He inherited from his father, a talented painter, a lively talent and a vocation for the palette. Having completed his literary studies and obtained a pension from the Municipality of Catania, he went to Rome and entered the studio of Cav. Costa, and soon acquired frankness of drawing and brush. Several prizes obtained at the Accademia di San Luca are proof of this. A “Vestal”, a copy made from a work of his master, and also a “Rebecca”, of his own invention, was awarded.
After four years he moved to Florence to study the classics of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. He then went to Venice, then to Paris, visiting the masterpieces of painting of all times and of all schools. Everywhere he studied, drew, painted and gradually formed a style and acquired a teaching of his own for the easy and large composition, for the treatment of the human form and folds.
Rapisardi, enthusiastic about the classics, took them as a model, not only for the expression of historical scenes and mystical subjects, but also for the way of painting, a way that hardly feels the influence of modern painting. Rapisardi’s technicality, and for what much he has of the old, and for what little he draws from the new times, nevertheless has that homogeneity, that decisive direction, that fusion that gives character and strength to a pictorial personality.
Its aesthetic, whether it carries out a religious, historical, or dramatic thought, is always animated by a warm breath of feeling, by a breath of vitality. The number of his paintings is infinite, and here we will only mention the most popular ones: “An episode of the siege of Messina in 1301”; “The first Italian poets of the Court of Frederick II in Sicily”; “Go and be a nun! …”, (scene from Hamlet); “The first misfortune of Luigi Camoens”; “The castellane and the minstrel”; “The troubadour banished”; “Dante and Beatrice”; “Bianca Cappello’s escape”; “The Maggiolate”; “Crazy Ophelia”; “Sicilian Vespers”. He also made several sacred pictures, and the most important can be seen in the churches of his Catania. He made “San Benedetto”; “The Immaculate Conception”; “The dinner in Emaus”; “The sacrifice of Gideon”; “San Vito”; “The Virgins of Zion”; “San Luigi Gonzaga”; “The Addolorata”; “Sant’Agata in prison”.
With regard to Rapisardi’s paintings, critics sometimes found flaws in the drawing, anachronisms in the costumes; however, he was always praised (and especially in the “Poets at the Court of Frederick”) for his great overall teaching, for his skill in grouping the figures, for tempering the light with shadows, and above all for the charm of his coloring.