• Othello - Pietro Calvi, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Othello - Pietro Calvi, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Othello - Pietro Calvi, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Othello - Pietro Calvi, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Othello - Pietro Calvi, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Othello - Pietro Calvi, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
Click image to enlarge

Othello

Pietro Calvi

(Italian, 1833-1884)

Acquired by The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA

Signed Calvi fece
White marble set with bronze, on a white marble socle
Height: 33¼ in (84.5cm)

Executed circa 1873



Pietro Calvi was born in Milan in 1833 and studied at the Milan Academy. He later went on to study under the renowned sculptor Giovanni Seleroni. It was under Seleroni’s guidance that Calvi developed the outstanding sensitivity and refinement that became the hallmark of his modelling. Calvi relished working in bronze and marble, often combining the two materials to create the most striking and effective results. Many of his works were exhibited throughout Europe and America, most notably at London’s Royal Academy between 1872 and 1883 (the year prior to the sculptor’s death).

Works exhibited at the Royal Academy included Selika and Othello in 1872, Lucifer in 1879 and Ariadne the following year (both marble statuettes), Uncle Tom, also exhibited in 1880 and three years later a Minstrel curiously entitled Oh Goodness Gracious Me! Calvi’s works were a great success, and several were repeated on occasion in order to meet the demand for them.

Calvi specialised in subjects from the arts, including several Shakespearean characters, his most well-known being this powerful marble and bronze bust of Othello. Othello was a well-respected Moor and a high-ranking official in the Venetian forces. He had recently married the beautiful Desdemona, daughter of a senator, and had just been posted to Cyprus to defend the Venetian army. Once in Cypress Othello promotes one of his officers, Cassio, to the fury of Iago, another officer who was also hoping for promotion. Iago decides to take his revenge on Othello by arousing his jealousy — he orchestrates a grand scheme insinuating, falsely, that Othello’s beloved Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio.

The culmination of the plan involves Cassio unwittingly coming into possession of Desdemona’s handkerchief — a love token from Othello. The Moor’s jealousy had already been aroused thanks to Iago’s insinuations, but when he sees Cassio with the handkerchief he assumes his wife is definitely having an affair. In a wild rage he strangles Desdemona as she lies in bed, and orders Cassio to be killed — only to discover later, from Iago’s wife, that it had all been a carefully prepared deception. Othello, traumatised by his mistake, stabs himself and dies next to the body of his beloved wife.

Calvi has chosen the moment that Othello realises Desdemona’s innocence. The mood of the piece is intense and tragic, the Moor’s arrogance and pride is lost as a single tear falls from his grief-stricken eyes as he stares at the handkerchief that instigated the tragedy. His head and hand are finely modelled in dark bronze, his robes and Desdemona’s handkerchief being carved in white marble.

Ira Aldridge (1805-67) was the first black actor to play Othello, making his debut in a small London theatre in 1826, and was therefore the perfect inspiration for Calvi’s masterpiece.

Other works taken from literature include busts of Ophelia, Hamlet, the Moor of Venice, Graziella, Zuleica and Aida, often being made from bronze and marble, sometimes with gilding. Pietro Calvi worked together with another Milanese sculptor, Constantino Corti, on numerous figures in Milan’s dominating cathedral including a statue of St Valeria which is positioned in one of the side windows, next to a figure by Giuseppe Grandi. He also sculpted works in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle nearby.

The sculptor died in his native Milan in 1884.

Works by Pietro Calvi

Browse By Artist

Gustinus Ambrosi, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Ambrosi, Gustinus

(Austrian, 1893-1975)

Michael Ayrton, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Ayrton, Michael

(British, 1921-1975)

Gilbert Bayes, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Bayes, Gilbert

(British, 1872-1953)

Pietro Calvi, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Calvi, Pietro

(Italian, 1833-1884)

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Carpeaux, Jean-Baptiste

(French, 1827-1875)

 Carrier-Belleuse & Rodin, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Carrier-Belleuse & Rodin

(French, 1824-1887 and 1840-1917)

Lynn Chadwick, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Chadwick, Lynn

(British, 1914-2003)

Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Cordier, Charles Henri

(French, 1827-1905)

Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Dalou, Aimé-Jules

(French, 1838-1902)

Francis Derwent Wood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Derwent Wood, Francis

(British, 1871-1926)

Alfred Drury, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Drury, Alfred

(English, 1856-1944)

Sir Jacob Epstein, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Epstein, Sir Jacob

(British, 1880-1959)

Pierre Félix Fix-Masseau, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Fix-Masseau, Pierre Félix

(French, 1869-1937)

Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Gilbert, Sir Alfred

(British, 1854-1934)

Frederick James Halnon, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Halnon, Frederick James

(British, 1881-1958)

Adrian Jones, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Jones, Adrian

(English, 1846-1938)

Fritz Klimsch, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Klimsch, Fritz

(German, 1870-1960)

Gerald Laing, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Laing, Gerald

(UK, 1936-2011)

Henri Laurens, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Laurens, Henri

(French, 1885-1954)

Frederic Lord  Leighton, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Leighton, Frederic Lord

(English, 1830-1896)

Jacques Lipchitz, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Lipchitz, Jacques

(French American, 1891-1973)

Robert Tait McKenzie, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

McKenzie, Robert Tait

(Canadian, 1867-1938)

Ivan Mestrovic, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Mestrovic, Ivan

(Croatian, 1883-1962)

George Minne, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Minne, George

(Belgian, 1866-1941)

Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Moore, Henry

(English, 1898-1986)

Edward Onslow-Ford, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Onslow-Ford, Edward

(English, 1852-1901)

Eduardo Paolozzi, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Paolozzi, Eduardo

(British, 1924-2005)

Pablo Picasso, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Picasso, Pablo

(Spanish, 1881-1973)

Enzo Plazzotta, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Plazzotta, Enzo

(Italian, 1921-1981)

Hiram Powers, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Powers, Hiram

(American, 1805-1873)

Sir William Reid Dick, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Reid Dick, Sir William

(English, 1879-1961)

Auguste Rodin, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Rodin, Auguste

(French, 1840-1917)

Eric Stanford, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Stanford, Eric

(British, Born 1932)

Alfred Stevens, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Stevens, Alfred

(English, 1818-1875)

Thomas Thornycroft, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Thornycroft, Thomas

(British, 1815 – 1885)

Sir William Hamo Thornycroft, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Thornycroft, Sir William Hamo

(English, 1850-1925)

Robert Wlerick, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Wlerick, Robert

(French, 1882-1944)

Ossip Zadkine, Bowman Sculpture Ltd

Zadkine, Ossip

(Russian/French, 1890-1967)