Canella Carlo, Milan Cathedral and the Corsia dei Servi
FCIP 0043.jpg
works associated
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1,860 - 1,865; oil on canvas
cm. 69,5 x 86
Signed bottom left: “C. Canella”
Inventory: FCIP 0043
Provenance: Milan, Marquis A. Zanoletti Collection (in 1962); 1971, Milan, antique market
Exibition: 1957, Milano, n. 54

The work was purchased on the antique market and entered the Collection in 1971.

Carlo Canella moved to Milan in 1842 where, on the advice of his more famous brother Giuseppe, he practised his art by representing the most characteristic views of the city, which were also the ones most in demand on the market. The Cathedral, represented from different viewpoints and in various atmospheric conditions, became a recurrent subject in his output, and was shown time and again at exhibitions in Milan and Verona between 1858 and 1867.

The version in the Cariplo Collection depicts the entrance to the Corsia dei Servi – the beginning of the ancient road that linked Milan to Bergamo – from Piazza del Duomo. Now Corso Vittoro Emanuele, the street was originally named after the Gothic church of S. Maria dei Servi, rebuilt in the Neoclassical style at the beginning of the 19th century, after which it was known as San Carlo.

The façade of Milan Cathedral  in the extreme foreground is almost completely excluded from the visual space, while the side of the building projects a cone of shade on the street thronging with people. In the heart of the city, people from all walks of life – common folk, bourgeiosie, aristocracy – vendors’ stalls and carriages are represented in a strong narrative vein that describes everyday life in minute detail. The modest, workaday aspect of the city, with all its hustle and bustle, is the protagonist of this view which, while relegating the imposing Cathedral to the sidelines, nevertheless makes it the guardian and symbol of the city. 

The lively and personal interpretation of the subject evinces the artist’s maturity, and he is finally able to go beyond the habitual references to Giuseppe Canella, abandoning the “panoramic” image and adopting a decidely off-centre vanishing point and sharply contrasting lights. The faithful representation of the scenes of modern everyday life links this piece to Angelo Inganni’s mature work, a fusion of genre painting and the perspective view, whose popularity endured well after the mid-19th century. There is a known variant, erroneously attributed to Giuseppe Canella and formerly owned by Marquis Zanoletti, which differs from the work in the Collection merely on account of the few figures that have been added. This only goes to show that these views destined for the general public were all very similar.


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


Sources:Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio Cariplo, Opere d’arte. Atti d’acquisto ex Cariplo. Fald. 1/3, pratica no. 879 R/445


Milano di ieri e di oggi attraverso l'arte, catalogo della mostra, Milano, Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente, 21 aprile-19 maggio 1957, Società per le Belle Arti ed esposizione Permanente, Milano, 1957, ill. n. 54;
Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, p. 230, ill. n. 426;
Paola Zatti, Carlo Canella, Il Duomo di Milano e la Corsia dei Servi, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 40, pp. 105-106, ill.;
Andrea Tomezzoli, Verona, in Giuseppe Pavanello, a cura di, La Pittura nel Veneto. L’Ottocento, I, Electa, Milano, 2002, p. 324, ill. n. 378, ill. p. 326.;
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.56, p. 198, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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