The Comitato Morandi has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
Natura morta is one of Giorgio Morandi's celebrated 'bottle still life' compositions, and appears to have been painted around 1954. Certainly it was that year in which Morandi embarked upon a prolonged investigation of subtle variations in composition showing the tall, white fluted bottle shown here and in so many of his signature works, alongside a grouping of between two and five boxes, as well as some variants with other vessels. Natura morta is one of the largest pictures of this particular subject, which Morandi had first approached the previous year. In each of the works, he adjusted both the arrangement of the various vessels and his own perspective in looking at them, sometimes viewing them from an angle, sometimes looking down at them, sometimes seeing them from a closer level, as is clearly the case in Natura morta, with its low horizon so reminiscent of a landscape. Indeed, the boxes in the foreground combined with that horizon manage both to hint at abstraction through their incredible rigour and restraint and also to recall the landscapes with buildings painted by Paul Cézanne, one of Morandi's great heroes. Indeed, Natura morta could almost be seen as a riposte to the non-objective painting of the Cubists, who pushed Cézanne's legacy to such bold extremes.
Natura morta was presented as a gift to Vitale Bloch in the 1950s. During the course of 1954, Bloch was one of the organisers, alongside Lamberto Vitali, of what is often considered the first Morandi retrospective, held in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague and then largely reproduced courtesy of the Arts Council of Great Britain at the New Burlington Galleries. In each leg of the exhibition, for which Bloch wrote one of the prefaces, over fifty paintings and almost the same number of graphic works were presented in chronological format, giving a great sense of the breadth and discipline of Morandi's work, highlighting in particular the subtle yet all-important variations between each still life. One of the lenders to this exhibition was Morandi and Bloch's friend, the Florentine art historian Roberto Longhi. Because of the prolonged loan of his pictures, Morandi presented Longhi with a still life composition which was smaller in scale but very close to Natura morta, showing the same bottle and three similar boxes, yet viewed from an even lower angle. Taking into consideration that gift and the date of the majority of this group of works, it becomes eminently possible that Bloch was given Natura morta on the occasion of that important exhibition. In the preface to the exhibition, Bloch himself wrote in terms that apply perfectly to the Natura morta that he owned:
'he who looks below the surface knows that hardly two of Morandi's still lifes are similar. It is the miracle of his genius that out of the humbles boxes, tin cans, outmoded oil lamps, and dusty bottles, emerge works of art full of poetry and often most justly called "songs without words"' (V. Bloch, 'Introduction', Giorgio Morandi: Paintings and Prints, exh. cat., London, 1954, n.p.).