Migliara Giovanni, Imaginary View
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1,812 - 1,815; oil on panel
cm. 30,2 x 40,4

Inventory: AH01509AFC
Provenance: Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti (in 1985) Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti (in 1985) Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti (in 1985)

This painting belongs to the artist’s youthful period, between 1812 and 1815, which is well documented by the works he regularly displayed at the Brera Esposizione di Belle Arti, namely invented views in the Venetian style and early Milanese scenes. These were shown at the exhibitions of 1812, 1813, 1815 and, lastly, in 1820, and are characterised by the inclusion of architectural elements in the Lombard style, which we find accurately depicted from life in his sketchbooks from the same period.


On these occasions Migliara – who had already made some accomplished copies of Canaletto’s views of Venice – modelled his invented scenes on Canaletto’s famous capricci that freely combine imaginary elements, Venetian and Roman motifs and ancient and modern architecture within a complex system of references. These elements were certainly known to Migliara through the etchings and the engravings made from Canaletto’s paintings by Antonio Visentini, which were published for the first time in 1735 and reprinted until the mid-19th century.


In this work various buildings and a pair of crumbling arches stretch along the bank of the lagoon, while in the distance we glimpse a church that closely resembles the Renaissance basilica next to the Scuola Grande di S. Marco in the Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo. The imposing ancient colonnade and the brick architecture appear, with some variants, in the two versions, one in Turin (Galleria Sabauda) and the other in Venice (Museo Correr), of The Columns of San Lorenzo with Imaginary Details (Venice, Museo Correr), of the famous Milan view that is a testimony of the city’s glorious classical past, freely interpreted by the artist. While rendering the cultured aspect of Canaletto’s capricci, which often contained sophisticated references to the most celebrated ancient and modern monuments, Migliara recreates the workaday aspect of daily life in the city by including busy boatmen, washing hanging out to dry and a few other small figures in 18th-century garb, sketched with rapid brushstrokes.


Migliara’s capricci, which were often replicated in several versions executed in oils, were produced also for the purpose of making engravings, and were used extensively both for etchings, such as Little House Made from Ruins (Brescia, Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo), and the first experiments with lithographs, often conducted by the artist himself. 

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


Paola Zatti, Giovanni Migliara, Veduta di fantasia, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 161, pp. 255-256, 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. 23;
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.20, pp. 184-185, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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