Melocchi, E - Classical copies

Here is the Mona Lisa and a miniature copy copy of it painted by Melocchi. There are obvious differences, but the skill of the miniaturist in capturing the fine detail has to be admired.

Decorative copies are frowned upon by most collectors of miniature portraits, but there is no clear distinction between what should be described as a "decorative copy" and as a "genuine miniature".

The current example demonstrates how it is possible to have a painted miniature version of perhaps the most famous painting in the world and admire the skill of both artists in a manner which is not possible with a print of the original.

Most decorative miniatures were churned out in the late 19C and early 20C as multiple copies painted with minimal skill in factory type workshops, often with a few painted highlights over a printed outline. These normally have fake or fictitious signatures. They often have frames made out of old piano keys and pages from old books on the reverse to give a false impression of their ages. Hence they were generally intended to deceive, and many are now offered for sale as original 18C portraits, by sellers who have only limited knowledge. Sometimes this is in good faith by people who have inherited them from Grandma or Great-Grandma, and now assume they are real 18C miniatures, whereas the Grandma who originally purchased the portrait nearly 100 years ago, knew well it was only a copy. Fortunately, it only requires a little study to distinguish them as decorative copies.

However, some were painted with more care by artists who took more care and were proud enough of their work to include a proper signature.

The miniature portraits appearing here demonstrate this point. They appear to date from 1920-1930 and to have been sold to tourists between World War I and World War II. There are likely to be multiple examples, but the skill of the artist is a cut above that of most decorative copies.

They are all clearly copies of classical portraits, but they are also clearly signed by the miniature artist, E Melocchi, Via Luca Landucci 45 Firenze (Florence, Italy). With one giving his/her name as Pittrice (Painter) E Melocchi.

The miniature of La Gioconda (more often named a portrait of the Mona Lisa) is noted as a copy of the portrait by Leonardo da Vinci, and the two other portraits are identified as copies of self-portraits of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo from the originals in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

I have seen other examples by this artist, such as this copy of Botticelli recently sold on Ebay. I have also seen a duplicate of the Michelangelo portrait.

A visitor recently asked me about another two similar classical miniatures of 18C ladies of the French Court, also by Melocchi.

The building housing Via Luca Landucci 45 is still in Florence, as appearing here, but Melocchi seems to be long gone.

The values of such decorative miniatures can vary a great deal. I purchased La Gioconda on eBay for $280 in 2008 and the Botticelli sold on eBay in December 2011 for $350. However, the self-portraits of da Vinci and Michelangelo were purchased as a pair on eBay in December 2011 for only £70 including shipping.

Thus it is still possible to pick up bargains and being able to match La Gioconda with a portrait of da Vinci as the artist, with both painted by Melocchi enhances them even more. 1338, 1458, 1459.

 Later in 2016, A kind visitor has sent me some very interesting information about E. Melocchi.

Hi Don
I think E. Melocchi was female!
The reason I say that is that my father was an army chaplain in Florence at the end of the war and my mum told me he bought 2 miniatures of Italian court ladies from a lady in a church in Florence. 

Apparently this lady had very little money after the war and he felt sorry for her. He was so impressed with the miniatures that he asked if she could paint one of my mum, from a photo he had with him. She did that for him and also painted one of him from a life sitting. She dated them 1944 and 1945 and signed them on the front and on the back as E. Melocchi, with the Firenze address just as you give it on the Internet site! 

My mum and dad are sadly passed away now but I even still possess the dress my mum was wearing in the photo and therefore in the miniature!
If you are interested, I could send you photos of the miniatures. My dad died in 1954 when i was very young but my mum was always very clear that E. Melocchi was a lady!
Yours Ailsa, Norfolk, UK 


Tracey said...

I was very interested to read your research about Melocchi as I think I may have a really beautiful example of his work. I've always wondered about my portrait as she is so beautiful but didn't know anything about it until reading your article. I bought it at a flea market (I think it is like a car boot sale in the uk) for 50 New Zealand cents(about 30p uk money) and would love to send a photo and hear any comments you might have about it as I think she is stunning. The portrait is of Margherita de Medici.
Thank you, Tracey Kersten

Don Shelton said...

Tracey, If you click on my profile you will find my email address, so send me a photo. Don