Ettore Bugatti’s younger brother Rembrandt was born in Milan on 16 October 1884.
As his parents moved in a circle of friends that included the composers Giacomo Puccini and Leoncavallo, the sculptor Ercole Rosa and the painter Giovanni Segantini, he was exposed to artists and the world of art from a very early age. Inspired and encouraged by the sculptor Prince Paul Troubetzkoy, Rembrandt soon himself embarked on a career as an artist. His earliest works were woodcarvings; in 1900 he began studying at the Milan Academy of Arts and at 16 years of age he was already a well-trained sculptor. He was exceptionally gifted and showed a particular talent for drawing. It was not long before he developed his own unique style and discovered his primary subject: animals. His oldest extant bronze sculpture (from the year 1901) represents a lowing cow, and by 1903 he had already shown his work at exhibitions in Milan, Turin, and Venice.
In 1904, Rembrandt moved with his family to Paris, where he was accepted into the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Three years later he relocated to Antwerp, where he experienced the most successful year of his artistic career. Antwerp was home to Belgium’s most influential art school, the “Antwerp Academy”, and what’s more: the city boasted a zoo showcasing numerous exotic animals. It was during this period that Rembrandt produced his sculpture of a rearing elephant, a copy of which adorned his brother’s world-famous Bugatti Royale in the 1920s.
In 1910, Rembrandt’s sculptures began to shed their natural shapes, becoming more angular, geometric and structured – presumably due to the influence of Cubism. But he did not completely lose himself in Cubist structures, integrating Art Deco elements into his work. He was clearly ahead of his times: Ignorant of the artist and when he lived, one could easily surmise that his sculptures’ were created a decade later than their actual genesis. Today, Rembrandt Bugatti’s works fetch record prices at auctions around the world.
With the outbreak of World War I, Rembrandt volunteered as a paramedic aide at the Red Cross Military Hospital in Antwerp. His experiences among the sick and dying caused the sensitive artist to lapse into a protracted depression and soon his financial situation also became critical – he could no longer find interested buyers for his work. On 8 January 1916, Rembrandt Bugatti committed suicide.
Rembrandt with one of his animal sculptures
The grill of the Bugatti Royale boasted a bronze sculpture designed by Rembrandt