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 Achille Perelli  (1822 - 1891)

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Lived/Active: Louisiana / Italy      Known for: hanging game still life, sculptor

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Ad Code: 3
Achille Perelli
from Auction House Records.
"Nature Morte: Red Snapper"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
New Orleans artist Achille Perelli is today best known for finely executed watercolor drawings of game native to the land and water of southern Louisiana and Florida.(1)

He was born in Milan, Italy, March 7, 1822, and studied with the Italian sculptor Galli and at the Milan Academy of Art where he was awarded first prize for sculpture in 1847. He joined Garibaldi's forces in the Italian revolution in 1848, but when Garibaldi was defeated, Perelli was forced to flee Italy. He came to the United States, traveled around a bit, and settled in New Orleans because, according to a contemporary source, he liked the scenery.

From 1850 Perelli is listed in New Orleans directories as a sculptor, painter, teacher, and marble cutter. He came to the United States with a skill that American sculptors envied, the ability to carve marble and thereby to realize his own designs in finished busts, standing figures, medallions, and bas reliefs.

It was the lack of skilled carvers in this country that led Hiram Powers, William Wetmore Storey, Horatio Greenough, and other American sculptors in the mid-nineteenth century to establish their studios in Rome and in Florence. Not surprisingly Perelli was frequently called upon in his first years in New Orleans for sculpture work. In 1851 a marble bust of Major Gally was commissioned from him, and in 1872 he was commissioned by the Dante Lodge of Freemasons, of which he was a member, to make a bust of the poet Dante to surmount the lodge's tomb in St. Louis cemetery, New Orleans. His most important sculpture commission was a larger-than-life size statue of General Stonewall Jackson ordered by the Louisiana Division of the Army of Northern Virginia to adorn their tomb in Metairie Cemetery. (2)

By the 1870's Perelli had taken up the painting and drawing of fish, birds, and other small game in oil, watercolor, and pastel, a genre that was to occupy him until the last year of his life. A sportsman himself, he would catch his subjects and bring them back to the studio to draw and paint while colors and forms were still fresh and lifelike. So exceptional was the veracity of Perelli's work that they were much sought after by collectors. An art critic reported in 1877, "His birds and fishes are hanging in hundreds of houses in New Orleans." (3)

Perelli was active in art circles in the Crescent City. With Anders Molinary and Brors Anders Wikstrom he organized the Southern Art Union in 1881 and assumed the position of drawing teacher there. After the failure of the Southern Art Union in one season, the Artists' Association of New Orleans was formed. Perelli taught in the association's school and contributed paintings and sculptures to its annual exhibitions.

After suffering from cancer of the throat Perelli died in New Orleans, October 9, 1891, and was buried in St. Louis Cemetery. His four sons opened his studio to the public for an exhibition and sale of remaining paintings and sculpture. The press, noting the number of wildlife specimens on view, reported, "off to one side was a museum of Natural History, complete and interesting, with the varied specimens indispensable to the true artist." (4)


Perelli's work is represented in the collections of the United States Capitol, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Louisiana State Museum, and numerous private collections.


1For information on Perelli's biography see Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, Delgado Art Museum Project, W.P.A.

2"Perelli's Jackson," Daily Picayune, November 29, 1880.

3"Art Notes," Daily Picayune, December 2, 1877.

4Times-Democrat, February 5, 1892.



Cynthia Seibels
Copyright 1990 Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.

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