The exhibition itinerary of the Gallerie d’Italia in Piazza Scala, “Da Canova a Boccioni. Le collezioni della Fondazione Cariplo e di Intesa Sanpaolo” (“From Canova to Boccioni. The 19th Century in the Collections of Fondazione Cariplo and Intesa Sanpaolo”) spans an entire century in the history of art: the Italian 19th century.
The itinerary starts off with a magnificent series of thirteen plaster bas-reliefs by Antonio Canova, inspired by Homer, Virgil and Plato and belonging to the Fondazione Cariplo, and ends equally symbolically with four masterpieces by Umberto Boccioni – including Tre Donne and Officine a Porta Romana (“Three Women” and “Factories at Porta Romana”, 1909-1910) – belonging to Intesa Sanpaolo’s cultural heritage and crucial in order to understand the transition from Pointillism to Futurism.
The protagonist here is 19th-century Lombard painting, represented by paintings that attest to Milan’s role as the main artistic centre in Italy at the time, giving voice to the expectations of a rapidly evolving society, as well as the aspirations of a nation in the making.
The civil dimension of Romanticism finds its greatest expression in the historical images painted by Francesco Hayez, as the museum houses several of his major works. With their moving, epic impetus, the colossal battle paintings by Gerolamo Induno and Sebastiano De Albertis shows the crucial impulse that the Lombard painters gave to the Italian historical issues of the Risorgimento. Beside these examples of historical subjects, the museum sections present the wide range of different pictorial genres – city veduta, perspective painting, landscapes, scenes from popular life – that were hallowed by exhibitions and collectors as the expression of modern life.
Paintings by Giuseppe Molteni, Giovanni Migliara, Luigi Bisi, Giuseppe Canella, Luigi Premazzi, Angelo Inganni embody the renewed interest in an important pictorial season – that of Lombard Romanticism – that is still little known and insufficiently valued. But they also, and in an exceptional fashion, document the image and transformations of the city, depicted not only in its majestic monumental centre, the Duomo, but also in the everyday bustle of its working class neighbourhoods, along the banks of the Navigli that no longer exist.
Naturalism – especially in the art of landscape painting – which took off with Domenico and Gerolamo Induno, dominated the latter half of the century, paving the way for the Pointillism experimented with by Giovanni Segantini, Filippo Carcano, Giovanni Sottocornola, Angelo Morbelli. Furthermore, the presence of works by Giovanni Boldini, Telemaco Signorini, Lorenzo Delleani, Federico Zandomeneghi, Vincenzo Irolli, Antonio Mancini offers a comparison with the more innovative experiences of other Italian centres, such as the Macchiaioli’s Florence, Turin and Naples.
Remarkable for the quality and importance of the works on display is the section on Symbolism, a trend that dominated the artistic scene in Italy and became renowned all over Europe, between the 19th and 20th centuries. Emblematic of this – beside paintings still tied to the transfiguration of everyday life by Luigi Rossi, Emilio Gola, Leonardo Bazzaro – are masterpieces by Angelo Morbelli, Filippo Carcano e Gaetano Previati, made using the new pointillist technique. These paintings show a modern visionary approach which, in the monumental surfaces painted by Giulio Aristide Sartorio (the Parliament painter who played a leading role in the great official decoration) recalling Phydias and Michelangelo, become an allegory of an opulent celebration of classical tradition.