Trained at the Ligurian Academy of Fine Arts, Gaudenzi moved to Rome in 1904 on a scholarship and soon took up residence in the village of Anticoli Corrado, where, after a long period in Milan, he settled permanently. The numerous official recognitions he received from the very beginning – from the gold medal in 1910 to his appointment as academic of merit for the academies of Genoa, Parme and San Luca – led him to the prestigious commission for the monumental cycle of frescoes for the Castle of the Knights of Rhodes, the seat of the Italian Governorate of the Dodecanese, completed in 1938 (now lost). This was followed by his appointment as Academic of Italy in 1939 and, in 1940, the first prize at the important “Cremona Award”.
While it is true that these honours accentuated his rhetorical vein somewhat, they did not affect his introspective vocation, which he continued to express to the full in his portraits. From his early years, the Genoese painter had concentrated with particular interest on the representation of the human figure, producing intensely lyrical snapshots of domestic intimacy and large scenes of daily life in line with the rediscovery of the Italian fresco tradition from the Primitives to Piero della Francesca. At the same time, he was commissioned to paint portraits by sophisticated collectors: for example, those of Guido Rossi and his family (Milan, Museo della Tecnica e della Scienza “Leonardo Da Vinci”), with their fascinating atmospheres of magical realism; or, indicative of his particular sensitivity to portraits of women, the elegant Portrait of Miss Adele Borgatti of 1934 (Novara, Galleria d’Arte Moderna Paolo e Adele Giannoni).
The Portrait of a Young Girl is a case in point. The work demonstrates Gaudenzi’s return to impasto painting with its intensely realistic effects, which clearly recalls the portraiture of Antonio Mancini. Gaudenzi looked to the Roman artist with admiration in the early years of his stay in the capital. Mancini’s youthful suggestions were then updated in the following years, with a look on the one hand at the suspended atmospheres of the Neue Sachlichkeit, and on the other at the contemporary research of the young painters active in Anticoli Corrado and gravitating in the orbit of Felice Carena from Piedmont.
Typically Gaudenzian, in the portrait in question, there is a contrast between a meticulous rendering of the face and an extremely free painting in the representation of the clothes, the background and the floral still life. The poetic of the unfinished is also a distinctive feature of Gaudenzi’s painting, and can be found in some of his most successful portraits of women: for example, the Portrait of Countess Adelaide Odorico Castiglioni (Castiglione Olona, Museo Civico Branda Castiglioni), or the famous Il quadro interrotto of 1920 (private collection).