THE NEW GALLERIA DELL’OTTOCENTO
Andrea Appiani (Milan, 1754 – 1817), Portrait of Countess Margherita Prati Grimaldi 1811, oil on canvas, 74 x 59 cm Treviso, Museo Civico, INV. P 222
Natale Schiavoni (Chioggia, 1777 – Venice, 1858), Portrait of Sante Giacomelli c.1830, oil on canvas, 76.5×61 cm Treviso, Civic Museum, INV. P 234
Two dates are fundamental when we consider the history of Treviso’s Pinacoteca Civica, or City Art Gallery. They are 1851 and 1874.
The date on which Treviso’s art gallery was established is universally recognised as being 12 March, 1851. On that day, the comune took possession of the donation of Margherita Grimaldi Prati’s art collection. This consisted of some 20 paintings, as well as another fifty items, from illuminated texts, through drawings, and prints. The artists involved ranged from Giovanni Bellini, Girolamo da Santacroce, to Domenico Tintoretto. There was also a portrait of the donor, executed by one of the leading Italian neo-classical painters, Andrea Appiani.
On 27 October 1874, the City Council accepted an exceptional bequest from Sante Giacomelli, a local industrialist who was also a major figure on the artistic and cultural scene in the Treviso area. In this case, the collection consisted of 74 paintings, providing an ample overview of some of the best Italian painting of that era, from names such as Ludovico Lipparini, Francesco Podesti, Odorico Politi, Eugenio Bosa, Eugenio Moretti Larese, Vincenzo Giacomelli, Francesco Coghetti, and many others, including Ippolito Caffi. Many of the works of that period are, not surprisingly, overtly patriotic, depicting heroic scenes from Italian history and literature. When it comes to episodes from the centuries-long Republic of Venice, or the Serenissima, as it was called, a fine example is the over-sized canvas showing Antonio Loredan, the captain of Venetian-held Scutari (Shkodër, in modern Albania), in 1474, defending the city, which was being besieged by Mehmed II. More recently, we see The oath of Lord Byron in front of Markos Botsari’s tomb (Lord Byron giura sul sepolcro di Markos Botsaris) by Ludovico Lipparini, and again, The death of Dante (La morte di Dante). Inasmuch as the poet is considered to be the father of the Italian language, he was also seen as a symbol of unification for a country that was looking to unite and be free of foreign intervention.
These donations were followed by many others in that period, including those from the Sala, Princivalli, and Murani families, for example. And they continue to this day. Backing up the bequests have been many shrewd acquisitions, based on the directors’ intuitions, the first of these directors being Luigi Bailo himself. Thanks to him, the Treviso Museums own Francesco Hayez’s first known painting, the Self-portrait with family members (l’Autoritratto con famigliari); while Luigi Coletti, was responsible for the acquisition of Michelangelo Grigoletti’s portrait of Domenica Pascoli, as well as the bust of Marianna Angeli Pascoli by Luigi Zandomeneghi.