, mainly executed in the Roman countryside, are strongly linked to the evocative language of the In Arte Libertas group, with which, moreover, he exhibited on several occasions at the beginning of the century and we find an example of this in the 1902 Roman countryside.
Portrait, between the ancient masters and the influence of Sargent
The genre that most distinguishes Sigismondo Meyer’s painting is, however, the portrait, to which he has devoted himself assiduously since the 1920s. In this decade he is documented in Villa Strohl-Fern and in Anticoli Corrado. Far from the anxious restlessness of the Roman Secession, it seems to be represented by the conservative ranks of Roman painting, preserving the models of the ancient masters and contemporary portraiture of the English school.
During these years he traveled assiduously between Europe and America, meeting the taste of the collectors of the time, fascinated by the balance of his compositions and by his extremely casual touch. His portraits appear mainly at the Exhibitions of Amatori e Cultori of the 1910s and at the Roman Biennials of the early 1920s. Among them certainly stand out that of the Countess Manassei and the Bambina R. Grassi, exhibited in 1916, but also the Portrait of Mrs. Irene Cerulli presented in 1917. A harmonious chromatic choice and an impeccable design distinguish these works, praised in Emporium by the critic Lancellotti, who writes about Meyer, «arrived at the portrait after a long and tenacious preparation: he studied our ancients until he copied them with great skill […]. Over the ancient fundamental solidity he has superimposed a clear derivation from contemporary English and especially from Sargent ».
The figures with elegant poses almost always emerge from dark backgrounds through a refined modulation of light that rests on the faces and on refined details of the clothing, as is also found in the Self-portrait exhibited at the Venice Biennale of 1924, together with the luminous Portatrice d’acqua, who looks like a modern nymph.
Between the Twenties and Thirties, in his production, the reworking of the ancient masters emerges even more, also thanks to the favorable climate of the return to order, in which some solemn and posed portraits are inserted, such as the Countess Piscitelli, Mezza figura muliebre in giallo and Cardinal Cerretti exhibited at the Sindacale Fascista del Lazio in 1932. Among the latest works by Sigismondo Meyer are those exhibited at the Sindacale in 1936: Autumn, Little Girl in Pink and Portrait of Cioffi, Attorney General of the Court of Appeal.