A Contemporary Mantuan Collection

Photographs and paintings selected with great care, emphasizing the actuality of modern and contemporary schools

Still life by Hungarian painterMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Still life

The unreadable signature does not allow us to definitively identify this author of a Central European school, probably Hungarian. But the collector has certainly chosen this work not for the celebrity of the painter, but for his ability to portray a still life in an almost clinical way. In fact, on the table covered with a white tablecloth, appear semblances of foods that seem far away from any set table. The artist was able to delicately, accurately and almost decadently portray the features of the vegetables, the gleam of the knife, the things trapped in the two glass jars, almost belonging to a natural school museum. Defining the detail and the species of the depicted objects is not important here. Instead, what matters is the skilful alternation between shadow and light and the progressive undoing of matter, almost happening directly under the gaze of the spectator. Thus, the picture is also an emblematic reflection of the relationship between death and life, following an illustrious and traditional theme of still life, which draws its distant origins from the dishes and food of the apostles during the Last Supper.

Little girl by Ugo CeladaMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Little girl

Celada loves the gaze, both his own very acute gaze and those of his subjects which appear, in many cases, almost lost. This is not the case of the little girl, perhaps dressed in classical ballerina dress, who stares with perplexed intent at the painter as he depicts her. Leaning on what seems to be a tripod, this female figure shows us a face infused with a silent emotion, in which an almost ironic air blends with the necessary solemnity of the pose. Behind her, the red drape is one of the artist's favorite objects, an allusion to the boundary between reality and theatrical appearance, a reference to the Italian metaphysical tradition. As usual, the perfection of the brush stroke is astonishing, in a timeless portrait that also draws its strength from the post-war years in which it was born. The bourgeois customs are broken once more by the ferocity of art, which softens nothing and shows us everything.

Composition by Daphne Maugham CasoratiMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso


Daphne Maugham, niece of the famous writer Somerset Maugham, began to study painting in France adhering to the post-impressionist movement. After moving to Italy in 1925, she became a pupil of the great Casorati, who she later married and from whom she had a son, also a painter. If Felice Casorati is a sublime and atypical figure of the Italian artistic world, his wife Daphne articulates her own vast sensitivity in following the strokes of her husband in a more gentle way. Both have the ability to offer a clear view of the world, starting from domestic life yet reaching a subtle metaphysical abyss. The work that we see here represents Daphne’s talent well. A cup of coffee, a box of colors, a plate decorated with gentle colors, and a breakfast bowl with a splendidly blue interior. A roll of large sheets of paper, perhaps archived drawings, perhaps plans of a new creation. The mutual dialogue between the elements of the painting puts every detail in a position both isolated yet capable of reflecting the whole. This is the virtue of the Casorati: to trace universal harmony from an infinitesimal particle, and to represent it as thus.

Female character by Pietro GhizzardiMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Female character

Ghizzardi was born in the province of Mantua, not far from the places where one of the most important naive artists of the twentieth century lived: Antonio Ligabue, almost twenty years older. For both, an expressive and almost violent force is the cornerstone of their capacity for representation. Both love the portrait, which becomes an almost obsessive theme for Ghizzardi. Lesser so, the Viadana native has an intense range of colors, which in him wane into grayish or brown tones. In addition, he demonstrates his creative abilities in other arts, including sculpture and literature, especially his remarkable autobiography: "Mi richordo anchora". For almost all his life, Ghizzardi paints bizarre faces of countryside characters, who are friends, provocative women, and passers-by. In this way he transforms these people into as many idols, who sometimes seem the puppets of some ancestral religion. The lady represented here has an unforgettable wickedness in her eyes. Her feline eyes fail to redeem a physiognomy endowed with a helpless provincial sadness. If the painter seems to almost voluntarily disavow the means of his style, oversimplifying his creations, he nevertheless demonstrates an expressive capacity to destroy every daily banality, to arrive at an impeccable description of the human soul.

Fruit and bodies by Emilio TadiniMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Fruit and bodies

Tadini was a born writer, publishing essays, novels and poems at a very young age. Already in the 1960s, he created his first paintings, a curious union of playful elements that come in part from English Pop Art, in part from the Italian Metaphysical School. His contribution to design and advertising is also noteworthy. As can be clearly seen in the picture that appears here, his essential inspiration is the world of dreams. Emerging from the white is a box of fruit of various kinds, as colorful as the table on which it stands is neutral. Around it, incongruously, pieces of hanging mannequins whirl around, following the rhythm of a propeller plane, perhaps a child's plaything, which ascends from the bottom to the top. Another graphic element are the red arrows, also pointing upwards, which seem to indicate an imaginary development, accentuating the dynamism of the composition. Remarkable is the harmony of the whole work, a subtle balance between irony and desire to represent the world in a flagrant way, choosing the same methods used in the images conveyed by the media.

Facelift by Paul BeelMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso


Born in Ohio but for many years resident in Italy, the American artist Paul Beel practices a solid and refined study aimed at the portrait, so as to summarize nineteenth-century influences and twentieth century Expressionist ideas. In fact, his figures go from a radiance soaked in color to an almost maniacal manifestation of bodily, physical details, so much so that in some of his works the great magisterium of Lucian Freud is remembered. In the picture presented here, the female character is rendered with great intensity, in the typical sitting position characteristic of British artists. If, on the one hand, the rendering of the details, the face and the dress is meticulous, on the other hand an incessant restlessness subtly enlivens the figure, thus expressing a strained yet unrelenting anxiety. Thus, the restyling to which the title alludes is translated into the desire to change over time an image that remains static, yet transforms itself, starting from the close eyebrows that divide the face into two parts.

I have turned the back to the life! by Federico GuidaMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

I have turned the back to the life!

An artist with a strong personality and incisive pictorial technique, Guida often presents works, sometimes deriving from antiquity, which immerse figures made with expressionist lines in a bath of colors, preferably red. In reality, his investigation is continuous and insistent, recently coming to a reinterpretation of baroque sentiment, intended as an exhibition of amazement and wonder. In the work presented here, the dialectic between the dark background and the woman's body is made even more intense by the presence of tattoos that mark her body. In detail, the large head of an Indian chief traversing her feminine back alludes to a movement towards the exotic that, conversely, the static nature of the whole seems to deny. The choice of the contrast between red and black not only evokes passionate suggestions, but also has the power to suspend the image within a sort of theater of cruelty, in which the subject's recognizability disappears in the loss of every minimal reference to a particular physiognomy.

Man in grey by Davide La RoccaMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Man in grey

La Rocca seems to move within the boundaries of hyperrealism, or the artistic trend that presents a meticulous description of reality, with an excess of detail that transforms the picture into a kind of hyper-photography. This is how some film portraits are created, which represent and reinvent recent divas of show business, such as Uma Thurman. But they are faintly educative images, actually crossed by a kind of cosmic dust and by electronic interference that shakes the faces of the characters like rippled water. Later, La Rocca's pursuit moves towards the representation of existence and death, pictorially transposing photographs through an almost alchemical creative process. In this portrait, the fugacity of the man's presence clashes with the background of industrial details. Passing through the filter of a relatively current media representation, the artist's creation in the end transmits a ghostly remnant, almost a shadow of the shadow of a repertory image.

Yellow landscape by Pierluigi PusoleMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Yellow landscape

The artist defines himself as a scientist, rebelling against the idea of ​​suffering a work of art. This statement gives an account of his ability to invent a universe that has certain dreamlike characteristics, but which on the other hand contains in itself an aspect of total control, a fantastic underlying geometry. The interplay between shreds of the common landscape and signs of an other presence, which the painter intercepts and transposes, can also be found in the work here: probably it is a lake surrounded by mountains, made non-diaphanous yet essential by a persistent, yellow drying. It is interrupted by a lattice, however, evident in the reflection on the right, which seems to submit to nature, revealing itself almost sideways. This dialogue between the existential impoverishment of vision and the structural strength of detail is one of the most vivid aspects of Pusole's research, an artist who is simultaneously multifaceted and intent on absorbing every aspect of communication, transforming it without remedy into the Other.

Ghosts and houses by Filippo La VaccaraMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Ghosts and houses

Sicilian by birth and Milanese by adoption, the artist follows a precise inquiry over time, building imaginative works in which characters, human and nonhuman, appear in dialogue with the deep space of the surrounding environment. Often lost are the creatures that animate the paintings and the sculptures with their frightened but somewhat cheerful presence. La Vaccara thus creates a new universe, certainly poetic and dreamlike, which, according to the same author, assumes unpredictable outcomes. Here, in a world that seems almost inspired by Buzzati's drawings, a mysterious man and woman meet without truly meeting each other and mirror their ghost impalpability, in the sarcastic use of the sheets with which the children cover themselves, hoping in vain to disappear .

Untitled by Santiago YdanezMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso


The universe of the Andalusian artist is certainly based on the reinterpretation of the human figure, particularly the human face. The face appears in many cases disfigured in its essence or ironically disturbed, whether it is a reinterpretation of famous masters of the past, or a face that is distorted by an expressionist grimace. In reality, Ydàñez's ability lies in showing a perfect appearance, which is however betrayed and denied by a liquid brushstroke, capable of dissolving the superficial features he is depicting. Thus, in this vast canvas, the almost desperate accent of the young man who shows himself, immobile and perplexed, is confirmed by the large, dark under-eye circles that become almost a mask, and by his lips soiled by a kind of gray lipstick.

Figures on blue background by Letizia GalliMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Figures on blue background

Starting with an already given reality, the artist distorts it in a surreal sense, without however substantially deforming its basic characteristics. Letizia Galli, of mathematical education, loves to observe and discover the scaffolding of the universe, by painting, for example, organic elements and small animals from borders that either vanish or, on the contrary, become obsessively underlined. In this work, the microscopic nature navigating within a drop of liquid becomes the silent protagonist. On the canvas, the whitish beings move and wander inside a blue ocean, perhaps enclosed within a radius of one millimeter. Thus, each existential fragment is traced back to a kind of cosmic equilibrium that the painter depicts by carefully chiseling the forms, within an experience that interprets both science and the art of vision in a new way.

Credits: Story

Ideato e promosso da / Founded and Promoted by: Mattia Palazzi (Sindaco del Comune di Mantova) con Lorenza Baroncelli (Assessore alla rigenerazione urbana e del territorio, marketing urbano, progetti e relazioni internazionali del Comune di Mantova) Coordinamento Scientifico / Scientific Coordinator: Sebastiano Sali Curatore testi e immagini / Superintendent texts and images: Giovanni Pasetti Foto di / Photo by: Art Camera Redazione / Editor: Erica Beccalossi Assistente / Assistant: Fabrizio Foresio

Credits: All media
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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