Ernesto Gazzeri was born in Modena in 1866 and trained at the local Institute of Fine Arts, which he attended from 1875 to 1884. During his academic years he turned towards a romantic style of sculpture, focusing on the narration of historical, mythical and literary episodes, with a solid focus on ancient sculpture. In 1878, in fact, he presented a copy of the antique bas-relief Aegisthus and Clytemnestra as an academic essay, while in 1884, he won the silver medal of the Ministry of Education with the terracotta Margaret in Prison, taken from Goethe’s Faust.
The protagonist of a classical line with a decorative taste, but which also highlights influences and suggestions from the study of the Renaissance, Ernesto Gazzeri, in 1887, obtained a pensioner’s grant in Rome. During his stay in Rome, he took advantage of his assimilation of antique works and in his 1889 boarding school essay he presented a plaster Narcissus at the fountain, a copy of the bronze now in the Archaeological Museum in Naples.
Towards the end of his training period in Rome, he became interested in Risorgimento themes or historical reconstruction, presenting essays such as Episode of the barricades of the Five Days of Milan and Childhood of Benvenuto Cellini, which were particularly appreciated by the jury of the Modenese Academy.
International clientele: commemorative monuments, portraits and funerary works
He returned to his city, continued to work as a sculptor and became an Honorary Member of the Academy in 1896. The beginning of the twentieth century marked Ernesto Gazzeri’s definitive return to Rome, where he opened a studio where he worked mainly on sepulchral monuments and portraits, making inroads especially among foreign collectors passing through Rome. This was thanks to his friendship with the Dutch sculptor Piet Pander, who introduced him to a mainly international clientele, who were attracted by the versatility of the sculptor, who naturally succeeded in satisfying the tastes of his clients, both in the production of portraits and in that of celebratory or small decorative statues, such as the Female figure with cornucopia. One of his first works for a foreign country dates back to 1909: he was responsible for the creation of a bronze stele for the Elysée Palace in Paris, designed to highlight the contribution of the French army to the battle of San Martino and Solferino in 1859.
In 1926, however, he worked for a client in Lima, who commissioned him to create the Monument to Work for the Hacienda Chiclin. One of the most important sculptural groups in Ernesto Gazzeri’s international production is the Mystery of Life, a large monument composed of eighteen figures arranged around a fountain of life, in different attitudes and postures. The group, to all intents and purposes an allegory of the three ages of life, struck a chord with Hubert Eaton, founder of a Memorial Park in Hollywood, who, after visiting Gazzeri’s studio in Rome, commissioned him to cast the group in bronze, which was then inaugurated in California in 1928.
Gazzeri continued to work on funerary monuments and portraits for Italian and foreign clients at least until the 1940s. He died in Rome in 1965.