Feragutti Visconti Adolfo, Remember Mummy
FCIP 0082.jpg

1896 - 1904; oil on canvas
cm. 154 x 116
Signed bottom left towards the centre: "A. Feragutti Visconti"
Inventory: FCIP 0082
Provenance: 1993, Milan, Finarte
Exibition: 1904, Lugano, Teatro Apollo (senza catalogo), s. n.; 1999, Genova, n. 35; 2009, Pavia, n. 34

In 1887 Luigi Bianchi exhibited Goodbye to the Emigrants at the Esposizione Nazionale in Venice, which Feragutti must certainly have seen since he was showing three works a few rooms further on in the same exhibition.

The dramatically topical subject had already been addressed by French and English artists in the mid-19th century – for example by Honoré Daumier in Les émigrants a sculpture whose various versions executed between 1848 and 1851 were very well known, and by Ford Madox Ford in Last Look at England, 1853 – whereas in Italy it only appeared around 1880, which coincided significantly with a rapid increase in emigration from some Italian regions and the Canton Ticino at the time. The artists express the discomfort, the hope and the waiting linked with leaving one’s home country in works that have a powerful emotional impact. Two of the earliest are Daddy Returns by Egisto Ferroni, 1883, and Emigrants exhibited at Brera in 1885 by Amerino Cagnoni. The ports, jetties and wharves from which thousands of emigrants departed were described with a documentary or illustrative purpose, at different times and with different results, by Angiolo Tommasi, Raffaello Gamogi and Arnaldo Ferraguti in works that share the same expressive title The Emigrants. The theme of delay and waiting had already been dealt with in sculpture by Domenico Ghidoni from Brescia who had shown the life-size plaster work Emigrants at the 1st Brera Triennale in 1891, where he won the Tantardini Prize. Moreover, to add another example, Mother of Emigrants by the Milanese artist Alessandro Vanotti was awarded the prize at the Fondazione Canonica Brera painting competition in 1892.
Feragutti first addressed this important iconographical theme in social verist painting in A Departure, 1891, shown at the Esposizione Artistica Svizzera in Lugano. Subsequently he reprised the same subject several times until he had executed the work considered definitive, which was exhibited at the Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia and is now lost. The canvas in the Collection can be identified as a further version of this subject, shown at the solo exhibition mounted at the Teatro Apollo in Lugano in 1904.
It is difficult not to read an autobiographical component into the tormented, painful, lengthy gestation of the work, which is described in the letters the artist sent to a friend. In fact, the young emigrant leaving his native land and his mother’s love was Feragutti himself, and he remained unsettled, torn between two countries all his life.
The mother’s heartrending goodbye to her lost little emigrant, on a jetty stripped of any attractive anecdotal element, takes place at Gandria, on Lake Lugano. Men, women and children from this village and the surrounding area would leave from here on the first step of their journey to Italy and also across the Atlantic.

 painting appeared for the first time at the 5th Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia in 1903 and subsequently it was shown in Milan at the Esposizione Annuale della Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente.


 

In a letter sent to the painter Abbondio Fumagalli, Feragutti confided to his friend that he had great expectations for this work, so much so that he hoped it would be bought by the royal family or by a ministry. But the critics of the time did not rate it very highly. In fact, the picture was slated and its iconography was scathingly criticised because it followed the models of social realism in vogue a decade earlier and now passé.


 

The large canvas is almost entirely taken up by the family group of the woman with her three children. The little girl standing gazes with tenderness and astonishment at her mother who is gently embracing the little emigrant, while the ship in the background indicates their immediate separation. Crouching in the foreground another little girl with a red scarf on her head is grasping a lamp that illuminates her face. The artist draws on this figure for The Lighted Lamp (Lugano, private collection) a canvas painted between 1905 and 1906, which is very similar to the work in the Cariplo Collection as regards the use of broad brushstrokes and the virtuoso play of light.


 

The artist sentimentalises the expressions, and exploits the gestures and light effects –the pale light of dawn and the lighted lamp that allude to the family’s journey by night – to emphasize the moving details of the story. This sentimental and agonizing, rather than dramatic scene is part of a socially committed pictorial production that began with the exponents of the second Scapigliatura movement, and was later treated differently by the Verists.


 

Sources:Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio Cariplo, Opere d'arte. Atti d'acquisto ex Cariplo. Fald. 3/3, pratica no. 879 R/968

Bibliography

Cose d'arte, in “Il Corriere del Ticino”, a. XIII, n. 243 , Lugano, 25 ottobre 1904, p. 2;
Dipinti del XIX secolo, Asta 852, Finarte, Milano, 1993, n. 70, pp. 58-59;
Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, p. 252, ill. n. 476;
Lucia Pini, Adolfo Feragutti Visconti, Ricordati della mamma, in Giovanna Ginex - Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Scoperta del Mare. Pittori lombardi in Liguria tra '800 e '900, catalogo della mostra, Genova, Palazzo Ducale, 9 luglio-24 ottobre 1999, Mazzotta, Milano, 1999, n. 35, p. 222, ill.;
Sergio Rebora, Adolfo Feragutti Visconti, Ricordati della mamma, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 78, pp. 155-157, ill.;
Giovanni Anzani, Tra paesaggio e realtà urbana. Uno sguardo sulla pittura di fine Ottocento e primo Novecento a Milano e nel Canton Ticino, in Giovanni Anzani - Elisabetta Chiodini, a cura di, La pittura del vero tra Lombardia e Canton Ticino (1865-1910), catalogo della mostra, Rancate, Pinacoteca Cantonale Giovanni Zust, 21 settembre - 8 dicembre 2008, Silvano Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo, 2008, p. 22.;
Elena Lissoni, Feragutti Visconti Adolfo, Ricordati della mamma, in http:/artgate-cariplo.it, 2009, (versione 2009);
Susanna Zatti - Lorenza Tonani , a cura di, Il bacio tra Romanticismo e Novecento, catalogo della mostra, Pavia, Scuderie del Castello Visconteo, 14 febbraio-2 giugno 2009, Silvana editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo, 2009, ill. n. 34, p. 98;
Laura Casone, Ricordati della mamma, in Giovanna Ginex, Adolfo Feragutti Visconti. 1850-1924, Corner Banca, Skira, Milano, 2011, (in corso di stampa)

Giovanna Ginex
 
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