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Luigi Crosio Biography (Revised 2007)
The standard entry for Luigi Crosio in the art biographies when you can find it states that he was born in Alba in 1835 and died in Turin in 1915. However as so often happens oft repeated ‘facts’ can be simply repeated mistakes. Luigi was actually born in Acqui Terme a beautiful spa town east of Turin. The date of his death is also wrong. A copy of his death certificate gives both his correct place of birth and reveals he died in Turin on the 15th of January 1916. His address at the time was 106 Via Nizza.
He studied art at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arte Torino, in the 1850s still one of the main art schools in the Piedmont district. He was a talented professional and capable artist who made a respectable living out of his work. He was deliberately commercial, painting what the people were prepared to pay for. Crosio was not a cutting edge artist in the narrow way we understand today. Art for many people of his generation was a career where they were equally craftsmen as visionaries. The entry in the lives of the artists goes on to say that he specialised in genre pictures painting romantic 17th century scenes and portraits of period characters or Pompeian scenes, (recreating Roman era scenes from the city of Pompey before it’s destruction by Vesuvius). He had the Italian taste for opera and many images depict scenes from popular operas.
He was also listed as being a recognised lithographer or engraver and was involved in publications of books and images. This ties in with his contact and business dealings with the Kuenzili brothers in Switzerland through whom he produced and sold many of his paintings and works. In this aspect of his life in 1869 he is noted for doing the lithographic work on a portrait of Galileo, for a book called Galileo Galilei. This was translated from an original 1860 German book Galileo Galilei. Ein geschichtlicher Roman - Mathilde Raven. Leipzig. Brackhaus. 1860.
Research has not revealed much information about his family life or when exactly he married but his wife was called Paolina and they married most likely in the early 1860s from here they raised four daughters. Trawling through the internet one item appeared connected with Luigi’s daughter Carola Crosio. Her name appeared in an article about anItalian mathematician called Giuseppe Peano (b.1858; d.Turin,1932). He was famous in both mathematics and logic. The article by Hubert Kennedy (2002) reports:
Giuseppe Peano and Carola Crosio in 1887
On 21 July 1887 Peano married Carola Crosio His wife was the daughter of Luigi Crosio, a successful Torinese genre painter of Pompeian and seventeenth-century scenes. Crosio’s daughter, Carola, shared some of his interests in the arts. Turin had a very good opera house at this time; the first performances of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and La Bohème were given at the Royal Theater of Turin in 1893 and 1896, respectively. Mrs. Peano enjoyed opera, but Peano seems to have sometimes slept during a performance, his musical taste ran to lighter things.
Peano also regularly corresponded with the great English philosopher Bertrand Russell.” In a fuller version of Peano’s Life, Hubert Kennedy includes this information about Crosio’s daughters:
On Thursday 21 July 1887 Peano married Carola Crosio, the youngest of the four daughters of Luigi Crosio, a genre painter who specialized in Pompeiian and 17th century scenes. Carola and her sisters (Camilla, Annette, and Bianca) all served as models for their father, who made pictures for lithographic reproduction by publishing firms in Milan, London, Zurich, and elsewhere. His paintings figured in several exhibitions of the Society for the Promotion of Fine Arts, which was founded in Turin in 1842. One of his oil paintings, ...hung in the Church of San Giorgio, in the town of Chieri (Province of Turin).” (Carola was born in 1868 and died 9th April 1940)
Moving closer to home and Crosio’s picture Refugium peccatorum which became the Mother Thrice Admirable picture most of our information comes from a letter dated 22 April 1966 from A. Hollman. Mr Hollman worked for many years as an employee of the Kuenzli brothers firm in Switzerland. In 1966 he was involved with the concluding work related to the winding up of the firm's business after it closed. Two years before (1964) the Swiss province of the Schoenstatt sisters had purchased the original painting along with the copy and printing rights.
In the letter Mr Hollman wrote:
The man who painted the picture Mater Ter Admirabilis (originally entitled Refugium Peccatorum) Luigi Crosio had painted a great deal for the Kuenzil Brothers, not only religious pictures but also genre images, scenes from operas and so on. The correspondence from that period has as you would expect not been kept; only those documents relating to the copyright, and declaration of transfer had been kept. From Luigi Crosio there exists a hand written and signed document dated ‘Turin 10th October 1898', by which he relinquished to the Kuenzil Bros the property and reproduction rights relating to the painting Refugium Peccatorium. The painting itself must have then been produced that same year.
The Kuenzil brothers with whom Crosio personally dealt with are long dead. However within the business it was known through word of mouth that the artist had used a daughter as a model for this and other Madonna paintings. I can remember years ago there was copyright claim by an imitator (the copyright claim happened years ago). The imitator, as often happens with such people left it to chance. You had to prove to him that he had copied from Crosio and not the other way round that Crosio had copied from him. The Kuenzil Bros were able to produce family photographs from Crosio which proved that Crosio’s daughter had acted as the model for the Madonna painting.
I have found two letters from a Crosio daughter dated in 1923. She signed herself on one occasion as Annette Crosio, and in the other letter Anna Crosio. The address was Via Po 43. Whether she was the model or another sister I do not know. Crosio apparently had several daughters as Annette wrote from, “Figliuole” ( term in Italian for female children) of the deceased master. The last work Crosio completed for the Kuenzil Bros was in 1911.
Luigi seems to belong to the broader school of late 19th century realists and in style has more in common with the Pre-Raphaelite movement in England.
List of Luigi Crosio painting in major collections
The curate’s Bible. Maria Louisa Gabriella Queen of Spain. Maria Teresa of Savoy Princess of Lamballe.
Turin Civic museum of modern and contemporary art
Information courtesy of Michael Savage