This is a quick sketch of a terra cotta bust by Vincenzo Gemito of Italy in 1880. The personal and seemingly affectionate rendering of this portrait causes me to wonder what became of the child, her family and the artist.
The subject is Charlotte Meissonier, godchild of Gemito’s student, Edouard Detaille, who later became semi-official artist to the French army. Was Charlotte the daughter of Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier, an accomplished, self-taught artist in the Academic manner? I was not able to find that out.
Gemito was orphaned as a child but was adopted by a poor sculptor. He went on to study under two other sculptors and at 16, first sold a work of his own. He built a bronze foundry in Naples in 1883, but suffered a mental collapse 4 years later. It wasn’t until 22 years later, in 1909, that he resumed sculpting. Fortunately, he lived another 20 productive years.
Hopefully, the others associated with this endearing portrait were able to overcome their own personal struggles as did Vincenzo Gemito.