CISERI, Antonio
(b. 1821, Ronco Scrivia, d. 1933, Firenze)

Biography

Italian painter. Born in Ronco, Switzerland, he went to Florence in 1833 to study drawing with Ernesto Bonaiuti, and from 1834 he was a pupil of Nicola and Pietro Benvenuti at the Accademia di Belle Arti; he was later taught by Giuseppe Bezzuoli, who greatly influenced the early part of his career.

His earliest works, two sketches depicting the Death of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Dante in Giotto's Workshop (both untraced), date from the Accademia's annual competition of 1839. In 1843 he won the triennial competition with St John's Reproof to Herod and Herodias (untraced), but it was only in 1849 that he made his name with Giano della Bella Leaving Florence for Voluntary Exile (Lugano, Fondazione Caccia). His important paintings of the 1850s include several for churches in Switzerland, for example a Pietà (1850-51) for the church of Magadino and St Anthony Abbot (1859-60) for the parish church of Ronco; in these paintings he moved away from the style of Bezzuoli; the colours are more muted and the effect is one of melancholy pathos, influenced by the Swiss painter Charles Gleyre. The most significant work of these years, however, is the Martyrdom of the Maccabees (1852-63; Florence, Santa Felicità), the final form of which was influenced by the positivism surrounding Italian unification: the picture is stern and rational, without any trace of the naturalistic individuality of his early work.

He also worked successfully as a portrait painter, exhibiting the Bianchini Family (private collection) at the Exposition Universelle, Paris (1855); his portraits similarly display an increased impassivity and objectivity as the decade progressed. From 1853 Ciseri occupied a studio that had once been used by Ingres, and he set up a private painting school there; among his pupils were Silvestro Lega, Niccolò Cannicci (1846-1906) and Raffaello Sorbi (1844-1931).