Gola Emilio, Washerwomen along the Canal (Naviglio)
works associated
connected artists

1,894 - 1,899; pastel and tempera on grey paper mounted on canvas
cm. 106 x 74
Signed bottom left: “E. Gola 9[…]”; on the stretcher, at top, brand “Restauro conservativo/ Nicola Guido/ Torino”
Inventory: AH01422AFC
Provenance: Milan, Gaspare Gussoni Collection (until 1932); Finarte, Auction 439, Milan, 21 April 1983.
Exibition: 1930, Roma, Galleria di Roma, Mostra dei capolavori di Emilio Gola (documento non consultato), s.n.; 1932, Milano, n. 162; 1946, Milano, Galleria Gussoni, Mostra retrospettiva di Emilio Gola (documento non consultato), n. 11; 1982, Pavia, n. 1; 1989, Milano, Palazzo Reale, n. 73; 1998-1999, Monza, n. 69; 2007, Milano, n. 12

This work was purchased on the antique market in 1983. Before entering the Cariplo Collection the painting underwent important integration work involving the reinforcement of the support through relining and the filling of extensive gaps.

The presence of the pastel in the collection of the Hon. Gaspare Gussoni, a friend of the artist Cesare Tallone and a sensitive and intelligent collector who followed the developments of Lombard Naturalism, is documented until 1932. During the 1920s Gussoni established himself as a key figure in the Milanese art market, promoting painters from the Novecento Italiano group first at the Galleria-Libreria in Via Croce Rossa, and then at the Galleria Milano, which he later bought.

From 1881, beginning with a study from life entitled Along the Canal displayed at the Milan Esposizione Nazionale di Belle Arti, Emilio Gola took up landscape painting in the form of views of the canals that he executed in parallel with his prolific production of portraits begun in the 1870s. In his treatment of these new subjects the painter developed an individual language, characterised by the study of atmospheric and seasonal variations, in works such as the Washerwomen along the Canal (Naviglio) in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan and Canal Outside  Milan (Milan, Banca Intesa). These themes guaranteed him remarkable success at an international level, which was attested also by the purchase of the painting In Brianza (Venice, Ca’ Pesaro – Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna) by the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Venice, as well as by the official recognition accorded him on many occasions, such as the Munich Exhibitions and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, and the invitation to exhibit at the Carnegie Istitute, Pittsburgh, in 1901. 

In the work in the Cariplo Collection the painter approaches the subject by tightly framing the scene between the canal and the houses in order to focus on the washerwomen, who are captured while relaxing for a moment, as in a genre scene. The massive expansion of the city and consequent increase in the number of inhabitants meant that the Milanese had to do their laundry in the ever increasing number of wash-houses in the canal network.  This was a subject that suited the leading exponents of Lombard Naturalism, who were interested in depicting first-hand their impressions of the most humble and everyday aspects of city life. Gola’s painting was rooted in Flemish realism, which he had had the chance to appreciate during his trips abroad as a young man, although he also updated it in the manner of the Milanese views by Mosè Bianchi.  In no time at all the painter distinguished himself on the Milanese scene due to his intense research on the way objects are struck by light and on colour, which enabled him to gradually go beyond a typically 19th-century anecdotal style.

The Ripa Ticinese stretch of Naviglio Grande in this painting is reproposed from the same perspective viewpoint in several different versions, such as Naviglio formerly owned by Gerli, dated 1900. Other marked similarities are to be found with the canvas entitled At Porta Ticinese recorded in the Montedison Collection and dated to 1895, thus confirming that the painting in the Cariplo Collection was executed around the mid-1890s. The use of pastel ensures a suffused softness that, in this work, takes on a silvery tone through the modulation of sheer transparencies that cannot be obtained with oils. The artist’s pastels are either accomplished works, often in a large format, on grey or yellow paper, which are distinguished, as in The Garden, by touches of tempera, or simply rapid impressions, preparatory sketches or technical exercises, such as View with Snow or Standing Figure.

 The importance of these pastels in the painter’s output is attested by their regularly being displayed at the Famiglia Artistica exhibitions, until 1923. That same year the Galleria dell’Esame in Milan exhibited a selection of his pastels and watercolours at a public exhibition, and in 1956 a whole section in the Gola retrospective at the Palazzo della Permanente in Milan was devoted to his drawings. 

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/606


Enrico Somarè, La Collezione on. G. Gussoni, Galleria Milano, Milano, 1932, p. 11, tav. XIII;
Matrici del Novecento. Emilio Gola. Cesare Tallone, introd. di Rossana Bossaglia, catalogo della mostra, Pavia-Galleria Gavazzi, 12 novembre-5 dicembre 1982, s.e., Broni, 1982, n. 1, s.p., ill.;
Dipinti del XIX secolo, Asta 439, Finarte, Milano, 1983, n. 139, p. 40;
Nicoletta Colombo, Emilio Gola. Lavandaie al Naviglio, in Raffaele De Grada, a cura di, Emilio Gola, catalogo della mostra, Milano, Palazzo Reale 1989, s.e., Milano, 1989, n. 73, p. 105, ill.;
Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, p. 264, n. 509;
Maria Angela Previtera, Emilio Gola, Lavandaie sul naviglio, in Carlo Pirovano, a cura di, Luci e colori del vero.Genti e paesi nella pittura veneta e lombarda dalle collezioni Ambroveneta-Banca Intesa e Fondazione Cariplo, catalogo della mostra, Monza, Serrone della Villa Reale, 20 novembre 1998- 24 gennaio 1999, Electa, Milano, 1998, p. 136;
Sergio Rebora, Emilio Gola. Lavandaie sul Naviglio, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 105, pp. 185-186, ill. (datato 1894);
Sergio Rebora, L’immagine di Milano nella pittura dell’Ottocento. La pinacoteca della Fondazione Cariplo, in “Ca’ de Sass”, n. 149-150, Cariplo, Milano, aprile-agosto 2001, p. 54, ill.;
Maria Canella – Cristina Cenedella, a cura di, La vita fragile. Dipinti, ambienti, immagini di Martinitt, Stelline, Pio albergo Trivulzio nella Milano del lungo Ottocento 1815-1915, catalogo della mostra, Milano, Galleria Gruppo Credito Valtellinese, Refettorio delle Stelline, 14 settembre – 27 ottobre 2007, Arti Grafiche Amilcare Pizzi, Cinisello Balsamo, 2007, n. 12, p. 251, ill. p. 26;
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. 73;
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. IX.141, p. 233, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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