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 Domenico Tojetti  (1806 - 1892)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: mytho-biblical figure, portrait, mural

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Ad Code: 3
Domenico Tojetti
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An artist whose work was focused on church decorations and murals, Domenico Tojetti was the earliest painter in San Francisco who worked in the American Renaissance style. He created numerous murals and paintings for the city's mansions and churches, to fit their architecture that hearkened back to the Italian Renaissance with emphasis on the culture and fine-art disciplines of Greek and Roman antiquity.

Tojetti was born in Rome, Italy, and studied there under Camuccini and Murani. He also studied in Paris, and later became a professor at the Academy in Rome. It seems that he was held in esteem in Rome, and worked for Pope Gregory XVI and Pius IX.

In Italy, he was a painter of churches and palaces, a restorer of a number of paintings in the Vatican, and was held in such high esteem that he was made a Marquis of the Church by Pope Pius IX. He was honored by King Ludwig of Bavaria and received prestigious commissions from European princes and kings.

For reasons unknown, he left Rome in 1867, and accepted an appointment to become the head of a proposed Academy of Fine Arts for Guatemala. His family---a wife, two sons, and a daughter, set sail, but were shipwrecked while sailing around the Horn, losing all their possessions. Eventually they arrived in Guatemala, where Tojetti established the Academy of Fine Arts and taught there until his health was affected by the climate. The Tojettis then traveled to Mexico City and stayed there briefly.

In 1871, they moved on to San Francisco, and he, then age 65, taught portraiture at the School of Design. There appears to be no paintings by him of anything referencing California, as he focused on that which was religious, allegorical, and symbolic. He referred to himself as "Professor of Historical and Portrait Painting," and his specialties were "rosy Venuses, haloed angels, and charming little cupids in all conceivable attitudes on land, cloud, and water".

The Tojettis, father and sons, as well as Gottardo Piazzoni (1872-1945) portrayed a California of long ago in a mural cycle for the San Francisco main Public Library of fourteen landscapes, shores and forests. His "Allegory of America" at the Oakland Museum is an excellent example of the neo-classical style prevalent in 19th century Rome.

A Tojetti work that stirred controversy was his copy of 'Elaine', a painting by Toby Rosenthal that stirred much outcry because it did not conform to romantic expectations the public had for this subject from 'Knights of the Round Table'. Tojetti's version of the work was much more to the liking of a public that wanted a delicate woman instead of Rosenthal's large, Germanic type, and a more realistic barge scene.

Tojetti continued to speak Italian in San Francisco. Unfortunately, many of the murals he and his sons painted for various Catholic Churches went up in flames in the 1906 earthquake. This destruction was also true of many of his paintings in local mansions, including the Hopkins House, which burned in 1906.

Domenico Tojetti died at home in San Francisco, 223 Leavenworth Street, on March 28, 1892. His work is held in the Oakland Museum and the Vatican Collection in Rome.

"Artful Players" by Birgitta Hjalmarson
"Artists in California, 1786-1940" by Edan Hughes

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Domenico Tojetti is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Painted in Latin America

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