By Martina Tanga,
The 19th century Florentine sculptress Amalia Dupré was born on this day – November 26 – in 1842. Daughter of the famous sculptor Giovanni Dupré, Amalia learnt the trade from her father at a young age. During her lifetime she achieved quite a high level of success, even exhibiting at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867, but has since been almost completely forgotten, and some of her sculptures have even been mis-attributed to her father. Nevertheless, enough documentation remains of her life and work to provide fertile ground for scholars looking to investigate the life of this singular woman artist.
At only age 20 she exhibited Giotto as a Boy at the Exposition Universelle. It is sculpted in a restrained neo-classical style, with simple drapery and an honest profile. We know that she worked alongside her father in his studio, and after he passed away in 1882, she finished several of his outstanding commissions. In particular, she completed his St Zenobius and also sculpted St. Riparata for the central façade of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence’s Cathedral. One of her most important commissions was the pulpit for San Miniato Cathedral. Amalia masterfully chiseled seven figures – Five Saints, the Virgin and the Risen Christ – into the marble in an extremely shallow relief. Versatile in working with different materials in three-dimensional form, her later work Virgin and Child is painted terracotta. The figures express a softness and sweetness absent from her earlier work. In addition to the better-known religious statues, Amalia completed many secular commissions, but more research needs to be undertaken on those.
Amalia died in Florence in 1928 of natural causes; she was 86 years old. Her descendants currently preserve her plaster casts and correspondences in the Dupré family home, in Fiesole.
Reference: Delia Gaze, Dictionary of Women Artists (London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997), 477-478.
Giotto as a Boy,plaster exhibited 1862; private collection
St Riparata, c. 1887, marble, central façade portal of Florence Cathedral
Five Saints, the Virgin and Risen Christ, c. 1870, marble, pulpit of San Minato Cathedral, Tuscany
Virgin and Child, after 1890, painted terracotta, parish of Casacalenda, Province of Campobasso in the Italian region Molise