Home Stories from the Archives Caricature from ‘The S. Giacomo Palace, Album of 80 at Naples City Hall 1876 and 1877’.

Caricature from ‘The S. Giacomo Palace, Album of 80 at Naples City Hall 1876 and 1877’.

In 1877, Antonio Manganaro (Manfredonia 1842 – Naples 1921), one of the most famous satirical illustrators of Naples in the second half of the 19th century, printed the colour lithographed plates of The St. James Palace Album of 80 at City Hall of Naples 1876 e 1877 portraying representatives of the Neapolitan municipal administration of those years with caricatured features. On the back of each panel, an ironic biography recounts the human and professional vicissitudes of the character depicted. On the cover of the Album of 80, the reader is welcomed by Ferdinando Ramognini, Delegato Straordinario (today we would say Commissioner) of the Naples City Hall, appointed by the government on 1 May 1876, following the dissolution of the city council. Of Ligurian origin, Ramognini (1829 – 1898) had been a trusted man of Cavour, who had favoured his career in government. Before and after his experience as a commissioner in Naples, which ended in July 1876, he was prefect in various Italian cities and senator of the Kingdom of Italy from 1892 until his death. The politician is portrayed by Manganaro in an elegant dark suit on which the honour of the House of Savoy is proudly displayed as he opens a curtain like a theatre curtain to show the entrance to Palazzo San Giacomo of the Mayor Gennaro Sambiase Sanseverino Duca di San Donato with his mighty bulk, an unmistakable icon of post-unification Neapolitan politics, followed by councillors.

Among the eighty amusing caricatures of municipal representatives, all wittily described with their own particular physiognomic features and with subtitles that summarise their occupation or character in short mottos, one should mention that of Camillo Minieri Riccio (Naples 1813 – Naples 1882), author of important texts on the history of Angevin domination and the Neapolitan kingdom in general. The scholar held such prestigious appointments as director of the Library of San Giacomo (1863), representative of the Municipal Commission for the Conservation of Monuments (1869) and director of the Naples State Archives (1874). In Manganaro’s drawing, the elderly councillor is portrayed in a cluttered library, perched at the top of a small staircase, immersed in reading a large volume surrounded by other books resting on the rungs, ready to be consulted.

With his biting pencil, Manganaro, like other famous caricaturists active in Naples at the time, such as Melchiorre de Filippis Delfico, Enrico Colonna and Mario Buonsollazzi aka Solatium, took his cue from daily events and pilloried, but with grace and elegance, well-known personalities from the worlds of politics and culture in albums, illustrated strennas and, above all, satirical newspapers such as L’Arca di Noè (Noah’s Ark), Il bello Gasparre (The handsome Gasparre) and Il Caporal terribile (The terrible corporal), which were very popular in the aftermath of the Unification of Italy. In particular, the caricatures published in Montecitorio Album of 500 (1872-1874), in the volume Provincial Council of Naples (1880) with tasty caricatures of ministers and members of parliament and provincial councillors, and in the Album Strolling through the halls of the Naples Exhibition of Fine Arts (1877) in which he mocks the artists of his time.