Pietro Calvi (1833-1884) was born in Milan and studied at the Milan Academy. He later went on to train 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. This style is reminded of another 19th century ethnographic sculptor, Charles Cordier. However, unlike the latter’s scientific outlook on his subjects, Calvi brought out the dramatic, emotional side of his sitters.
Many of his works were exhibited throughout Europe and America, most notably at London’s Royal Academy from 1872 until the year before his death in 1883.
Works exhibited at the Royal Academy included Selika and Othello in 1872, Lucifer in 1879 and in 1880, both Ariadne and Uncle Tom. Three years later a Minstrel curiously entitled Oh Goodness Gracious Me! was also exhibited. Calvi’s works were a great success, and several were repeated on occasion in order to meet the demand for them.
Other works taken from literature include busts of Ophelia, Hamlet, Graziella, Zuleica and Aida, often being made from bronze and marble, sometimes with gilding. 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.