Eduardo Carù, Buenos Aires, 1923 to the early 1950s;
Gallery Vincenzo Spezzacatena, Montecatini;
Purchased in 1957 by Vasco Gucci (d. 1975), Florence;
Thence by descent to the heirs of Vasco Gucci;
Private collection, Florence.
Esposizione italiana di Belle Arti, Museo di Buenos Aires, 1923, pp. 50-51.
F. Russo, L’Arte di Vicenzo Irolli , Bergamo, 1925, ill., np.
Vincenzo Irrolli (fig. 1), known for his vigorous and colorful work, was one of the leading Italian
painters of the so called “New Neapolitan Realism” of the late 19th and well into the 20th century.
He had enrolled in the city’s Instituto di Belle Arti in 1877 and, after studying with the traditional
painters Gioacchino Toma and Federicco Malderelli, graduated in 1880. He specialized in portraits
and genre scenes and occasionally produced religious subjects. In addition to regular showings at
the Naples Società Promotrice di Belle Arti, Irolli also sent his canvases to the Salon in Paris and
exhibitions throughout Europe and South America. The present large painting was in fact shown
in a 1923 exhibition of Italian art in Buenos Aires, and it was acquired there by Eduardo Carù,
who owned the local dealership for Alfa Romeo cars. He had built a modernist home and sought
to enliven it with artistic items that paid homage to his Italian heritage. By the 1950s the house
was being sold and this painting was returned to Italy for sale. It entered the collection of Vasco
Gucci, one of the sons of Guccio Gucci, the founder of the famed family business of luxury goods.
The Reception , painted at the high point of Irolli’s career, is his grandest evocation of fashionable
upper class Neapolitan society. Set in a spacious palazzo it shows a multitude of people enjoying
themselves; one can almost hear the chatter and the clinking of cups and glasses, the tuxedoed
servants offering food and drink, and the words of encouragement from mothers to children.
Among the many figures are various members of the painter’s family. The baroque furnishings,
especially the gilded chairs, table, and clock, occur in other scenes of family gatherings, like the
two versions of the Wedding Gifts1 and the smaller painting The Cup of Tea of 1923 (figs. 2a-c).
Irolli’s bravura style of glistening surfaces lends itself to this festive scene into which he is able to
incorporate so much joie de vivre.
Irolli’s energetic, bold impressionist-like manner is especially evident in a detailed examination, as
around his lively red painted signature (fig. 3). This style has led to comparison with the other,
perhaps more famous, contemporary virtuosic Italian painter of genre scenes, Antonio Mancini
(1852-1930), who although born in Rome also studied at the Naples Instituto. However, as Irolli’s
first biographer, Ferdinando Russo, pointed out, although they were both “prodigies,” yet they
were “distant and diverse, like the sun and the moon.”2 Irolli here and in many other works (figs.
4a-d), is able to produce a joyous, multi-figure composition far beyond anything attempted by the
more melancholic Mancini. He also often, as seen in The Reception , liked to show the figures,
especially children (figs. 5a-d), looking out at the viewer to make for a very direct type of