Giuseppe Obici was born in Spilamberto, near Modena, in 1807. Most of the information relating to his biography and artistic career comes from the monograph published in the 1880s by his friend and collector, Marquis Campori, which also contains a manuscript written by the artist himself, together with letters, correspondence and documents that enrich the narrative.
From Obici’s accounts, we learn of an artistic career that began with clay modelling in the small village of Spilamberto and continued at the Atesina Academy of Fine Arts, with the encouragement of Monsignor Cavedoni, who had noticed his exceptional handling of figures, which were particularly lively and close to life.
Purist Sculpture: Between Academicism and a Proximity to Life
The academic years were a time of great growth for the young Obici under the guidance of sculptor Giuseppe Pisani. Having obtained his first awards with sculptures of mythological subjects, he won a pension and moved to the Academy of Carrara, where, thanks to his closeness to Pietro Tenerani and Ferdinando Pelliccia, he moved away from his initial academicism in favour of a purist naturalism that had already made its timid way into his first expressions.
The first portraits and busts with a marked sensitivity in the rendering of human poses and expressions date from the mid-thirties, as can be seen in the medallion executed for the heir to the Modenese throne, Prince Francesco IV d’Austria d’Este. These portraits, together with other mythological subjects, constitute the purist production of Giuseppe Obici before his move to Rome in 1837.
The Roman Years
This change stimulated him to confront ancient sculpture, but also the neo-classicism of Canova, which can be seen in the very fresh style of the first sculpture made in Rome, Saint Peter receiving the keys from Christ, which inaugurated the fertile Roman period.
This is followed by the Portrait of Adeodato Malatesta of 1840, which confirms his purist vocation and a delicate realist sensibility that also reveals a spiritual inspiration, also present in other portraits of artists, such as that of Pietro Tenerani, and in the Wounded Soldier, conserved in the Civic Museum of Modena and much appreciated by Francesco IV who had it translated into marble.
During the Roman years, Giuseppe Obici’s relations with collectors intensified, including Ala Ponzone, who commissioned him to paint Hope, which remained unfinished. Melancholy, also executed in the 1840s, led the sculptor to his definitive success, which he crowned with the creation, in 1854, of the statue of the Immaculate Conception for the monument in Piazza di Spagna designed by his friend, the Modenese architect Luigi Poletti. He spent his last years working in seclusion in his studio house in Rome, where he died in 1878.