Migliara Giovanni, View of the Façade of Milan Cathedral – View of the Cathedral Square in Milan
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1,819 - 1,828; oil on canvas
cm. 47 x 61

Inventory: AH01496AFC
Provenance: Milan, Angelo Rizzoli Collection (in 1937); Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti Collection (until 1985)
Exibition: 1998, Brescia , n. 15

A recent critical hypothesis has identified this painting as View of the Façade of Milan Cathedral shown for the first time at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera in 1829, which reappeared in 1937, owned by Angelo Rizzoli, at the commemorative exhibition devoted to Giovanni Migliara at the Pinacoteca Civica in Alessandria. Two paintings owned by Rizzoli were shown in the exhibition, both of them depicting the Piazza del Duomo and catalogued and reproduced in the 1937 monograph on the artist by Arturo Mensi. The earlier one, dated 1819, shows the side of the cathedral with a portion of Palazzo Reale, the second version, dated 1828, with the façade of the cathedral framed by the Coperto dei Figini in the foreground and the Rebecchino building and Palazzo Reale in the background. This view constitutes one of the most emblematic images of Piazza del Duomo in Milan before the demolition and redevelopment undertaken in the second half of the century. The subject is identical to that of the work in the Cariplo Collection, and it may be the canvas shown with the title The Piazza of the Cathedral, Milan in the 1930 exhibition of Italian art held at the Royal Academy in London and curated by Ugo Ojetti and Adolfo Venturi.

However, research to date has not been able to identify with certainty the painting in the Cariplo Collection as the work formerly owned by Rizzoli. The perspective view catalogued in Arturo Mensi’s monograph, in fact, was executed in oil on canvas and bears the artist’s signature and the date “1828”. The inscriptions on the work in the Collection are no longer visible, perhaps they were removed when the canvas was relined, which also altered its size. During this restoration work, carried out prior to purchase, the stretcher may have been replaced by another antique one, as suggested in the entry for the painting Monastery, since the label from the 1937 commemorative exhibition is also missing. The critical debate has been reopened by the recent discovery in a Milanese private collection of a View of Piazza del Duomo in Milan identical to the one in the Collection, it is executed in oil on canvas with a more refined pictorial technique, and signed and dated on the back “1819”. In fact, this painting may be the prototype for the subsequent reproductions, including the one in the Collection, and for the numerous miniatures, the most famous of which is documented as being in the Carmen Ferrero Collection in 1937.

Migliara began to paint this subject in 1812, when he made his debut at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera showing four views of Milan depicting Porta Nuova, the atrium of Sant’Ambrogio, Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza del Duomo, and the same subject appeared later in the 1817 exhibition. The Piazza del Duomo exhibited at the Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente in 1957 definitely dates from that period, since the work still features the small figures in the manner of the 18th-century typical of Migliara’s youthful production, but it already has the perspective scheme of the later versions.

The version in the Cariplo Collection, like its 1819 prototype, marks a turning point in his oeuvre when he created a new pictorial genre for the time, in which he combined scenes from contemporary life with a faithful depiction of some of the most chracteristic places in Milan, a genre the press soon labelled “urban painting”. This interpretation of Piazza del Duomo as the hub of the city, to which all the social classes gravitated, became extremely popular and was still very well received by the critics when it appeared in the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera in 1929, many years after the subject was first executed.

This repetition of the same image was a constant throughout Migliara’s artistic career. He initially chose to do this for commercial reasons to meet the demands of the market, but later for research and study purposes. This method may also be linked to the use of the camera obscura, adopted at the time for replicas of perspective paintings. Migliara must have been familiar with this instrument, which had been used since the mid-18th century by Venetian masters, whose vedutas were painstakingly copied by the artist ever since the outset of his career.

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


Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, p. 300, ill. n. 580;
Paola Segramora, Giovanni Migliara, Piazza del Duomo col Coperto dei Figini e l’isolato del Rebecchino, in Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, Angelo Inganni 1807-1880. Un pittore bresciano nella Milano romantica, catalogo della mostra, Brescia, Palazzo Bonoris, 18 aprile-30 agosto 1998, Skira, Milano, 1998, n. 15, p. 202, ill. p. 90;
Paola Zatti, Giovanni Migliara, Veduta di piazza del Duomo in Milano, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 175, pp. 268-269, ill. ;
Paola Segramora Rivolta, Giovanni Migliara, Piazza del Duomo col Coperto dei Figini e l’isolato del Rebecchino, in Franco Della Peruta, Carlo G. Lacaita, Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, I volti di Carlo Cattaneo (1801-1869). Un grande italiano del Risorgimento, catalogo della mostra, Milano, Palazzo Morando Attendolo Bolognini, 19 aprile-16 settembre 2001, Skira, Milano, 2001, p. 205, n. 155.;
Sergio Rebora, L’immagine di Milano nella pittura dell’Ottocento. La pinacoteca della Fondazione Cariplo, in “Ca’ de Sass”, n. 149-150, Cariplo, Milano, aprile-agosto 2001, pp. 47-48;
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. V.54, p. 197, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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