Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 24: Gustinus Ambrosi (1893-1975)

[Image description: Gustinus Ambrosi in his later years, outdoors, on a footpath near a stream, holding a fishing rod and a fish; his hair is white and windblown]

Austrian sculptor Gustinus Ambrosi was born on this date in 1893, at Eisenstadt near Vienna. He was a musical prodigy before he contracted meningitis at age 7; he survived with "total deafness." The boy soon turned his artistic inclinations to sculpture: as a teenaged apprentice, he studied sculpture at night. Soon, he'd produced his first sculpture of note, titled "Man with the Broken Neck." While still a teenager, he won a prestigious national prize for sculpture.

Ambrosi went on to create over 3000 works, at least 600 of them portrait busts of many of the leaders of European politics and culture in the 1930s. The story goes that he was allowed to work on his bust of Mussolini during closed government meetings, because it was understood that he could not overhear any confidential discussions. He maintained studios in Vienna, Rome, Paris, London, and Brussels in his lifetime. For the 100th anniversary of Gallaudet University, Ambrosi was commissioned to create a sculpture of Edward Miner Gallaudet. Ambrosi also wrote and published volumes of German poetry.

Today, there is an Ambrosi Museum in Vienna, dedicated to the display of his works. His friend, composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, wrote a piano quintet dedicated to Gustinus Ambrosi.

[Ambrosi is the second alphabetical entry in Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences, Bonnie Meath-Lang, ed. (Greenwood Publishing 1995).]

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