Ussi Stefano, Bedouins Riding Camels

1,872; oil on canvas
cm. 91 x 71
Signed and dated bottom right: “S. USSI I 1872”
Inventory: AH02020AFC
Provenance: Milan, Banca di Credito e Risparmio (before 1967); Rome, Istituto Bancario Italiano Collection (until 1991)
Exibition: 2008-2009, Bergamo, s. n.; 2011-2012, Roma, n. 1; 2012, Reggio Emilia, n. 9

This painting from the IBI Collection was executed by Stefano Ussi during his second stay in Egypt. After the success of his Expulsion of the Duke of Athens (Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Galleria d’Arte Moderna), a work on a historical subject awarded a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, the painter went to Cairo two years later on the occasion of the opening of the Suez Canal and painted a series of works including Prayer in the Desert (Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna), shown at the exhibition of the Florence Società Promotrice di Belle Arti in 1871. He returned to Egypt in 1872, by invitation of Isma’il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, who commissioned a painting of the departure of pilgrims for Mecca. As on his previous journey, the painter made numerous drawings in a sketchbook (Milan, private collection), which he later drew upon for works featuring Egyptian locations and customs.

The oriental theme, then in great demand among collectors, was a constant presence in European art in the second half of the 19th century. It appears in the work of other Italian artist-travellers such as Alberto Pasini, whose Desert Messenger (c. 1862, Turin, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea) is similar to Bedouins Riding Camels in iconographic terms. Both artists discover unprecedented light effects in the eastern landscapes and capture them in bright and glowing colours. The legends and images of the East were also depicted in the same period by Domenico Morelli, who frequented the Macchiaioli group at the Michelangelo café in Florence together with Ussi. Attention should be drawn to his Mohammed’s Prayer (Trieste, Museo Revoltella) on an episode from the Koran, which was exhibited in Venice in 1887.

Sources:Archivio Fondazione Cariplo, Pratiche Ex IBI. Opere d’arte. Fald. 1/2, scheda carico opere d’arte IBI no. 1067


Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, p. 344, ill. n. 661;
Sergio Rebora, Stefano Ussi, Beduini a cammello, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 235, p. 339-341, ill. p. 339;
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. 39;
Emanuela Angiulli, Anna Villari, a cura di, Orientalisti. Incanti e scoperte nella pittura dell’Ottocento italiano, catalogo della mostra, Roma, Chiostro del Bramante, 19 ottobre 2011-22 gennaio 2012, Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo, 2011, ill. n. 1, p. 99;
Emanuela Angiuli, Anna Villari, a cura di, Incanti di terre lontane. Hayez – Fontanesi e la pittura italiana tra Otto e Novecento, catalogo della mostra, Reggio Emilia, Palazzo Magnani, 4 febbraio-29 aprile 2012, Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo, 2012, ill. n. 9, p. 105

Laura Casone
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