Migliara Giovanni, Interior of Pisa Cathedral – Church in Lombardy
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1,835; oil on canvas
cm. 44,5 x 59,2
Signed bottom left: "Gio. Migliara"; on the top of the stretcher in ink: “chiesa”; label: “Galleria d’arte Mainetti”; label: “Galleria d’arte dei Mille 0019 Hr. 15”; on the canvas in ballpoint: “Cesare Prinetti”
Inventory: AH01500AFC
Provenance: Milan, Galleria d'Arte Mainetti; Galleria d'Arte dei Mille; Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti (in 1985)

This painting, wrongly identified as a view of a church in Lombardy, is in fact a view of the Interior of Pisa Cathedral, executed on commission and shown at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera in 1835. The artist’s stay in Tuscany in the autumn of 1825 had supplied him with a repertoire of places and monuments he could use later, even after many years, as can be seen from the works shown in the Brera exhibitions between 1828 and 1835, depicting the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, and Pisa cemetery. In this period new subjects featured alongside the Lombard and Milanese views that distinguished the artist’s production bringing him success with public and critics alike.

Numerous preparatory studies for this work and two small oil paintings of the same subject in Varese (Musei Civici) and Alessandria (Musei Civici) document Migliara’s interest in Pisa Cathedral and illustrate the rigorous method of working from life that he adopted during his many travels through Italy.

For this perspective view, in particular, the artist used a plan of the building, some drawings of the whole cathedral and of architectural and decorative details, including the holy water stoup with a small group of visitors, which are now in the Musei Civici, Alessandria. The elegant scene becomes the focus of the painting and is enhanced by the diagonal beam of light from the door that is slightly ajar. The scene features several figures: a young girl, a stylish woman seen from behind, accompanied by a young man who has taken off his hat and is stretching out his hand towards the holy water stoup.

The actual place recorded in his sketchbooks is an essential aid to memory for reconstructing the setting, but the artist puts together different congruent points of view to create an ‘invented’ painting in which, however, the place depicted is still recognisable. The result is a perspective view that includes different places that are extended like a wideangle shot, which multiplies the perspectives and scenes through which the story is narrated. In order to execute complex compositions like this work in the Collection, the artist also used small paintings as preparatory studies, in which he reconstructed the spatial grid and light effects in detail, but without adding figures, and subsequently put them on the market. A small oil painting in the Musei Civici, Alessandria, exactly reproduces the righthand section of this work with the side aisle and in the final version it is combined with a view of the transept – where a procession is beginning completely in shadow – and with the addition of figures in contemporary dress in the centre.

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


Esposizione dei grandi e piccoli concorsi ai premi e delle opere degli artisti e dilettanti nelle gallerie della I. R. Accademia di belle arti per l’anno 1835, Imp. Regia Stamperia, Milano, 1835, n. 243, p. 30;
Arturo Mensi, Giovanni Migliara (1785-1837), Istituto Italiano di Arti Grafiche, Bergamo, 1937, n. 1191, p. 107;
Paola Zatti, Giovanni Migliara, Interno di una chiesa in Lombardia, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 170, pp. 264-265, 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.32, pp. 187-188, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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