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Leonardo De Mango

( Bisceglie 1843 - Istanbul 1930 )


    Leonardo De Mango

    Born in Bisceglie in Apulia, he first trained as a self-taught artist, then, around the age of twenty, he began to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples, thanks to a monthly allowance provided by a wealthy patron from Bari. He followed the classic course, having Filippo Palizzi and Domenico Morelli as teachers, but impatient with the academic environment, he decided to spend a period of study in Venice.

    Orientalist Painting

    Here he thought he could immediately succeed in selling his paintings oriented towards Neapolitan realism, but he did not achieve any particular results. Unable to support himself on small sales alone and strongly attracted by the oriental world, described in numerous texts and paintings of the time, he moved to Syria in 1874. He stayed in Aleppo, Damascus and Antioch, studying their customs, colours and exotic traditions.

    He later chose Beirut as his city of origin, where he initially only supported himself by teaching painting and later by selling his paintings.

    In 1882, he executed Cantastorie d’Oriente (Storytellers of the Orient), a work that marked the beginning of De Mango’s career as an orientalist painter: the scenes, developed from studies from life, would later be reformulated in several versions with variations thanks to the numerous requests. The critic Adolphe Thalasso wrote about The Storyteller of the Orient: “De Mango, after a long study, manages to dominate the canvas with perspective, with his mastery of drawing and his ability to use colours, developing his artistic skills and getting to the soul of the objects”. His strong ability to render atmospheric variations, Middle Eastern light, streets teeming with sellers and buyers, animals, women and shepherds, brought him numerous commissions.

    After his experience in Syria, De Mango spent several years in Egypt: he produced a large number of impressions of the Nile, the Pyramids and the bustling life of Cairo. In 1884 he sent The News of the Surrender of Tell-el-Khebir to Turin, a scene that describes Egypt’s confirmed submission to England.

    After that the artist, by now well known in the Middle Eastern world, moved for a short period to Tripoli, where he worked for the Italian ambassador. He produced intense and sincere views such as The Shores of Tripoli. He made a brief stop in Milan and Bisceglie and then left again for the East, settling definitively in Istanbul in 1883, perhaps attracted by his reading of Constantinople by De Amicis. He returned to Italy because of the Italian-Turkish war for only a few months in 1911, before returning permanently to his beloved Istanbul, his adopted city.

    During this long period he produced many views and sketches of Constantinople and different parts of Turkey, to be sold to tourists passing through, but also to important collectors. Examples are Turk on a Camel, Turkish Shepherd with Flock, Along the Golden Horn, View of Pera, Hagia Sophia, Koranic School, The Muezzin.

    From 1901 he took part in the Pera Painting Salons and in the main art exhibitions, establishing himself as a painter of Orientalist genre, without ever abandoning his realistic intentions. He tirelessly painted landscapes and atmospheres of Turkey until 1930, the year of his death. Thalasso described De Mango’s oriental compositions as ‘the Orient from all points of view’.

    Elena Lago


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