Hector de Gregorio: Il Musico, 2012
Castrati were the singing superstars of the 18th Century and they travelled around the courts and capitals of Europe, pulling the crowds wherever they performed. The brainwave to create castrati had first occurred in 17th Century Rome, where the pope had banned women singing in churches or on the stage.
In 17th and 18th Century Italy it is estimated that around 4,000 boys were castrated each year, from the age of eight upwards, with the aim of them making a fortune as opera singers and soloists with choirs in churches and royal palaces. Most of the boys came from poor families who wanted their sons to become rich and famous musical stars and escape from the poverty they had been born into. Only a small amount of these boys however would become famous castrati, the rest would end up in the Church as they were forbidden to marry.
The castrato’s voice was prized for its combination of high pitch and power with the unbroken voice able to reach the high notes, but delivered with the strength of an adult male giving it a quality that was different from a woman, a boy or a male ‘falsetto’ voice.
The vulgarity of castration and the vulnerability of the castrati themselves who remained in a body constrained in a pubescent state was the inspiration behind this new work by Hector de Gregorio.
In Il Musico Hector de Gregorio wanted to show the character in the image before he went on stage to perform, he wanted to show the private and vulnerable character that the castrati were underneath. De Gregorio decided against bright colours and decorative paraphernalia and instead chose for an overall flesh colour to represent the exposed character. The white collar and beads in the image refer to the castrati’s most valuable and forever preserved virtue – the whiteness of their voice.
The exhibitionism shown in Il Musico is the castrati’s strength but also his prison; he has become an engineered luxury object made for the abstract and divine.
Bestselling artist Hector de Gregorio has been described as ‘an unswervingly incendiary artist’, he is interested in seducing the viewer, and his deliciously dark photographic images certainly act as a visual lure. In his images nothing is sacred, containing as they do religious overtones and something beyond mere festishism.
De Gregorio graduated from London’s Royal College of Art in 2009, with a Master’s Degree in Printmaking, where he developed his labour-intensive way of working. Each image involves extensive research and costume making, photography, digital imaging and hand-finishing.
Hector de Gregorio has exhibited widely, with exhibitions in London, Berlin, Milan, New York, Miami and Chicago. His deliciously modern portraiture is held in the collections of Lady Victoria Conran, Mehmet Omer Koc and Theo Fennell.In November 2009 he won the prestigious annual Young Masters Art Prize for his inspiring contemporary portraiture.