Faces of the GAM Milan

A journey through portraits of the 19th and 20th centuries, taken from the collections of the Galleria d'Arte Moderna (GAM) in Milan.

By Galleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Portrait of Countess Antonietta Negroni Prati Morosini as a Child (1858/1858) by Francesco HayezGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Portrait of Countess Antonietta Negroni Prati Morosini as a Child

Commissioned by the subject's father, Count Alessandro Negroni Prati Morosini, this painting was one of a series of portraits celebrating the joining of the Negroni Prati and Morosini families. Countess Antonietta Negroni Prati Morosini appears at thecenter of an elegant yet plain background, brought to life by a sumptuous still-life of colorful flowers that seem to blend with the bouquet she is holding in front of her, and the fallen peony at her feet. Besides the fusion of portraiture and still-life drawing, the natural expression in the young girl's gaze and demeanor is one of the painting's most attractive features.In order to avoid long, tiring sessions, Hayez instead relied on the use of photographs, some of which are still kept in the Fondo Hayez collection at the Braidense National Library. The child's expression is one of confusion and awkwardness—understandable when a child as young as 4is forced to stand still for long periods of time, during the lengthy process required for taking a photograph at that time. The artist did not attempt to make the portrait less realistic or more noble,giving it an unusual naturalness compared to other children's portraiture from this period. This "photographic" quality was, however, met with negative criticism. Two sketches, one for the figure of the young countess and another for the magnolia at the foot of the large vase, can be found in the Brera Academy's Gabinetto dei Disegni (Civic Drawings Collection).

Hayez painted the girl's face from recent photographs, to avoid making the 4-year-old countess pose for long periods of time.

Detail of the cut peony at the young countess' feet.

Portrait of Countess Antonietta Negroni Prati Morosini (1871/1872) by Francesco HayezGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Portrait of Countess Antonietta Negroni Prati Morosini

This oval-shaped canvas is one of Hayez' late masterpieces of portraiture. It depicts Countess Antonietta Negroni Prati Morosini, whom the artist had portrayed as a child 14 years earlier,in a painting that is today exhibited in the same room of the GAMas the previous painting. Both pieces were donated to the collection by Anna Cristina del Mayno Casati in 1935. The eldest daughter of Giuseppina Negroni Prati Morosini (a friend of Hayez), Antonietta had learned the basics of painting from the artist, alongside her younger sister Luigia. The girl is portrayed in a neat, domestic setting, dominated by a large chair and the distinctive warm hues of its golden wood and yellow silk. Antonietta is wearing a richly detailed light-blue dress and is gently clutching the rose resting on her lap. The flower serves as an allusion to the inescapable passage of time. As revealed in the painter's correspondence, this portrait took remarkable effort, because of the artist's age (he was 80 years old by then) and because of the number of sessions required to portray every detail to the highest standard. Two studies are kept at the Brera Academy:one for the entire figure and another for the detail of the armchair in the background.

Countess Antonietta's expression is vacant, her body ravaged by disease.

The peony from the countess' childhood portrait appears faded here, serving as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of human existence.

Ritratto di Alessandro Manzoni (Portrait of Alessandro Manzoni) (1874/1874) by Francesco HayezGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Portrait of Alessandro Manzoni

This is the most widely known and popular image of the Milanese writer Manzoni, so much so that its fame has obscured the first official portrait of him, painted by Giuseppe Molteni in 1835. The latter portrayed Manzoni in a celebratory tone,immortalizing him in an inspired pose, with a book in his hand andLake Como in the background. Here, however, Manzoni is sitting in a natural pose against a neutral background, under the precise instructions of his wife,Teresa, and stepson, Stefano Stampa. It took the artist 15 exhausting sessions to produce such a faithful representation of reality. The writer is holding a snuffbox,hinting at a domestic habit that he had kept entirely private,and which is now a historical and anecdotal aspect of this great man's character. The painting housed at the GAM is an exact replica of the famous Manzoni portrait produced by Hayez in 1841(now kept at the Pinocoteca di Brera art gallery), including in its dimensions. The replica was made for the Brera Exhibition in 1874, and was then donated by its creator to the Brera Academy. From there, it was eventually sent to the GAM in 1902.It won great acclaim among intellectuals of the time,but did not find immediate success outside of Manzoni's entourage.That only came when Stefano Stampa promoted the work's conversion into an intaglio print using an engraving technique, establishing it as the standard recognizable image of the author of "I Promessi Sposi" (The Betrothed).

Detail of the snuffbox.

Portrait of the Singer Matilde Juva Branca (1851/1851) by Francesco HayezGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Portrait of the Singer Matilde Juva Branca

The enigmatic and austere gaze captured by Francesco Hayez belongs to Matilde Branca (Juva by marriage). An opera singer,she shared her musical talents with her sisters, Luigia (a mezzo-soprano), Emilia(a harpist), and Cirilla (a pianist). She was also a prominent personality at the salon hosted by her father, Paolo Branca. It was a renowned setting for artists and intellectuals,once dubbed "The Temple of Music" by Gaetano Donizetti, the famed opera composer. The piece was commissioned by her husband Giovanni as a companion piece to his own portrait, which was also painted in 1851, by Mauro Conconi(one of Hayez' students). It is considered a masterpiece of 19th-century portraiture, thanks to the accuracy of its psychological introspection and its flawless resolution of form, which aimed to recapture the tradition of 16th-century Venetian portraiture. The positioning of the figure at a 3-quarter angle, her arm resting on a chair covered with an ermine mantle, creates a series of planes that expand the sense of space in the painting. The figure of the woman dressed in a luxurious, black silk gown is severe,contrasting with the lace that frames her hands and face. The hand holding the glove in the lowest tier of the painting hints at a homage by Hayez to the artist Titian, with an explicit reference to his Man with a Glove, which is housed at the Louvre in Paris, and Portrait of an Englishman,at the Palatine Gallery in Florence.

The portrait of Matilde was chosen for the cover of the GAM's 2017 collection catalog, published by Officina Libraria.

Detail of the hand protruding from the delicate lace sleeve, holding the luxurious leather glove.

Prince Troubetzkoy’s Children with Their Dog (1874/1874) by Daniele RanzoniGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

The Troubetzkoy Children and Their Dog

This piece, presented at the annual Brera Exhibition in 1874, is among the most successful works by Daniele Ranzoni, a painter who took up the pictorial legacy of Milan's Scapigliatura artistic movement along with Tranquillo Cremona. Pierre, Paul, and Luigi—the 3 sons of the Russian ambassador Pyotr Troubetzkoy—are depicted with their dog inside the greenhouse at their family's villa in Ghiffa, on Lake Maggiore.The artist adopts an informal approach to his subjects, avoiding rigid, formal poses in order to emphasize the vivaciousness of the 3 children. They seem to gaze out from the oval frame of the canvas, observing us with curiosity,their expressions lively and somewhat impertinent.It gives the impression of an out-of-focus snapshot, in which the protagonists' clothes and postures are recognizable from details that are only faintly picked out, flattened against a background that offers no spatial depth.

Girl in White (1885/1885) by Daniele RanzoniGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Girl in White

In this painting, one of Ranzoni's last works, the prevailing uniformity in the use of color and intonation does not detract from the quality of the piece, but rather enhances its tonal variations. It is a painting of light and exceptionally fine textures, as though a filter has been applied to soften the contours,without the emerging figure losing any of its solidity. However, the intriguing element that has long dominated readings of this work is its bohemian feel. The painting belonged to the art critic Margherita Sarfatti, who described it as follows: "Also from that year is this delicate and ethereal portrait of a young girl, from the Sarfatti collection. Painted in white-gray and gray-black hues, this large, trembling image of a feverish young girl,who died of consumption shortly afterward, depicts her already almost lifeless. Yet it is not gloomy—dreamy and delicate,she has the appearance of a blonde queen from a fairytale; an exquisite, beloved girl from a dream."

Blond Braid (1891 c.) by Giovanni BoldiniGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Blond Braid

Based on its messy, impulsive style, this work is generally dated to the beginning of the 1890s,by which point Boldini had already moved to Paris.The faintness of the strokes reveals not only the influence ofImpressionist painting of the time, but an in-depth knowledge of Frans Hal's chiaroscuro technique.It seems that Boldini may have become close with him during a trip to Amsterdam in 1876. Unlike many of the artist's female portraits, in which the entire figure is used to showcase every detail of the protagonists' elegant and elaborate dresses, this painting only shows the figure's bust. The oval face of the girl, whose identity is not known,stands out with the pink hues of her full-bodied complexion.The background and her clothes fall away: the first into earthy shades in long, soft strokes of color; the second into pearly, almost transparent brushstrokes. Other interesting elements of color include the woman's reddish-blond hair, from which the painting takes its name, and the bouquet of small white flowers that can be seen behind her. The exquisite and aristocratic feminine elegance with which the artist portrays his subject draws parallels with the most renowned high-society portrait artists around the world, including European and American painters such as John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler,Giuseppe De Nittis, Max Liebermann, Franz von Lenbach, and many more.

Boldini became one of the portrait artists most in-demand by the Parisian bourgeoisie, because of the freshness and personality he was able to instill into faces, and particularly those of women.

American Lady (Young American Woman) (1900 - 1903 c.) by Giovanni BoldiniGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

American Lady

Giovanni Boldini, from Ferrara in Italy, had already won fame overseas when he arrived in New York on November20, 1897. Warmly welcomed and celebrated in the elite social circles of the American capital,he showcased several important works in a gallery at No. 303 Fifth Avenue.They included portraits of Princess Poniatoski (an American by birth), Whistler, Mrs. Stanford White, Emiliana Concha de Ossa (the(the famous "Pastello Bianco" or "White Pastel"), and his pastel of Verdi. However, his stay there did not end well:he returned to Paris after contracting pneumonia. The large pastel painting found at the GAM was originally dated to the same period as his American trip,but later pushed back to between 1900–03 based on stylistic considerations. It depicts a young American lady, sitting on the type of couch that the artist frequently used for his posing models. Her face is the only well-defined feature, its coloring distinguishing it from the other elements in the composition. The figure's dress and bare arms are rendered by a few short strokes of black pastel, and the contours (particularly in the lower section) appear to have been multiplied in an attempt to create the illusion of movement and instability, capturing a cheerful moment buzzing with life.

In this pastel, Bordini chooses to accurately outline only the young American's face, shown at a 3-quarter angle, while her dress is merely hinted at with quick strokes.

Femme aux pompons (Woman with Pompoms) (1880/1881) by Giuseppe De NittisGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

The Woman with Pom-Poms

De Nittis made a significant contribution to the Impressionists' revival of pastel painting.In this work, he handles the technique with great confidence and demonstrates the influence of Japanese prints, with the flat central character standing out against the distant background, saturated with light.There are brief hints of passing figures, a stylistic form that also features in his oil paintings from that time, such asA Day of Snow, Woman with a Veil, and At the Lake, which are kept at thePinacoteca Giuseppe De Nittis gallery in Barletta. The seductive female figure is depicted with meticulous definition, paying special attention to the rustling dress that shrouds her slender figure, and the enigmatic expression on her face, which is hidden by her veil. The work once belonged to the publisher Angelo Sommaruga, before being transferred to the Grassi Collection in 1934. It was put on display for the first time in the 1881 pastel exhibition at the Cercle de l'Union Artistique art society, on the Place Vendôme in Paris.It has therefore been dated to just before this initial exhibition, with opinions varying between 1880 and 1881, based on its stylistic features.

"The sphinx-like attitude of this veiled woman, her body turned towards the viewer and her pink nails concealed beneath her black gloves, seems to pose an enigma that leaves little to be feared."
(Lostalot 1881, p. 164)

Portrait de M. Arnaud à cheval (Portrait of Mr. Arnaud on Horseback) (1875/1875) by Edouard ManetGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Portrait de M. Arnaud
à cheval  (Portrait of M. Arnaudon Horseback)

In the early 1870s, Manet experimented with the equestrian portrait genre, producing a generally homogeneous set of pieces. In addition to the portrait of Michel Arnaud, housed at the GAM in Milan,they include a portrait of the painter Émile Guillaudin on horseback, which is part of a private collection in Dearborn, Michigan,and a portrait of Marie Lefébure on horseback, now kept at the São Paolo Museum of Art, in Brazil. All 3 paintings portray representatives of the Parisian high bourgeoisie, but the Portrait of M. Arnaud on Horseback appears to deviate from previous canvases, starting with its dimensions and cut:the painting is twice as large, in portrait format,and depicts the horse in full length. Michel Arnaud was a Paris-born entrepreneur,an occasional collector of Impressionist paintings, and an avid equestrian, which is probably the reasonManet depicted him on the back of his steed. We don't know what relationship the artist and his subject shared, but it is likely that they met in 1875, the same year the painting was produced. It is believed, however, that Manet wanted to create an official portrait, which would stand out for its aura of solemnity. The painting was never finished, as can be seen in a photo from the period showing that the landscape was left as a draft version, with the horse's hooves only faintly visible. It was kept in the artist's studio until his death.Purchased by the painter Max Liebermann (1847–1935), it has been suggested that it was he who completed the piece, framing it and adding a forged signature.  The painting was eventually purchased in its present state by Carlo Grassi, in 1936, through the Thannhauser Galleryin Berlin.

Close-up of Mr. Arnaud's face, his eyes barely sketched in pencil, with a top hat on his head.

Portinaia (Concierge; Impression d’une concierge) (1883/1884) by Medardo RossoGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

The Concierge (Model of a Concierge)

The Concierge wasprobably modeled in 1883, as reported by Rosso, or in 1884at the very latest, as proposed by some 20th-century studies. The artist's muse was Sciora Orsola,the concierge of a building on Via Montebello in Milan, where he lived.Hidden away in her porter's lodge, the artist developed an intense fixation on her. Rosso made at least 12 replicas of this subject.He considered this sculpture—a reinterpretation of the earlier "Sagrestano"—to be a turning point in his artistry, defining his own unique point of view and capturing a fleeting impression. Made of a blend of very clear wax, this is the only artwork that the sculptor donated to the GAMin Milan, in 1922. The museum records report that the piece was replaced by Francesco Rosso at the end of 1952,as a result of it being "destroyed by significant damage." This may have been caused by it being displaced during the war. In fact, Francesco recovered the damaged work, restored it, and then placed it in the Medardo Rosso Museum in Barzio, but it has since been lost. In exchange for this waxwork, the bronze Ruffiana statue was donated to the Milan museum. This was crafted under his direction, as evidenced by a letter from Costantino Baroni to Francesco Rosso dated November 10, 1952, and by 2 acts of the Municipality of Milan, dated November 17, 1952and January 1953.

Henri Rouart (1913/1913) by Medardo RossoGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Henri Rouart   

Henri Rouart (1833–1912)—an industrialist, art collector, painter, and patron of Impressionist artists—met Rosso in 1890. Several sources testify to this,although the manner in which they met is still disputed. The only thing known with any certainty is that Rouart bought copies of Frileuse, Niccolò da Uzzano, Gavroche, and "Bambino Ebreo" (Jewish Boy) from Rosso, and that the sculptor's studio was in his factory on Boulevard Voltaire,where his portrait was created. The original plaster was modeled in 1890 and is now found at the Medardo Rosso Museum in Barzio. Another one, made of plaster and including a base,is conserved in Antwerp. The bronze work was eventually cast that same year in Paris, but Rouart never collected it from Rosso's studio, so it passed to his son Louis (and to the Kunstmuseum Winterthur museum in Switzerland today)upon his death. It may have been then that Rosso made the black-wax version now found in the GAM, which was exhibited at theVenice Biennale in 1914. After being part of a number of exhibitions in Milan,and belonging to the Medardo Rosso Museum in Barzio, this piece passed first to the hands of Gianni Mattioli (1903–77) and then Virginio Ghiringhelli (1898–1964).It was finally acquired by the museum in 1953, at a time when it also received a significant bequest inFrancesco Rosso's will.

Portrait of the Artist's Mother (My Mother) (1907) by Umberto BoccioniGalleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

My Mother(Portrait of the Artist's Mother)

This painting was produced by Umberto Boccioni in 1907,in Padua, when the artist joined his mother and sister who were staying there.He remained there until April of the same year, when he moved to Venice.The artist completed 2 other pieces during his time in Padua: his portrait of Virgilio Brocchi, and another of the painter Adriana Bisi Fabbri. Their photographic style,borrowed from the teachings of Giacomo Balla, and their unusual composition(Boccioni's subjects are depicted to one side of a horizontal canvas)are similar to that of the canvas found at the GAM. The stylistic approaches of the 3 paintings are different:the portrait of his cousin Adriana Bisi Fabbri, painted outdoors, relies on the Divisionist approach (again influenced by Balla, an artist from Rome);the other 2 more closely resemble European portraiture,based on popular models from France, Monaco, and northern Europe. In fact, both the portrait of the artist's mother and the portrait of Virgilio Brocchi depict the figures, captured indoors, with loose brush strokes in the post-Impressionist style. Boccioni assimilated this artistic language on his travels and during his visits to the Venice Biennale.

Boccioni captures his mother's pensive expression with rapid strokes of color, with no visible outline marked.

Credits: Story

The GAM in Milan would like to thank the Google Cultural Institute for the fruitful collaboration between them on this project. We believe that the use of high-definition artworks, which are freely accessible to a global audience, is the next frontier in Web 2.0 communication. Special thanks go to Executive Assistant Dr. Ilaria Gozzi, who supervised each step of the project, and to Ms. Marivanna Torre, responsible for external relations. Particular thanks also go to Dr. Omar Cucciniello and Dr. Alessandro Oldani, curators of the GAM.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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