Volk, Leonard. Abraham Lincoln Life Mask
Cast by Vittore Bocchetta
Stunning in it’s Realism
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Lincoln Life Mask by Leonard Volk, cast by Vittore Bocchetta, (1918 – ); Italian sculptor, painter, and academic. Bronze; 11” x 8” on a 2” espresso brown marble base.
This Bronze Life Mask of Lincoln was cast in the 1970’s by Italian sculptor, Victor Bocchetta; here in his own Chicago foundry. He used the “lost wax method” of hot bronze casting used during Lincoln’s era. It is made from an original Volk life mask at the Chicago History Museum. It’s closeness to the original is evident the facial structure and detail.
This is the only copy he made of the mask in which he teased it by opening the eyes and adding a shock of hair. The realism is outstanding: here “is the animal himself!”
Bocchetta’s work is represented on the USS Abraham Lincoln, by a large bronze bust of Lincoln by George Bissell – again from an original casting in the Chicago History Museum.
More on Vittorre Bocchetta
Born in Sassari, Sardinia, Bocchetta came from a family of artists but was discouraged from developing his talents for they would distract him from his studies. He received a degree in classical humanities in Cagliari in 1938. Then, he returned to Verona and was admitted to the University of Florence, faculty of classical humanities and history of philosophy, where he graduated in 1944.
As member of the Italian anti-facist resistance movement during World War II, he experienced first-hand the horrors of interrogation, forced labor and torture.
Post-war, he fled Italy for Argentina because “the same fascists in different shirts were in power.” His academic credentials were not accepted for a university teaching position there, so he was forced to accept a job in a ceramics factory. There he discovered his talent in sculpture. In 1958, while visiting America, a military coup occurred. Bocchetta decided not to return; abandoning many projects. Unable to find work because of his limited English skills, he painted murals. They are unsigned because he detested doing the work.
Bocchetta had an almost 30 year history here in Chicago, studying and teaching at the university level as well as teaching Italian on a public television program, publishing scholarly books on the Latin and Spanish Golden Age and making public monuments. His friendship with Abraham Lincoln Book Shop also dates from this era.
Three of his works are viewable today; The Egg Man and Man in the Sand are at 201 E. Chestnut and Mother Earth originally stood in the courtyard of the Public Library. The building, a Beaux Arts treasure, housed the GAR meeting hall as well. The building escaped demolition thanks in large part to a group of civic-minded preservationists, one of which was the book shop’s founder. It then became the Chicago Cultural Center. After a thoughtful and much-lauded building renovation, Mother Earth was moved to the Popular Library at the Harold Washington Library, where it stands today. All three are similar in style to his contemporary, Henry Moore.
Ever a creative, Bocchetta used various materials like bronze, stainless steel, alabaster, and marble. He also experimented with overlaying a plastic core with bronze.
At 95 he is still working today. He was honored with a retrospect of his work called The Life and Art of Vittore Bocchetta during the spring of 2015, in Cagliari in Sardinia, Italy.