Antonioli Fausto, Square in Udine – View of a Square in Udine – View of Piazza Contarena in Udine

1,856; oil on canvas
cm. 57,5 x 46
signed and dated bottom left: "F. Antonioli 1856"; on the corner of the building on the left: “M[…]ner Mer. Imp/Kommando/Imp. Reg./Comando Militare/di/Piazza”; at the top of the poster on the building on the right: “Questa sera/al teatro/Minerva/si rappresenta”; at the bottom: “L’ultimo/ Giorno di Suli/musica del S[ig.] Ferrari”
Inventory: AH02011AFC
Provenance: Segrate, Giovanna Gallo Collection (until 1987); Istituto Bancario Italiano Collection (until 1991)

This painting in its original gilt frame with velvet insets was purchased, together with the Istituto Bancario Italiano (IBI) Collection in 1991.

The year before the execution of this work dated 1856, Fausto Antonioli, a landscapist and portraitist active in Udine since 1850, had been well received by local critics when he showed a view of Piazza Contarena (whereabouts unknown) at the Friuli Esposizione di Arti Belle e Meccaniche. That painting was commissioned by Francesco Verzegnassi, an Udine silk merchant friend of Ippolito Nievo and supporter of the clandestine preparations for the struggle against Austria. 

There are a close stylistic and thematic similarities between the painting in the Collection and this work described by the press at the time as a small view distinguished by a solid perspective scheme and the use of strong chiaroscuro. In fact, the painting presents a clear-cut, detailed view of the main square in the town, populated by small figures in contemporary dress. This square has changed its name several times over the centuries. In the Middle Ages it was known as Piazza del Vino, then Piazza del Comune and, following the arrival of the Venetians in the 16th century, it took the name of one of the lieutenants in the army and became Piazza Contarena. After the Unification of Italy in 1866 the square was named after Vittorio Emanuele II until the Liberation when it became Piazza della Libertà, as it is still called today. In this view Antonioli focuses on the 15th-century Loggia del Lionello, in the foreground on the right, the Loggia di San Giovanni, the Torre dell’Orologio and the column with the Statue of Justice; while to the left at a distance there is the Statue of Peace, by the sculptor Giovan Battista Comolli, donated to the city of Udine by Emperor Franz I to commemorate the Treaty of Campoformido.

The precise rendering of the architecture is enriched by numerous details that allude to city life and the political climate of the time. On the building on the right a sign in Italian and German indicates the presence of the local Austrian Imperial-Royal Military Command, on the opposite side a theatre poster announces L’Ultimo Giorno di Suli, the opera inspired by the Greek-Turkish war, which had already been staged in other Italian cities and performed in Turin in 1863.

The account of the resistance of Souli, the last Greek city to capitulate to the Turks, contained a call to patriotic values and bore a close resemblance, particularly in Udine, to the anti-Hapsburg uprising of spring 1848, when the city led by a temporary government had pushed back the Austrian army. Thus the piazza became the place that was the symbol of the city during the Risorgimento, and not by chance Antonioli depicted it once again in autumn 1866 in what was perhaps the first view of Italian Udine after the entry of Garibaldi’s troops into the city on 26 July 1866 and it thus became part of the Italian state, at the end of the third War of Independence (View of Piazza Contarena in Udine, Udine, Civici Musei Gallerie di Storia e Arte). 

The highly detailed precision of the description of the architecture and the viewpoint adopted in the various versions of the theme would seem to suggest that they were based on photographs, which the artist probably became familiar with through Count Augusto Gabriele Agricola, one of the first to experiment with the photographic technique in Friuli. Evidence of the friendship between these two protagonists of the city’s cultural life is also found in the photographic portrait of the painter and the Portrait of Count Agricola (Udine, Civici Musei), executed in oils by Antonioli in 1857, after his friend’s death. 

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

Sources:Archivio Fondazione Cariplo, Pratiche Ex IBI. Opere d'arte. Fald.1/2, scheda carico opere d'arte IBI no. 1298; Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio Archivistico Cariplo, Opere d'arte. Atti d'acquisto ex Cariplo. Pratica no. 879 R/990.


Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, n. 379, p. 210, ill. (Piazza di Udine);
Paola Zatti, Fausto Antonioli, Veduta della piazza di Udine, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 2, pp. 60-62, 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. V.77, pp. 205-206, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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