Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916)

Rembrandt Bugatti had a meteoric career. Born October 16, 1884 in Milan, Italy, his talent was recognized at the age of 14 when the sculptor Paul Troubetskoy saw his first terra cotta group, a peasant leading three cows. And on January 8, 1916, at the age of 32, he killed himself in Paris.

He was the son of the architect and decorator Carlo Bugatti, the brother of the automobile builder Ettore Bugatti, and the nephew and godson of the painter Giovanni Segantini. Encouraged by those around him, he devoted himself to sculpture at an early age, adopting animals as his preferred theme. He modeled them in plastiline, working freehand from the beginning, without instruments or preparatory sketches. 

Between 1903 and 1908, Bugatti lived in Paris where his parents had moved. He spent much time at the zoo in the Jardin des Plantes, where he was able to observe animals in nature, and at the horse market near the Austerlitz railway station. Around this time, too, he frequented the zoo at Antwerp in Belgium and traveled in Germany.

When he was 19, he was discovered by the founder (est-ce qu’on peut mettre plutôt il est capté par, ou qui souhaite travailler avec lui ; parce qu’il a déjà été découvert par Troubetskoy, donc ça ne colle pas) and art dealer Adrien-Aurélien Hébrard, with whom he signed an exclusive contract in 1905. The head of the studio, Albino Palazzolo, also a native of Milan, became his mold-maker and favorite founder. Every year, Hébrard showed his protégé’s work in his gallery, and he took charge of its editioning and distribution, developing a commercial system based on numbered editions. Bugatti’s work met with immediate success, and up until 1914, he was amazingly productive, modeling all wildlife with tremendous talent.

During World War One, all the animals in the Antwerp zoo were killed. Working with the Red Cross to help the wounded, the young sculptor caught tuberculosis. In 1915, he entered the Italian army; once discharged, he returned to Paris, where he found Hébrard’s gallery closed. He committed suicide in his studio.