Zinelli, the fourth of seven children, was always an introverted child.
At the age nine he was separated from his family and sent to work as a
farm laborer. Country life made him even more withdrawn. At age fifteen
Zinelli moved to Verona to become a butcher's apprentice, but the transition
from the country to the city was quite difficult for him. In Verona he
developed an interest in music and painting, and he lived there until
the army drafted him in 1936.
During his service in the military the first signs of his mental illness
appeared. In 1941, in a state of disorientation and Panic resulting from
war trauma, Zinelli attacked his captain and was discharged. After the
war a persecution complex increasingly plagued him, horrifying visual
hallucinations, and speech disorders. In 1947 his family committed him
to the San Giacomo Psychiatric Hospital in Verona.
At the hospital Zinelli drew graffiti on the hospital walls with a brick.
Two years later in 1957, the Countess Berletti set up a Studio for Artistic
Expression inside the hospital. Zinelli participated in this forum, and
in this creative environment he flourished, painting each day for fourteen
years. Using a fine brush, Zinelli painted plants, animals, boats, and
houses. However, his predominant motif was a profile of a person. In 1962
his style shifted as he began adding stripes of dense color on the paper
as a backdrop to his repeated figures. Later he would add a plethora of
letters and words. However, the words were made-up and senseless, reflecting
the artist's inability to use language.
The San Giacomo hospital was closed in 1971, and Zinelli was transferred
to the recently Constructed Marzana Psychiatric Hospital in Verona. Zinelli
was greatly distraught by the loss of the old studio, and as a result
he painted infrequently. Soon after his transfer, the new hospital was
also closed. After twenty-four years of confinement, Zinelli was released
to his family. Unfortunately, they did not have the ability or desire
to care for him properly. Sadly, Carlo Zinelli died of tuberculosis in