1908 - 1999
by Peter Fischer, historian of mosaic.
Signorini, who died in Ravenna on 30th March 1999, was a Grand Old
Man of mosaic, probably the very oldest, as he reached the age of
ninety on 23rd August last year.
Professor of Mosaic at the local Accademia di Belle Arti for four
decades, he was loved and indeed revered by generations of his students
from all over the world for his gentle and unassuming manner, and
his unsurpassed skill, which he in turn had learned directly from
the Old Masters of mosaic of the fifth and sixth centuries whose
techniques he studied at first hand when he was in charge of restoration
work in the famous churches of Ravenna.
Renato Signorini at work
was largely due to Signorini that these early Byzantine techniques
were rediscovered and revived, not only for making exact copies
of old Ravenna mosaics for sale to tourists and foreign museums,
but also for mosaics designed by modern artists such as Gino Severini,
who learned much from him. Signorini thus helped to modernize the
art of mosaic, although he was too modest to offer mosaics designed
also practised the very convenient "double reverse" method of setting
a mosaic in a temporary bed and covering the surface with layers
of gauze so that it can be transported to the site with the carefully
varied inclinations of the tesserae intact.
leaving his teaching post he continued working in the studio run
by his son Carlo. From our first meeting in 1965 I remain in this
dear friend's debt for introducing me to the fascination of mosaic
art and its technical complexities. Although known and admired only
by specialists, Renato Signorini must rank as one of the great mosaicists
of our century.