Son of Vincenzo Abbati, Neapolitan painter of interiors, he moved with his family first to Florence in 1842, then to Venice where he lived from 1846 to 1858. His father was his first teacher, then in 1850 he enrolled in the Accademia di Belle Arti where he studied under the guidance of Grigoletti and Bagnara. In Venice he met and frequently saw Stefano Ussi, Domenico Morelli, Vito D’Ancona and Telemaco Signorini, who had come in the city for a period of study. In 1858, Abbati was again in Neaples, where during the following year he exhibited the painting “La Cappella di San Tommaso d’Aquino in San Domenico Maggiore” (The San Tommaso d’Aquino Chapel in San Domenico Maggiore) at the exposition of the Reale Museo Borbonico.
In 1860 he joined the Thousand expedition and lost an eye during a battle. At the end of the same year, he moved to Florence where he met Signorini and D’Ancona who introduced him into the circle of the Caffé Michelangelo, where the Macchiaioli movement developped, frequented by painters such as Vincenzo Cabianca, Odoardo Borrani, Serafino De Tivoli and animated by the critic, collector and Maecenas Diego Martelli. Abbati formed closed friendships and began a clear and intensive artistic itinerary, which was however bound to come to an end a few years later, that makes him one of the best painters of the Italian XIX Century. In that period he studied the interiors of the florentine churches of San Miniato and Santa Croce and during the summer months he was guest of Diego Martelli in Castiglioncello together with Signorini and probably during the same year he painted “Il chiostro di Santa Croce” (The cloister of Santa Croce).
He constantly exhibited his works between 1862 and 1864: in 1863, at the Promotrici of Turin and of Florence, he exhibited en plein air works, such as “Dintorni di Firenze” (Florence surroundings), “Ulivi del Monte alle Croci” (Olives of the Monte alle Croci), “Motivo presso Castiglioncello” (Motif by Castiglioncello); in 1864 he showed “Il lattaio di Piagentina” (The milkman of Piagentina) in Brera. During the same year, he made various studies from life of the Pisan Camposanto and spent the summer months in Castiglioncello, again as a guest of Martelli. With him he also shared – and this confirms a close friendship – the florentine flat in Via dello Sprone which in 1865 was replaced with a house outside Porta San Gallo, where also Zandomeneghi, coming from Venice, went to live. In the same period he painted the beautiful “Ritratto di Teresa Fabbrini” (Portrait of Teresa Fabbrini) and “Monaco al coro” (The monk at the chorus) which was sent to the Neaples Promotrice and then bought by the Capodimonte Museum.
Meanwhile the political fervour didn’t stop. In 1866 he participated in the III Independence War and was taken prisoner during the Custoza battle and sent to Croatia. Back in Florence in December 1866, he moved to Castelnuovo di Misericordia in the Leghorn inland, where he enjoyed a happy period: he painted, sent his works to various expositions and through Martelli he met Giovanni Fattori who appreciated his work. In December 1867 Abbati was bitten by his own dog Cennino, he caught rabies and died two months later at the Florence hospital of Santa Maria Nuova.
Written by: Gioela Massagli – Translated by: Cristina Panigada
© Studio d’Arte dell’800