By Jean Marie Carey

Mario Mafai, who with his wife Antonietta Raphaël was one of the central figures of a group of artists called the Scuola di Via Cavour, was born 12 February 1902 in Rome, where he lived and worked for much of his life until his death there in 1965.

From 1922 until 1925 he attended the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. There he met the sculptor Raphaël, who introduced him to the work of the Ecole de Paris. By 1927 the painter Scipione and the sculptor Marino Mazzacurati gathered regularly in Mafai’s studio. During this period Mafai painted views of the River Tiber, self-portraits, and still-lifes.

Mafai stressed the tonal qualities in his paintings. This concentration on the subtle gradation of values endowed the commonplace objects of his still-lifes with a heightened, magical reality. After 1935 he developed veiled anti-Fascist themes in the Demolition series, exhibited at the Galleria della Cometa in Rome in 1937. In 1939 Mafai and Raphaël fled to Genoa, though later that year he was drafted. Mafai returned to Rome in 1943 and continued working on his principal themes, also producing some abstract works during the 1950s.

The Centro Studio Mafai Raphaël holds archives of the artists’ live and works. Mafai’s paintings are also in the permanent collection of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna of Roma Capitale. 

Reference: Emily Braun. “Mafai, Mario.“ Grove Art OnlineOxford art Online. Oxford University Press. (

Demolition of the augusteo, 1936.

The Roman Forum, 1930.

Sunset on the Lungotevere, 1929.

Basilica of San Lorenzo, 1949.

Further Reading: Mario Mafai and Antonietta Raphaël. Mafai Raphaël. Rome: Trimarchi Arte Moderna, 1990.

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