Migliara Giovanni, Capuchin Friars Returning to the Monastery after Begging Alms with Provisions for the Winter; Returning from Begging Alms; Scene at the Monastery Gate
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1,825 - 1,830; oil on canvas
cm. 46,8 x 38,8
Signed bottom right near the center: “G.o Migliara f.” Modern inscription on back of stretcher top left: “Firmato. G. Migliara «Provagione per l’inverno» EREDITÀ: CONTI»“
Inventory: AH01504AFC
Provenance: Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti Collection (until 1985)

The arrival of a wagon carrying women and provisions for the winter served the artist as a pretext for an amusing scene at the entrance to a monastery. A friar rushes down the steps of the church, one in the foreground makes signals enjoining another to keep quiet, and two others beside the wagon in the centre are so overjoyed that they jump right out of their sandals. Under the entrance arch a pot-bellied friar stops to observe the scene while another rings the bell. The gate to the courtyard is hurriedly opened and a figure in the upper storey waves his arms in glee at the sight of the arrival of winter provisions and girls. The warning inscription “MEMENTO MORI” (“Remember you must die”) can be seen at the entrance, the motto of the begging closed order of Trappist monks. This severe reminder to lead an ascetic life detached from earthly and transitory things, in this case is interpreted as an open invitation to enjoy the present. The amusing scene is one of many by the artist, which are anticlerical in tone and sometimes express biting criticism, though more often, as here, they have the good-natured, indulgent irony of genre painting.

The church and monastery are situated in a tranquil setting, which Migliara produced by modulating the contrast between the large area of shadow with vegetation in the foreground and the mountain landscape against a clear and cloudless sky. Unquestionably painted from life with the later addition of invented figures following the artist’s habitual practice, this view may depict a place in the Lombardy countryside, which Migliara often portrayed in his sketchbooks.

There is a smaller copy of this painting executed by Teodolinda Sabajno Migliara, daughter and pupil of the artist, now in the Musei Civici, Alessandria. It comes from an important group of works by Giovanni and Teodolinda Migliara, given to the municipality of Alessandria in 1854 by the solicitor Antonio Maria Viccha, a friend and patron of the painter’s. In the letter accompanying the donation the former title of the work is given as Capuchin Friars Returning to the Monastery after Begging Alms with Provisions for the Winter.

This second version differs from the original both in its inferior quality and because the painter has chosen to replace the village girls in the wagon with provisions, thus toning down the desecrating and licentious mood of the first work. Teodolinda Migliara was quite a successful artist and was given a number of important commissions thanks to the fact that her works were shown regularly at the Esposizioni di Belle Arti di Brera during the 1930s. She had a repertoire of perspective views that were very much influenced by the style and subjects of her father, as can be seen from the Interior of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan also in the Collection. Migliara was in the habit of getting the pupils who attended his private school to execute copies of his most famous paintings and they often made their debut at the official exhibitions with these works.

From November 2011, the work has been on view at the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan.

Sources:Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio Cariplo, Opere d’arte. Atti d’acquisto ex Cariplo. Fald. 2/3, pratica no. 879 R/695


Paola Zatti, Giovanni Migliara. Veduta alle porte di un convento, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 173, p. 266, ill..;
Elena Lissoni, in Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, Da Canova a Boccioni. Le collezioni della Fondazione Cariplo e di Intesa Sanpaolo, Skira, Milano, 2011, n. III.23, p. 185, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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