Migliara Giovanni, Landscape with Horses – View with Horses
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1,815 - 1,818; oil on canvas mounted on panel
cm. 13,2 x 17,4
Signed bottom left, on the column: "Miglia"
Inventory: AH01503AFC
Provenance: Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti (in 1985)

Giovanni Migliara has turned this painting of a group of soldiers stopping at a blacksmith’s into an amusing genre scene. At the imperious order of the royal guard dragoon in full–dress uniform two men of the people lead a white horse to be shoed, while its master, the officer in the foreground is busy courting the innkeeper’s wife and does not notice that two children are trying to pull his valuable sword out of its scabbard. A soldier is standing waiting behind the couple, while another has already resumed the march and is walking away alone through the rustic portico into the countryside. In the dark foreground among the hens, rendered with rapid, highly colourful brushstrokes there are pots, agricultural implements and even a notice on the column bearing the artist’s abbreviated signature.

The study for the soldiers datable to 1815–1816, in the Musei Civici at Alessandria, the rich thick brushwork and the rustic setting of the scene place the work in the second half of the 1810s. This painting closely resembles the first scene called “in imitation of the Flemish artists” shown in the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera in 1818, in which critics recognised the influence of 17th- and 18th-century genre painting. Migliara addressed this subject until his mature period producing a substantial repertoire of works including A Procession Landing on the Lake Shore, 1826 (Alessandria, Musei Civici), A Horse Fair in the Country, 1831 (Milan, private collection) and  Laundry in a Convent, 1835 (Brescia, Musei Civici d’Arte e Storia).

Migliara made notes and sketches on the farming world – farmhouses, rustic buildings, animals – which he used for the numerous scenes of rural life, greatly admired by his contemporaries for their skilful light effects, enjoyable subjects and meticulous rendering of every detail. The artist combined painting from life with a consummate academic practice of copying and, in particular, he used the plaster model of a horse’s head that he kept in his studio for the anatomical rendering of horses, which always recur in the same pose in other works, for example, View of the Environs of Lecco in the Cariplo Collection.

The very small format and enamelled surface of this work suggest a comparison with the artist’s parallel production of verres fixés, miniatures on silk mounted on glass that were popular with refined collectors in the first half of the 19th century. These small gleaming pictures were unusual, precious objects ideal for displaying in studies, but also for decorating the lids of boxes and snuffboxes.

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

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


Paola Zatti, Giovanni Migliara, Veduta con cavalli, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 167, pp. 261-262, 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.24, pp. 185-186, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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