Michele Felice Cornè

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University of Delaware
Michele Felice Cornè (c 1757-1845) was born in the Kingdom of Naples, possibly on the Island of Elba. Trained in his native country, he was an accomplished marine and landscape painter at the time he left Italy and emigrated to Salem, Massachusetts in 1800. ☐ During his 45 years in America, Cornè lived a quiet life, and were it not for his painting, his obscurity would be complete. For the first 15 years of his residence in this country he was an extremely prolific and versatile craftsman, painting on canvas, paper, wood, metal and plaster, and in such media as oil, water color and india ink. Although best known for his ship portraits and panoramic views of naval battles and landscapes, he also drew portraits, painted charming genre scenes, and copied works of other artists. A testimony of his success in portraying the naval actions of the War of 1812 was the wholesale copying of his paintings of these subjects by other artists, and by craftsmen who utililized them to decorate ceramics, clocks, mirrors and other household items. A catalogue appended to this paper will present the most comprehensive listing of Cornè’s work thus far assembled. ☐ This paper will attempt to discuss the following points in the career of Cornè: I. A biographical survey, included in which will be an attempt to correct several erroneous facts which have long been attached to his name. II. A discussion of Cornè as a painter, particularly illustrating the influences on his style. III. A short chapter on Cornè's place in American art, his influence on later American painting, and a critical discussion of his work from both a contemporary and modern viewpoint. ☐ Although Cornè is certainly not the most important, or most influential painter of his time, he is a colorful and interesting artist, whose work has been overlooked by the great majority of the chroniclers of American art. This paper will try to set the artist in his proper place in the history of American painting.