Exhibition April 2016
The world of Italian art history reserves, to those who wish to tread unusual paths, welcome and unexpected surprises: extravagant works and not always in line with the prevailing taste of the big centres; eccentric artists and spirits free from constraints, schools or linear paths. Among them it can be counted Giuseppe Antonio Petrini (1677 – before 1759) who with Giovanni Serodine and Pier Francesco Mola in the previous century, is one of those artists from the Ticino still somewhat surprising who were able to start from their origins to acculturate in the nerve centres of the Italian artistic culture, to create compositions that remain imprinted in the minds of those approaching them.
From left to right: Giuseppe Antonio Petrini, Miracolo della Gamba Bergamo Santa Caterina
Giuseppe Antonio Petrini, Predicazione di S.Vincenzo De Paoli Bergamo
Petrini is nevertheless an artist who has enjoyed a lot of attention in the past: scholars such as Edoardo Arslan have dedicated monographs and a memorable Lugano exhibition in 1991 consecrated his magnitude, prompting the then director of the Louvre, Pierre Rosenberg, to buy a painting now on display in the Parisian collections. Despite this, his paintings on the edge of the established patterns of the Lombard figurative production of the first half of the eighteenth century and the isolation in his homeland have partially obstructed the circulation of his name outside the narrow circle of his admirers.
Spirit at times visionary, the artist from Carona forms – reportedly – between Genoa and Turin, taking advantage of a well-established tradition of migration of the “artists of the lakes” in the modern era. His first works, between Piedmont and Valtellina, dating back to the early eighteenth century, show the knowledge of Roman naturalist painting: sudden cuts in perspective; slashing brush strokes and sudden flashes take back to the paintings of Serodine and to the Caravaggio experiences of the early seventeenth century. The contact with cultured aristocratic patrons, such as the Valtellina family of the Peregallis and that of Rivas in Lugano, will gradually change his boundless expressive vein of the origins in more quite ways, at first oriented to rococo and changed gradually, in works for the Lugano congregations – and particularly that of the Somaschi Fathers, in whose church of St. Anthony, starting from 1715, he built a magnificent altarpieces – in an increasingly introspective and meditative painting, which will also be at the origin of an infinite number of those half figures captured in the foreground that are still identified as the calling card of his art.
In the month of April it will be inaugurated in the small village of Carona, the birthplace of the painter from Ticino, an interesting exhibition of new paintings by the painter organized by Studio d’Arte Bianchini Massoni in Lugano.
These are mostly busts of saints, philosophers and scientists who allow the artist to show off an amazing virtuosity in the realization of heads of old people executed with quick brush strokes of astonishing executive summary, contrasting with the realization of the vast drapery sculptures that cover the bodies. The success of this production led the artist to be surrounded by a crowd of students, among which his son Marco and his nephew Bernardino, who reiterated to infinity his style and his luckiest compositions, so as to make it difficult today in his later production, to distinguish the individual hands.
Laura Damiani Cabrini
Cover image: Democrito, Giuseppe Antonio Petrini, detail