Migliara Giovanni, Venice, Religious Service; Venetian Scene
works associated
connected artists

1,820 - 1,828; oil on cardboard
cm. 23,5 x 32,5
Signed bottom left: "Migliara"; Label on the back with: [GAE]TANO GA[…]/[…] CIATORE DI C[…]/[…] DI TELE INVERNICIATE; paper label with “Migliara” in ink; traces of sealing wax
Inventory: AH01510AFC
Provenance: Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti (in 1985)
Exibition: 2019, Torino, n. 7

This painting depicts an imaginary perspective view executed by combining different elements of Veneto architecture, which the artist probably captured in drawings from life during the 1820s on his many travels for study purposes. This view of a small group of the faithful gathered around a votive shrine in the foreground, with a bridge over a canal and a church in the background, would appear to be Venetian, but the model for the work was a view of the church of Santa Giustina in Colle in Padua, with a procession along the canals of Prato della Valle by night (Nocturnal View of a Church on the Bank of a Canal with a Crowd of the Faithful, oil on silk mounted on glass, Alessandria, Musei Civici). Here Migliara has reprised the Padua model, definitely studied from life, leaving the foreground unchanged and adding Venetian architectural motifs, especially the imposing mass of the church of the Salute, so that the place can be readily identified, though it is in fact completely imaginary.

This working method that involved freely combining views and ancient and modern monuments, goes back to the 18th-century tradition of the capriccio, which Migliara revived from 1812 on in a series of Venetian scenes with fantasy elements that were shown in the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera. The painter’s first copies and imaginary Venetian-style paintings that still imitated the models of Canaletto – such as Venice, Piazzetta with Church and Canal and View of the Doge’s Palace in Venice in the Collection –  were soon replaced by contemporary views, with partially or wholly invented settings and figures in modern dress. Thus he injected new life into the themes of the capriccio, which were still much appreciated by the public, and updated the tradition of the previous century by bringing it in line with the 19th-century Romantic style.

The artist first showed three Views of Ruins with Figures Illuminated by Moonlight in the 1814 Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera, but his production of evocative nocturnal scenes, often lit by cold moonlight and amber torches, increased towards the end of the 1820s. These refined light effects found favour with public and critics alike, and Domenico Biorci even wrote a poem on the subject in 1829. This style characterised the artist’s mature works as can also be seen from The Back of an Ancient Church with Adjacent Cemetery, identified as the funerary chapel of the noble Staurenghi family (Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera) and the City with Bridge Illuminated by Moonlight and Blacksmith’s Forge (whereabouts unknown) exhibited respectively in 1828 and 1829.  A nocturnal view very similar to the one under examination is also to be found in Portrait of Giovanni Migliara, executed by Giuseppe Molteni in 1829, the version in charcoal of this is also in the Collection and goes to prove how popular this subject was with Migliara’s contemporaries.

Sources:Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio archivistico Cariplo, Opere d'arte. Atti d'acquisto ex Cariplo. Fald. 2/3, pratica no. 879 R/695 (Venezia, funzione religiosa)


Paola Zatti, Giovanni Migliara, Scena veneziana, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 176, pp. 270-271, ill.;
Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Giovanni Migliara. Viaggio in Italia, catalogo della mostra, Torino, Museo di Arti Decorative Accorsi - Ometto, 28 febbraio - 16 giugno 2019, Silvana editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo, 2019, n. 7, p. 133, ill. p.65

Elena Lissoni
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