Migliara Giovanni, Venice – Small Square with Church and Canal – View of a Small Square in Venice
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1,812 - 1,815; oil on paper mounted on canvas
cm. 29 x 39
On the stretcher, paper label: “Città di Alessandria, Mostra Commemorativa”
Inventory: AH01508AFC
Provenance: Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti (in 1985)

This painting has a label on the stretcher referring to the commemorative exhibition devoted to Giovanni Migliara at the Pinacoteca Civica, Alessandria, in 1937, where, for the first time, a large group of representative works by the artists, on loan from the most important private and public Italian collections, were displayed. However, the exhibition catalogue did not mention this work but a replica entitled Venetian Church belonging to the Carrara Academy in Bergamo, which still has the original label of the 1937 show, complete with the number under which it was displayed (no. 1, section IV). On close examination, the two paintings are almost identical where format and subject are concerned, and were both executed in oil on paper mounted on canvas. This particular technique not only made it easier to reproduce the subjects, but also enabled the artist to obtain exceptionally brilliant effects and an enamelled finish like that of the Neo-Flemish miniatures that were widespread in Milan, thanks to French masters, in the first decade of the 19th century.

This work depicts an invented view in the Venetian style, inspired by the 18th-century tradition of capricci, which freely combine imaginary elements with real architecture, often including the principal Italian monuments of every period in a single scene.

Migliara updates this painting genre by abandoning the wide view of 18th-century origin constructed through parallel planes, and using to advantage what he had learned from studying set design under Gaspare Galliari (1760–1818). In fact, as in a stage set, the buildings in shadow in the foreground open onto the prominently featured church, allowing a glimpse of the monuments along the canal in the distance.

Here the inspiration is provided by Canaletto’s etching depicting an Imaginary View with San Giacometto di Rialto, which had already been replicated by Migliara in a painting with the same title (Venice, Galleria Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro). In the work in the Cariplo Collection, the artist borrows only a few details from the well-known Canaletto work, such as the portico, the slanting wooden roof and the row of columns surmounted by a tympanum featured on the façade of the church, onto which Lombard elements are also grafted. The motif of the medallions sculpted on the upper podium in white marble frequently recurs in the works executed in the first half of the 1910s, and was widely used both for Venetian views and the early Milanese scenes that were featured in the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera from 1812, the year the artist made his official debut.

Apart from the Carrara Academy variant mentioned earlier, there exist two other known versions of the painting in the Cariplo Collection: Perspective with Figures  (formerly owned by Count Guido Barbiano di Belgiojoso from Milan) that was featured in the exhibition ‘La Pittura Lombarda nel Secolo XIX’, organised by the Milan Società delle Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente in 1900, and a partial reproduction of the subject, described in the volume on the artist by Arturo Mensi, published in 1937, as being owned by a Milanese lawyer named Carlo Rossi.

The execution of many autograph copies and of partial reproductions of the subject confirms the lasting popularity of Venice-inspired themes with leading Milanese collectors, whose collections boasted works by Canaletto and Bernardo Bellotto from the mid-18th century on.  At the beginning of the following century Giovanni Migliara took advantage of the wide availability of these subjects, interpreting them individually in replicas and inventive works that were still destined for the nobility, but above all for the middle classes who were pleased that they could easily be found on the market at a reasonable prices, which were kept down by the fact that many replicas of each work were available.

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 n. 879 R/695

Bibliography

Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, p. 300, ill. n. 578;
Paola Zatti, Giovanni Migliara, Veduta di una piazzetta a Venezia, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 160, pp. 252-254, ill. ;
Fernando Noris, a cura di, Ottocento tra realtà e sogno. Il lungo secolo della pittura italiana e lombarda, catalogo della mostra, Bergamo, Spazio Viterbi, 28 novembre 2008 - 22 febbraio 2009, Provincia di Bergamo - Fondazione Cariplo, Bergamo - Milano, 2008, ill. p. 22;
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.19, p.184, ill.

Elena Lissoni
 
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