Tags: Caricaturists, Periodicals, Printing, Radicalism, Italy, place: Capua
Caricaturist Carlo Pellegrini [pseudonym: Ape] was born in March 1839 in Capua, Campania, into an aristocratic family. A small boy with a massive head and tiny feet, his appearance attracted attention. He was the ‘pet’ of Neapolitan society. Having developed a taste for the pleasures of the high life and without artistic training, he caricatured his friends, inspired by reproductions of Melchiorre Delfico’s ‘portraits chargés’ of Verdi and other Neapolitan personalities. In the autumn of 1860 he joined Garibaldi and fought against the Bourbons. He moved to London in November 1864. Thomas Gibson Bowles commissioned him to produce coloured portraits of Disraeli and Gladstone for his magazine Vanity Fair in January/February 1869. Reproduced as full-page illustrations by lithographer Vincent Brooks, they were an immediate success. Ape’s drawings shaped English caricature. Max Beerbohm idolised him. Between 1869 and his death he caricatured 332 prominent Victorians for Vanity Fair. Together with composer Paolo Tosti he organised dinners in the back parlour of Pagani’s restaurant in Great Portland Street. These occasions became a bohemian rendez-vous in Victorian London. His caricatures and sketches on the walls of Pagani’s ‘artist’s room’ survived the blitz and are now preserved by the BBC. Pellegrini died at his home at no. 53 Mortimer Street, Cavendish Square, in January 1889.