A native of Italy, Achille Peretti immigrated to the United States in 1884 following government repression of the First International, a leftist association of socialists and labor leaders to which he belonged.
N native of Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy, Achille Peretti immigrated to the United States in 1884 following government repression of the First International (also known as the International Workingmen’s Association), a leftist association of socialists and labor leaders to which he belonged. His birth date is uncertain; it is sometimes cited as 1857 and sometimes as 1862. Settling in New Orleans in 1884 after touring the Gulf Coast and Chicago, he quickly won commissions to decorate rooms in public buildings and to create frescoes and paintings in churches. He also painted portraits, landscapes, and still lifes. Not limited to a single medium, he produced wood carvings, miniatures, and plaster sculpture as well. The subjects he chose to depict were equally varied, including everything from cityscapes and chickens to religious figures and street scenes.
Peretti arrived in the United States with an impressive art education. As he was the third generation of artists in his family, his earliest instruction took place in the home. He later studied in several European cities with some of the leading artists of the day. His mentors included Giuseppe Bertini and Raffaele Casnedi in Milan; Giovanni Morelli in Naples; and Antonio Ciseri and Tullo Massarani in Rome. He took additional studies at the Academy of Arts and the Reale Academia di Belle Arte, both in Milan, and the Art School of Rome. As a student he won many prizes, and, in 1878, was awarded the respected Mensione d’onore in painting.
Work in New Orleans
Soon after he moved to New Orleans, Peretti was asked to decorate the waiting room of the Pickwick Club, an elite businessmen’s organization. Although he was frequently identified as a portrait painter, Peretti was particularly active in church decoration, creating frescoes and religious paintings for Our Lady of the Gulf in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and for numerous churches in New Orleans, including St. Patrick’s Church, St. Vincent de Paul Church, St. Theresa’s Church, St. John the Baptist Church, Holy Name of Mary Church, and St. Louis Cathedral. His mural for St. Stephen’s Church in New Orleans showed the martyrdom of St. Stephen, modeled after a painting by Raphael. He also worked on the interior decoration of the New Orleans Opera House. By 1892 his reputation had spread, and Peretti was commissioned to paint frescos for St. Colombkille Church in Chicago, Illinois.
Peretti exhibited his work at the Artists’ Association of New Orleans in 1894, 1897, and from 1901 to 1902. His paintings were also displayed at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in Nashville in 1897. He was a member of the French Association of Artists and the Artists’ Association of New Orleans.
Achille Peretti became a U.S. citizen on February 20, 1890. From 1915 until his death in Chicago on August 22, 1923, he resided at 632 St. Peter Street in the French Quarter. It was the same house that Tennessee Williams was to occupy in the late 1940s.