Gianni Penati - Photographs London Friday, May 16, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Literature

    Electa, G. Penati, Gianni Penati, Milan, 1980; Longanesi, F. Zeri, Mai di Traverso, Milan, 1982, p.124-126

  • Catalogue Essay

    Some years ago one of the most illustrious and avant-garde Italian publishing houses, Giulio Einaudi Editore, asked me for an opinion on a book of extraordinary beauty, “Olympia” by Gianni Penati. The unique theme of this collection of photographs was a source of a kind of perverse curiosity in itself: a very young feminine creature named Olympia had been photographed from the age of eleven until she reached almost thirty years of age. At first a precocious little girl with an inordinate desire to exhibit her power to attract, then an adolescent less extrovert, less energetic, more mysterious, later a full blown enchantress of an almost grotesque sensuality and finally a tempered, distant woman of unspoken illusions.
    The publisher did not listen to my insistent enthusiasm for this series of astonishing portraits. Perhaps he feared to be criticized as one looking to make an easy profit. The pictures nonetheless remained one by one in my memory and continue to haunt me, not as an erotic stimulus, but as a matter of pure intellect. Each one of these “paintings” propose an intricate mixture of cultural stratifications in a complexity of literary origins and a vast range of pictorial backgrounds from the Italian painters of the 1400’s and 1500’s to the end of this century…
    We have in Gianni Penati three components: a subtle and rich figurative cultural background, an unconventional and sophisticated approach and the absolute, total negation of mythical and metaphysical values. To discuss or qualify his artistic skill would be superfluous. In Penati’s work the camera is used with the same total abandon with which a writer uses a pen or a portable typewriter. The technical means remain an innocuous but indispensable instrument.
    Federico Zeri, Olympia, You are a Work of Art


Olympia Pisanello, from the series ‘The Four Ages of Olympia,' 1967

Unique Carbon print, printed 2006.
67.3 x 68 cm (26 1/2 x 26 3/4 in).
Signed in ink and blindstamp credit stamp on the recto.

£8,000 - 12,000 


17 May 2008, 5pm