There is very little biographical information about Raffaele Bella. A painter and a sculptor born in Positano in 1902. He was a pupil of Vincenzo Caprile (Naples 1856 – 1936), who often stayed at his house in Positano – more specifically in Fornillo, in the same district where Bella was born. A shy and reserved artist who, as for painting, favoured landscapes en plein air and free and loose depictions of bright seascapes (influenced by his maestro Caprile), and as for sculpture, undoubtedly became well-known for his animalier subjects.
His studio in Fornillo – a sort of religious retreat – was full of life-size sculptures of birds that were particularly appreciated by foreign tourists, who were fascinated by the bronzes which were studied first and reproduced afterwards by Bella, in the quiet of Positano’s sunny days. The sculptor’s attention to naturalistic details came from a genuine scientific passion for the local fauna. He also proved his interest in the graphic production exhibited at the Gazzo Gallery in Bergamo, in 1938. “Raffaele Bella, a young artist from Positano, exhibited at the Gazzo Gallery in the second half of December, a series of fresh pastel paintings depicting for the most part pigeons, rabbits, hens, horses and dogs – illustrated with uncommon grace and elegance – […]. Lighthearted little poems about the lives of the so-called farmyard animals, expressed with unique grace. An enjoyable group of small sculptures of his favourite subjects: calves, cats, birds – a particularly delightful one depicts a blackbird taking its first steps – and some pearly canvases of the Neapolitan landscape enriched his small exhibition” (Pelandi 1938, p. 46-47).
Among Raffaele Bella’s best-known animalier sculptures, which differ from the repertoire dedicated to farmyard animals, is the graceful bronze Gazelle. It was casted several time, and one of the pieces is preserved in the Salerno Chamber of Commerce collection and differs from the original in some small details of the coat. The tense muscles of the animal, and the paws that are about to move, correspond to the snout slightly turned to the left, whose gaze seems to be attracted by something. This gesture makes the line of the body elegant, with a very detailed anatomy and fur. The refined lines and surfaces are consistent with a naturalism that is certainly still influenced by Neapolitan verism.