Mauro Conconi was born in Milan in 1815 and trained at the Brera Academy where he learnt from Luigi Sabatelli (1772-1850) and became the favourite pupil of classicist painter Carlo Bellosio (1801-1849): “In just a few months, Conconi had already improved so much that he joined the elite”. With him, in fact, he moved to Turin to carry out the religious and mythological theme decorations of some important residences of the Savoy family between the 1830s and 1840s: the royal villas of Pollenzo and Racconigi, the royal palace and the armoury in Turin. In these years, he proved to be particularly close to the pictorial vocabulary of his master Bellosio, inheriting his formal and chromatic simplicity, which he enriched, however, with a more modern and graceful painting impulse, capable of softening the academic rigidity of the previous generation. A proud and at times melancholic character, as a lonely young man he developed a passion for reading Dante and Byron, the main inspiration for his paintings in the 1930s and 1940s, during a literary and political turmoil that made him strongly in favour of the fight for Italian unification. His fiery patriotism would later lead him to refuse being appointed counselor of the Brera Academy in 1851.
Although in his frescoes one can see the study of neoclassical painters such as Pelagio Palagi – but also a considerable affinity with the Italian purists and the German Nazarenes – greater fluency and compositional freedom are evident in his easel production, with which Conconi participated in the Milan and Turin exhibitions, showing a marked inclination towards Romantic subjects of a historical or literary nature, such as The Condemnation of Parisina, A Pilgrim in the Act of Prayer, The Prisoner of Chillon, Lord Byron, Dance and Sacrifice to the God Vertunno and Rinaldo and Armida (a painting in the style of Hayez now in the Galleria Civica d’arte moderna in Milan). Among Conconi’s most important Romantic canvases, which can be dated to the late 1840s, is The Origin of the Visconti Coat of Arms, a painting that shares the same theme as a coeval fresco painted in Palazzo Visconti in Milan.
In 1854, once again involved in a decorative cycle, he frescoed the apse of Lodi Cathedral with a majestic Assumption – later replaced in the 1860s with a mosaic by Aligi Sassu. In 1857 he was commissioned a new stage curtain for La Scala in Milan but it was never realised, and two sketches of it remain in the Civica Galleria di arte moderna in Milan and in the Museo teatrale alla Scala. He was very young, just 35 years old, when he died in Milan in 1860. “Conconi’s artistic career can be traced back over 20 years, from 1840 to 1860, a short lifespan, although very long for him, indelible, because it was filled with such a marvellous and almost effortless industriousness that only impressed with the results. If one can say of any artist festinat lente, he is certainly among those few”.