Chili: Private Collection.
A counterproof etching made by the artist (Giovane donna in costume di profilo, 17 x 120 cm. / 6 11⁄16 x 47 ¼ in., Finarte sale, Milan, January 16th, 1982, lot 97).
Originally from the Trente Region, Pio Joris grew up in Rome under a father who was an art dealer and collector. The Joris family dwelling also housed the studio of a Neopolitan painter from whom the young boy developed his taste for landscape and led him to decide to be an artist. Pio Joris was only twelve years old when he entered the Institute of Fine Arts which depended on the Academy of Saint Luke. He stood out by winning several first prizes every year before he attended the Academy for a year in 1861. This same year, the youth made a trip to Florence with his father where the visit to the World’s Fair was a revelation. He was entranced by Domenico Morelli, Filippo Palizzi, and Giuseppe De Nittis. Upon his return to Rome, determined to work harder, he entered Achille Vertunni’s studio where he gained valuable experience. In 1866, he traveled to Naples with the master, painted Capri and the Sorrentine Coast, an event which would be fundamental to his life as an artist. The following year, this jovial and expansive man whose affability was tinted with irony, settled into his first studio on Via Flaminia.
Skilled and productive, Pio Joris left no technique untouched and ventured into every genre. He was the painter of Roman sweetness, who depicted picturesque scenes glimpsed as he meandered through the streets: peasants in traditional costumes , washerwomen, and popular devotional religious processions. A landscapist with Impressionist overtones, he produced innumerable views of the Italian countryside around Rome, Naples, and Venice.
By the 1870’s, Joris’ submissions to foreign exhibitions assured him lasting international fame. Thanks to Mariano Fortuny, whom he admired and who acted as intermediary, he was associated with the art dealer Alphonse Goupil by contract between 1868 and 1875. After a gold medal at the Munich International Art Exhibition in 1869, he could be found in Spain, London, Berlin, Saint Petersburg, and even the Paris Salon where he often won prizes. In 1900, at the World’s Fair in Paris, the artist was awarded both the gold medal and the Legion of Honor.
Under Pio’s brush, feminine grace was incarnated by women of modest origins, peasants, and washerwomen, through delicate portraits or chaming full length silhouettes decked out in traditional costumes. From his mother who was a seamstress, Joris inherited a distinct taste for clothes, fabrics, and materials. Here he depicts a young Moroccan woman who poses seriously in bust profile in the manner of antique coins or portraits from the Florentine Renaissance. The painter liked this format which he used, for example, in the Figura di Donna (oil on cardboard, 28 x 22 cm. / 11 x 8 11⁄16 in. private collection).
An indigo violet velvet drapery stretched across the background acts as setting. Her delicate features are those of a very young woman caught with a mysteriously restrained expression. Her black hair is pulled back and held by a silver-embroidered red scarf decorated with a large tassel. A rich traditional headpiece garnished with gold pieces and red beads envelopes the young woman’s head; her long pink silk ties mingle with her hair and fall in silver threaded tassels onto the shoulder. A blue damask blue jacket with vegetal designs is laced closed over the white bodice. A multicolored belt, necklaces of gold and coral beads, as well as ear rings in stamped gold complete the refined attire. A strange detail: her hands grip a dagger whose silver handle and red scabbard with an ornate chape are just visible.
Orientals and gypsies sometimes appear in the oeuvre of Pio Joris, as for example, the proud portrait of an Ottoman Turk (watercolor on paper, 35.6 x 24.1 cm. / 14 x 9 ½ in. . private collection) or the enigmatic figure of an Oriental woman with lowered eyes (oil on canvas, 45.5 x 30.5 cm. / 17 15⁄16 x 12 in.). Far from the genre scenes sketched in watercolor, these skillfully composed studio portraits successfully bring together the formal beauty of the image and the mystery of a barely unveiled identity.
General Bibliography (unpublished picture)
Pier Andrea DE ROSA, Paolo Emilio TRASTULLI (dir.), La campagna romana da Hackert a Balla, exh.cat., Rome, Museo del Corso, 2001, pp. 259-260.
Egidio Marie ELEUTERI, La memoria di una città. Roma e il suo Agro nella pittura dell’Ottocento, Rome, edizioni Millenium, 2001, p. 180.
Angiola CANEVARI, Giulia FUSCONI, “Pio Joris (1843-1921). Un pittore di Roma capitale tra Napoli e Parigi,” Bollettino “d’arte, 107, 1999, pp. 37-68.