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 Portrait of Emilio Jesi by Antonietta Raphael Mafai

Portrait of Emilio Jesi by Antonietta Raphael Mafai

Portrait of Emilio Jesi by Antonietta Raphael Mafai

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Mafai's trusted patron's portrait is a sign of her times. This Brazilian onyx bust depicts collector Emilio Jesi who housed Raphael, along with her husband, painter Mario Mafai, and daughters, when they escaped from Rome to Genoa in 1939 after Mussolini’s racial laws banned the exhibition of art by Jewish artists. In a recent interview, her daughter Giulia Mafai discussed her mother's perspective: "Raphael was a great artist and a very hard worker. She was a good person, morally speaking. Her era forced her to make big choices. In 1938, she refused to be baptized, because she felt that it was an artist's job to take a moral stand and defend it." Before seeking Jesi's assistance the Mafai girls were forced to abandon public schools. Raphael would create Jesi's portrait in 1940, the year Italy entered into war with France, Greece and England. Some of the most intense sculptures of her career were created while under her patron's protection. Several of them feature her daughters and evoke the feelings experienced at the time, such as fear and anxiety.

Feeling fine in the atelier

We believe that Raphael Mafai would have felt at home in a restoration studio.

Display and dilemma

A letter from Raphael Mafai discloses the artist's attitude toward exhibition.

Portrait on display

Now under the museum spotlight, Jesi's portrait is featured on the small screen.