View of the row of Roman columns in front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan.
Tempera on paper
1820 -1825 ca.
Giuseppe Molteni (Affori ,Milan 1800 – Milan 1867)
Portrait of a Lady , 1840 – 1850 ca
Oil on cardboard
20 x 27 cm.
This painting is characterized by a refined almost precious texture and is by Giuseppe Molteni, who was the most popular portrait painter together with Francesco Hayez – who was both a friend and rival – in the great period of Romanticism in Milan , in particular between the twenties and the fifties of the nineteenth century. His success was confirmed by the annual exhibitions in the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera, where his “ambientati” style portraits were shown: in these works the figures are included in backgrounds that conjure up the environment and the conditions of the characters depicted, as pointed out by critics of the time, in particular Giuseppe Rovani in his ‘Storia delle lettere e delle arti in Italia’ published in 1855, then confirmed in the famous book ‘Le tre arti’ of 1874 , which called him the “re della moda”, the “Matador delle esposizioni di Brera”. In particular, this piece is not a typical “ambientato” portrait, even if the beautiful face stands out, as enchanted, in a light and terse mountain atmosphere. In the background on the left there appears a profile of a group of fir trees while on the right stands a grey mountain crest with pink edges. The date of this work should be assigned to the fifth decade of the century, both for the hairstyle of portrayed figure, both for the detailed comparison with other portraits of very similar solutions, such as the gaze focused on the viewer, the bright output of the colour of the skin, the detailed depictions of the curls emerging from a light background. I refer in particular to the Ritratto di Francesca Reina e al Ritratto di famiglia (Giuseppe Molteni 1880-1867 e il Ritratto nella Milano romantica. Pittura, collezionismo, restauro e tutela, exhibition catalog [Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli e Museo di Milano] curated by F. Mazzocca , L. Galli and P. Michero Segramora Rivolta, Milan, Skira, 2001, pp. 135, 140), two extraordinary results of the full maturity of the artist where, as in this case, are manifested in full the seduction of his fragrant light painting.
Professor Fernando Mazzocca