Portrait of Galvani, pen and grey ink, watercolour on vellum, signed by the Italian artist Mauro Gandolfi.

Bologna: ca. 1800.

Very rare and beautiful contemporary portrait of Luigi Galvani (1737 – 1798), who inaugurated the modern epoch in electricity with his celebrated description of the production of “current electricity” by contact between two different metals and the legs of a frog. “Although the existence of electricity had been recognized for many centuries, it was not until the eighteenth century, with the invention of man-made apparatus for its creation, that the study of electricity became a science. That electricity was involved somehow in the function of living tissue had been noted in studies of the activity of electric fishes and eels, but it was Luigi Galvani, professor of anatomy in Bologna, who first carried out systematic experiments demonstrating that muscular contraction results from an electric current” (Grolier, Medicine, p. 183). Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) repeated Galvani’s experiments, correctly interpreted the results as being due to contact electricity, and was thus led directly to the invention of the ‘Voltaic pile’, the first source of a continuous electric current and precursor of the modern electric battery.

The portrait was painted, and is signed on the verso, by the Italian artist Mauro Gandolfi (1764 – 1834). As he tells us in his posthumously published autobiography, Gandolfi learned to draw by copying the drawings of his father, the painter Gaetano Gandolfi, (1734 – 1802) and it is as a draughtsman that Mauro is best known today. He studied at the Accademia Clementina di belle arti where he won several prizes, becoming professor at the Academy in 1794. His best known paintings are two altarpieces painted in 1791 for the church of San Domenico in Ferrara. After 1796 he concentrated mainly on watercolours. His relatively brief career as a painter came to an end about 1800, when he switched to reproductive engraving.



55 mm (diameter), pen and grey ink, watercolor on vellum, in its original wooden frame and glass with decorated brass ring.

Item #6133

Price: $5,000.00