Said the Venetian sculptor known as an artist only under the name of Besarel, he was born in Zoldo, province of Belluno, on July 29, 1829, from an artist father named Giovanni Battista, and was, among his other brothers, the only one who exclusively intended to continue the artistic tradition of the family.
After the great Andrea Brustolon, who left wonderful sculptures in wood and a long line of pupils, of whom no one ever reached the height of the master, Valentino Besarel placed himself in the footsteps of his ancestors and especially those of his great-grandfather, who bore the same name as Valentino and who more than the others distinguished himself in that art.
Our Valentino Besarel was sent by his father to schools as a boy, but for economic reasons, albeit too imperious, he was able to attend them for only three months.
The professor. Fedrici di Belluno gave him some drawing lessons, but as the young man was unable to continue studying, he had to adapt to being a carpenter and bricklayer until he was twenty.
In 1849, having the architect Giuseppe Segusini of Belluno (a highly deserving man of his country) procured for Valentino’s father the decoration and decoration of the archdeacon church of Agordo, he succeeded with the full satisfaction of the clients and obtained enough income to take the risk to send his son Valentino, who showed true artistic talent, to study drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice; but, after only three years, and always due to limited means, where our Valentino, to his utmost despondency and without having finished his artistic education, returned to his country in 1853.
The assignment of the four Evangelists to the Belluno Cathedral infused him with new courage, and by working with the utmost diligence and passion, without yet obtaining the relative remuneration, Valentino had no other aim than art itself, so that he was twisted by the humility of the ordinations and form a name.
In 1860 he had various good assignments of large frames with foliage and truly artistic cherubs, which he executed for a gentleman from the Alta Trivigiana, one of which he made a fine show of himself at the Paris Exposition and figure (illustrated by Count Finocchietti ) in the Year II (1870) of Italian Art, although executed about six years earlier.
In that same year (1860) Count Francesso Miari of Belluno entrusted him with the Tabernacle for the church of San Rocco and with the gain made there Valentino Besarel was able to bring himself to Florence in 1860-61, accompanied by his brother Francesco, who has always remained in later in his company and always helped and supported him in all the works, contenting himself with supporting a secondary part.
Returning in 1861 to Belluno, where, by the way, Valentino had to convince himself with great bitterness of the truth of that sad proverb that no one is a prophet in his homeland, the Austrian police asked him to offer him honors and jobs, wherever he wanted to send his products to Vienna and he was presented with a kind of protocol where he was obliged to sign.
Valentino, however, insistently rejected his honorific and lucrative offers, as his intention was to remain Italian and to honor his homeland.
The sad consequences of his refusal did not make us wait long, because, marred by persecutions and threats, these became more frequent and more severe, when the two brothers, Valentino and Francesco Besarel, awarded in 1861 in Florence and collected 6000 Lire, as the price of their work, they paid this sum to the full advantage of Italian emigration.
Despite this great success, fate did not yet begin to smile at the hardworking brothers, because, for ten consecutive almi, that is, until 1870, remaining in Belluno, where they had planted a large studio, they had only small allocations and had to fighting not only with those who opposed them, instead of protecting and favoring them, but also with the need, which threatened, for lack of commissions, reduce them to their first profession of carpenter and bricklayer, it was then that both brothers decided to leave their country and go to Venice, where, for three very long years, our Valentino had to adapt to receiving second-hand orders and content himself with petty earnings.
The works carried out in Venice by commission from the Prince of Wales and brought to the Vienna Exhibition in 1873, opened up a new horizon for Valentino Besarel, because they gave him the opportunity to make known all his artistic value to the various nations of Europe and procured him the advantage of numerous and important orders.
At the Vienna Exhibition Valentino Besarel received the Grand Diploma of honor, and was knighted by the Emperor Franz Joseph.
A similar honor had already been conferred on him by our government and was later given to him by the Queen of England.
In 1878 he was awarded the Gold Medal by the French Republic, and he was sent the patent of Knight of the Legion of Honor.
After the Vienna Exhibition there was no Exhibition of importance, to which the knight Valentino did not send his works, and everywhere he obtained new Diplomas of honor and new Gold Medals.
In the midst of the distinctions received and the ever increasing contracts, cav. Valentino seriously think of getting ready to satisfy his numerous contractors, and transported himself from a very mean house in the middle of vegetable gardens at the bottom of the almost extreme Venice, on the Grand Canal, near the Palazzo Foscari where he bought an old, spacious The palace, which he himself restored almost from its foundations, was equipped with very skilled artists, almost all educated by him, and set up a vast establishment, which entirely directed by him, carries out only works designed and assiduously supervised by the master.
He does the most delicate and finest things or touches them up himself, despite the misfortune that happened to him five years ago of sawing off three fingers.
He had the handles of the chisels made with certain grooves, which allow him to apply his fingers, which remained of his straight hand so as to hold them firmly in his hand, and he had the honor of showing our august Queen in person the way he uses it, sculpting the head of a putto before his eyes.
Amazed, the Queen exclaimed:
“Dear Besarel, if you can’t see it, you can’t believe it,” and she went away very satisfied.
Wood carving is not the only art practiced by cav. Besarel.
He also made some beautiful marble works.
Indeed it must be said that the most important works were carved by him in marble, and below we will see the enumeration of the main ones.
Many and truly very important were the works he executed in wood of any kind, but one of the most important and most marvelous, for the very short time in which it was carried out, was the one ordered by our august Sovereigns in the year 1888, two months before arrival in Rome of the Emperor of Germany.
It dealt with all the furniture of the Quirinale room, intended for the reception of the aforementioned Emperor that the cav. Besarel had to carry out his special design in the short space of sixty days.
On the appointed day, everything was ready, and the success of the grandiose work was so worthy of praise, that the Queen herself, a few minutes before the Emperor’s arrival, specifically called the cav. Besarel to express his full satisfaction and to tell him that the furniture had succeeded in such beauty and perfection as to please everyone, even the most intelligent and most difficult people in that branch to be satisfied.
Valentino Besarel’s main students were: GB De Lotto, who works today in Venice in his particular studio, Pietro Lazzaris and Luigi Chinol, who moved permanently to Paris, Luigi De Paoli, sculptor in wood and marble, but more in marble and wood, which moved to Pordenone; Girolamo Bertot, who works in Venice and many others of lesser merit that it would take to enumerate.
All these young sculptors were held by the cav. Valentino Besaral for many years in his house as if they were his own children, because he had the idea of forming a kind of workshop of his studio for the use of painters at the time of Bellini, Giorgione and Titian.
His present studio, accessible to all, can be called a vast museum of fine wood carving and sculpture objects, and it is only to be regretted that there are not enough amateurs of such fine art in the city of Venice to see that museum. from time to time change and renew itself.
Let’s now follow the note of the main works of cav. Valentino Besarel executed after 1870; for Mr. G. Blech, engineer in callus of the Russian railways, “Ricche furniture”; for S. A. R. the Prince of Wales, “Rich frames and candelabra”; for the Russian general Pietro Durnoff, “Rich furniture and two large fireplaces, one in wood and the other in marble”; for their Imperial Highnesses the Grand Dukes of Russia Sergio and Paolo, “Various sculptures in wood”; for S. A. R. and Imp. Federico II of Prussia, “Various wooden sculptures”; for S. M. the Queen of Saxony, “Various wooden sculptures”; for S. E. the count Bobrinsk at Villa Malta in Rome, a “marble fireplace”; for the lawyer Antonio Borgogna di Vercelli, “The apotheosis of S. M. Vittoria Emanuele II, from Novara to Rome”; for RR. Capuchin Fathers of Pernambuco in America, “Large historical bas-relief” and two statues: “San Francesco” and “Sant’Antonio” in Carrara marble; for the Committee of Zoldo (Province of Belluno), “Monument to the sculptor Andrea Brustolon”; for the Countess Pisani, in Vescovana (Prov. of Padua), “Monumental statue of Almorò III Pisani”; for the engineer Carlo Bulso, “Monumentino for his daughter, in the Chioggia Cemetery”; a “Great Table for the joys of S. M. la Regia d’Italia”: for the church of the Grazie d’Este, “Four stone statues”; for the church of Conselve (Province of Padua), “Four large statues representing the four Evangelists”; for Mrs. Segato of Belluno, “Monumentino for her deceased husband in the Cemetery of Belluno”; for Mr. Antonio Tèry, from Paris, “Rich furniture” which are partly featured at the present Paris Exposition (1889).
In addition to the works marked here against, the cav. Valentino Besarel a large number of frames with fruits and foliage of all shapes and sizes, and large candelabra and intertwined Putti; many busts (portraits) both in wood and in marble, many pieces of furniture of beautiful design, always varied and always intermixed with beautiful cherubs in all the vaguest and most pleasant attitudes.