Migliara Giovanni, Interior of a church
AH01502AFC.jpg
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1,815 - 1,825; oil on panel
cm. 13,4 x 17,3
Signed bottom left: "Miglia"
Inventory: AH01502AFC
Provenance: Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti (in 1985)

The work entered the Cariplo Collection in 1985 and depicts the interior of a medieval church during a religious service. This very small miniature on wood is a fine example of Migliara’s art and shows how he combined a rigorous perspective view with an amusing account of contemporary events. These small pictures “to be looked at close to” ensured the artist’s success from the outset with critics and a cultured public, who collected them as small precious objects to decorate studies.

The painter reconstructs the interior with great precision, lingering over the many details that characterise it – the fresco of the Adoration of the Magi beneath the arch, the 16th-century altarpiece, the decorative architectural elements, the lamps, pictures and holy water stoup – and above the door on the extreme right he even adds the inscription “SS. GERV”, alluding to the name of the church, which was perhaps dedicated to Saints Gervasius and Protasius, but it cannot be identified for certain as there are no drawings connected with this work in the artist’s sketchbook. In fact, Migliara often put clues in his paintings that would enable the public to identify the place or the scene depicted, though this did not stop him from adding imaginary details. This was a working method that was well received by contemporary critics, who appreciated the precision of the details as well as the evocative atmosphere of his works, which reflect the critical and artistic revival of the Middle Ages typical of Romanticism.

The refined use of light in this painting contributes to evoking the interior and is based on the intense contrast between the large areas in shade and those struck by the ray of light filtering through the upper window in the apse, and thus conferring a mystical aura on the priest who is officiating surrounded by worshippers. Another group of the faithful are praying before the altar – with its beautiful 16th-century altarpiece, partly hidden by the wooden partition and its bright red curtains – while an elegant couple with a little boy and a dog are visiting the church, heedless of the service taking place, and ruin the reverent, holy atmosphere.    

The highly refined miniaturist technique, the elegant luminism with its amber tones and the subject  which distinguish the work are largely drawn from the Flemish artistic tradition, mediated however by the best works of the French painters François Marius Granet, Henry Fradelle and Pierre Revoil, to satisfy the demand of a contemporary public.

Monumental interiors with scenes of contemporary life are one of the recurrent motifs in Migliara’s oeuvre. They range from miniatures executed with rapid, soft brushwork, as in the work under examination here, stylistically similar to View with Horses also in the Cariplo Collection, to large–format paintings depicting major Italian monuments with documentary meticulousness, such as the various versions of the Interior of Milan Cathedral, St Mark’s in Venice, Part of the Interior of Pisa Cathedral, the Sanctuary of Subiaco, the Interior of the Monastery of Hautecombe; as well as ‘invented’ architecture, taken from different sources, and anonymous places like Interior of a Church, 1832, in the Collection, and  Interior of a Church of Early Times shown at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera in 1833.

Migliara’s vast output led Giuseppe Mazzini, an astute commentator of contemporary art, to acknowledge him as the artist who had elevated perspective painting to the status of history painting, but above all the artist whose works constituted a repertoire of the great monuments of the past in their present state, which evoked the identity of the nation through images that when contemplated reawakened the patriotic spirit of the Italians.

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

Bibliography

Paola Zatti, Giovanni Migliara, Interno di una chiesa, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 171, pp. 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.33, p. 188, ill.

Elena Lissoni
 
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