Fabio Fabbi (1861-1946)
Fabio Fabbi (1861-1946) was an Italian Neoclassical painter whose extensive and prolific oeuvre dubbed him the ‘Last of the Orientalists’. Recently discovered archives have contextualised his contribution to the genre. Fabbi was born in Bologna in 1861, a stone’s throw away from Florence, the heart of Italy’s liberal arts and artistic production. He displayed creative potential at a young age, receiving commendations for his studies in classical sculpture at age 16. Shortly after, he was granted a place at the Academy of Fine Art, Florence, where he studied diligently under the tutelage of master Augusto Rivalta, excelling as a classical sculptor and painter.
Journeying to Egypt in 1886, Fabio joined his brother Alberto Fabbi in Alexandria. This trip was a formative pilgrimage for the young artist who revelled in the foreign and exotic scenery, tastes, colours and scents. His journal from this period capture exquisitely rendered visual elements surrounding Alexandria and the streets of Cairo(1). These enchanting sketches influenced the artists’ later paintings. He also took photographs on the journey, hungrily documenting everything he could with all his senses. The recent discovery of the artist’s journals has been transformative in understanding his muse, illuminating the profound effect and subsequent love for the exotic oriental scenes he became so famous for.
Egyptian Street Scene is a rich tapestry of the artist’s imagination—it evokes a wanderlust and yearning for otherness; the women are resplendent with jewellery, expensive silk chiffon and embroidery. Freshly cut flowers cascade freely, starkly contrasting the men who watch the festive scene in austere contemplation. The throng of the crowded street behind carries on with the humdrum of daily life, unabashed and unheeding the parade as it sweeps through in full regalia. A splendid and intoxicating example of the Italian artist’s characteristic theme, Egyptian Street Scene, presents an exciting opportunity to acquire a work by a master of Italian Orientalism, whose recently unearthed archives can offer a glimpse of the past newly discovered.
– Sarah Garrecht
1. Francesca Sinigaglia, The Fabio Fabbi Historical Archive, Bologna, Italy