Curriculum Vitae of a Miniature Painter
I was born on July 4th 1938 in Turin (Italy) and grew up in Florenz, where I later on studied at the Academy of Beautiful Arts. At 17 I started miniature painting. An old miniature painter from Florenz taught this technique to me, Mr. Lionello Lascialfari.
During my studies, in 1955, I had already painted small detail-miniatures for brooches. They were very small and were set into silver medallions, rings or earrings. I manufactured them for a miniature painter, Mrs. Maria Luisa Gechele, who sold them in Vatikano claiming them to be her own work. Mrs. Gechele sat in Vatikano the whole day, pretending to be painting, but instead I manufactured the miniatures. She sold them as her own with her signature. Mrs. Gechele sent me the ivory plates to paint on and paid me 1 $ for each finished miniature! I had to paint a lot of ivory plates per day to earn some money.
Following the advise of a goldsmith I put an advertisement in the "Antiques Magazine" in New York to offer my service as a miniature painter. The first ad was published on Christmas 1955 and in January 1956 already I received the first letter from Manuel Bustillo, an art dealer of South American descent. He sent me a black and white picture of the "Libertador", Simon Bolivar.(1)
The famous court painter Josť Maria Espinosa Prieto painted the picture of the Libertador in 1830. I was supposed to manufacture a copy of it, without ever seeing the original work of this great painter. The colours to be use were told to me by Mr. Bustillo, and because it was a "copy" I was asked to copy the signature as well. The result was so good, that Mr. Bustillo was very pleased and from thereon he, from time to time, requested a picture t a picture of Bolivar and his generals, done by me. He paid me 30 $ per piece. The sizes of the miniatures were 7 x 8 cm to 9 x 11 cm. Those were real big ivory plates, which were already very expensive at that time, and I had to buy them. But, until 1980 I still received only 30 $ per piece.
Many years later I should understand, why he had so much interest in my painting. My technique was as perfect as Espinosa Prieto's!
In 1963 Bustillo invited me to New York. He paid the journey and I worked there for about 5 months as a "court painter". This meant, that I manufactured miniatures at different rich American families of the family members and they were all signed with my name. Because they were orders, Bustillo received a "fee" as well. During that time I was still painting portraits of Simon Bolivar and his generals with the signature of the painters of the 19th century.
I always painted without help of a magnifying glass, even the smallest miniature of 5 x 5 mm. My left eye was my magnifying glass. But after a few months I got major problems with my eyes and could not continue being a professional miniature painter.
On Christmas 1963 I came back to Florenz and in January 1964 I went to Mainz/Germany, to learn the language. Originally, I had planned to stay only two years and then return to Italy. In Rome I wanted to do the exam to become a stewardess for Alitalia. But it came different. In 1967 I married Karl Oskar Schmitt and stayed in Mainz. I worked for ten years at the Jenaer Glaswerke Schott in Mainz as a technical drawer. From 1974 until the end of 1985 I was employed as a scientifically drawer at the Roman-German-Central Museum in Mainz.(2)
Because of deterioration of sight in 1980 I was unable to continue painting and had to retire early in 1986.
Because I like to travel, in 1989, at the end of a big South America trip, I came to Bogota. During a visit of the Museo Nacional de Colombia, I discovered in a show- case two of my miniatures of Simon Bolivar. Those were the miniatures that I had painted in Florenz 1956 and 1960 for Mr. Bustillo. One of them was the one that I had sent to New York as a "trial".