Son of the sculptor of the same name – also known as Nicchio – Giovanni Nicolini Jr was born in Rome in 1909. He learnt the art of sculpture from his father (Palermo 1872 – Rome 1956) and specialised almost exclusively in his beloved animalier subjects. Very little information has been found about the artist’s life. He was portrayed in Children, a plaster sculpture made by his father and preserved at the San Luca Academy, where he appears as the youngest of three brothers, with his little hands already holding something to model. Nicolini was married to Marceline Colignon, a woman from Antwerp, and had six children: Marcello, Roberto (who was born in 1907 and became a renowned architect), Giovanni Jr (the only one who decided to follow in his father’s footsteps devoting his life to sculpture), and three girls, Ortensia, Anna and Dora.
Sapori wrote: “his works, they too made of marble and bronze and life-size, are almost all inspired by animals and animal life” (Sapori 1949, p. 465). The author’s career as a sculptor can only be reconstructed through his rich animalier production in bronze, executed between the 1930s and 1940s. Among the few testimonies of his participation in Italian exhibitions is the catalogue of the 1937 exhibition of the Sindacato Nazionale Fascista di Belle Arti in Naples, where he exhibited Gazelles. The repertoire attributed to the sculptor undoubtedly reveals his interest in the most heterogeneous specimens of Italian and exotic fauna, and has a wide range of subjects: antelopes, gazelles, leopards, rabbits, reindeer and birds- particularly appreciated and studied in the most diverse poses and attitudes.
An important part of the sculptor’s animalier production is preserved in the art collection of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità. Director Domenico Marotta (1935 – 1961) who was close to Giovanni Nicolini, has in fact collected a series of sculptures and decorative objects made by the artist and his son. The Mandarin Duck with its elegant Art Deco lines is the only animal subject signed by the father, while the rest of the animalier collection bears the signature of Nicolini Jr.: a Rabbit ready to jump, a delightful Seal, two Monkeys locked in a tender embrace, a Gazelle, Rats, several birds including two Doves – which is a variant of the work presented here and illustrated in the volume by Sapori in its plaster model. While some animals show the artist’s choice of working on the naturalistic detail of the plumage or the poses, in this bronze Nicolini favours a synthesis that contributes to create a balance between simplification of masses and realistic rendering. A harmonious and delightfully Art Deco work, it stands out for the pose of the pigeons, facing two opposite sides and quietly perched with their beaks resting on their breasts.