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Domenico Mastroianni's Temporary Artworks

There’s a very particular line of French postcards from the early 20th century that should stand out to any collector for their beauty: the clay reliefs of sculptor Domenico Mastroianni.

Mastroianni was famous for his ephemeral art sculptures, sculpture éphémère, which he would produce on massive clay plates. Each ultra-realistic piece would be carved, then photographed for reproduction as a postcard. After that, the plate would be demolished and work would begin on the next piece.

That’s the nature of ephemeral art: it’s meant to be temporary. Although we have many examples of his work as it was photographed, we’ll never be able to see those original plates again—but that’s almost the point. He could produce at a rapid pace, getting more works done and published over the course of his lifetime than many artists would release in a year.

It was publisher Alfred Noyer that distributed Mastroianni’s postcards, and his art would also show up in other media—like sheet music collections.

Real photo postcards of Mastroianni’s sculptures can still be found in antique shops, online postcard shops, and catalogued elsewhere on the web. Do you have any of his work in your collection? Share in the comments!