The history of this painting began in 1838, when it was purchased by Ferdinand I of Austria for the Belvedere in Vienna. As a result of the financial problems besetting the Habsburgs, it was then decided to sell the work together with other Italian paintings from the collection, which were auctioned at the Galleria Scopinich, Milan, in 1928. It was exhibited at the Esposizione Nazionale di Belle Arti di Brera in 1838 and proved a great success with the public and critics alike – further enhanced by its acquisition for the imperial collections – as a result of the subject, drawn directly from contemporary life and portrayed in the large format previously reserved for history painting. The iconographic and compositional model of the work can perhaps be traced to The Confession (1712, Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen) by the Bolognese painter Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665–1747), which portrays the sacrament of confession as a familiar part of everyday life. The sweet yet pert woman kneeling in the confessional was thought by some contemporary critics to represent a young mother who had yielded to the advances of an admirer. Meticulously captured in all the details of furnishing and dress, the contemporary scene was instead seen by the Catholic critic Pietro Estense Selvatico as designed to illustrate the moral beauty of everyday life. Already sought after as a fashionable portrait painter in the 1830s, Giuseppe Molteni thus developed a type of genre painting then in great demand on the market, depicting aspects of society and day-to-day life in a variety of styles ranging from folksy and anecdotal to dramatic in subjects of social satire.


  • Title: The Confession
  • Creator: Giuseppe Molteni
  • Date: 1838/1838
  • Signature, Inscription: G. MOLTENI P./ 1838
  • Provenance: This painting was was purchased by Ferdinand I of Austria for the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna (until 1928)., Cariplo Foundation, 1998
  • Physical Dimensions: w141 x h173,5 cm
  • Framing: The painting is still in its original neo-baroque frame
  • Exhibition History: This painting was exhibited at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera in 1838 (no. 2)
  • Exhibition: Gallerie d'Italia, Piazza Scala, 6, Milano
  • Type: Painting, oil on canvas
  • Rights: http://www.artgate-cariplo.it/en/disclaimer.html
  • External Link: www.artgate-cariplo.it

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps