Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
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Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)

Natura morta

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
Natura morta
signed 'Morandi' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
10 x 11 7/8 in. (25.5 x 30.2 cm.)
Painted in 1959
Galleria del Milione, Milan (no. 8159).
J.L & B. Plaza, Caracas.
Galleria Annunciata, Milan (no. 5374).
Marianne Caprotti, Milan, by 1977.
Galleria Claudia Gian Ferrari, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1987.

L. Vitali, Morandi, Catalogo generale, vol. II, 1948-1964, Milan, 1977, no. 1163 (illustrated).
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Morandi e Milano, November 1990 - January 1991, no. 80, p. 175 (illustrated p. 168).
Paris, Musée Maillol, Giorgio Morandi, December 1996 – February 1997, p. 164 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to São Paulo, União Latina-Museu de Arte, February - March 1997, p. 250 (illustrated p. 154).
Schleswig, Schleswig-Holteinisches Landesmuseum, Schloß Gottorf, Giorgio Morandi, 1890-1964: Gema¨lde, Aquarelle, Zeichunungen, das druckgraphische Werk, 1998, no. 78, p. 139 (illustrated p. 112).
Turin, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Giorgio Morandi, May - September 2000 (illustrated).
Cernobbio, Villa Bernasconi, Giorgio Morandi: oli, acquarelli, disegni, grafiche, October 2001 - January 2002 (illustrated p. 20).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Alessandro Diotallevi
Alessandro Diotallevi

Lot Essay

Dating from 1959, Natura morta belongs to a series of four closely-related still life paintings by Giorgio Morandi (Vitali, 1161, 1162, 1163, 1165). Throughout the series, the artist explored nearly identical compositions in which the fluid, wavy forms of two glass jars are framed by the straight forms of a canister and some square tin boxes, all aligned before the presence of small, black cube. In the present Natura morta, Morandi changed the framing of the composition, to include a wide space above the objects, enhancing their sense of vertical presence in the space, at the same time inscribing the still life all the more potently into an abstract field of pure colour.

Natura morta, and the other three related pictures, further explore a composition that Morandi had first conceived a year before, in 1958. In that earlier still life (Vitali, 1107), Morandi had already investigated the idea of a group of cans surrounding some more delicate objects and he had also, following from a series of preceding works, already included the enigmatic black cube in the foreground. Yet, in that first experiment, the group of objects does not display the same solidity expressed in the present Natura morta and the black cube appears as too close to the main composition to create in the picture the ambiguous spatial distress it introduces in the present work.

Innocuous as it seems, the black cube constitutes in fact a deliberately problematic element in Natura morta. While a black shadow seems to confirm the object’s reassuring three-dimensionality and its distance from the group of cans behind it, a thick, single grey brushstroke, placed above its upper edge, is enough to blur the limits between forms. Creating an ambiguity at the very centre of the group of objects, the grey brushstroke could indeed both mean a space gap between the objects or the tangible presence of a lid over the black small box. Although executed in the same hue of the table surface, this preponderant brushstroke echoes the grey tops of the red tin cans behind it, claiming for itself a material presence which seems to contradict its initial role as a strip of empty space. Undermining the three-dimensional reading of the picture, the brushstroke ultimately encourages a flat, abstract appreciation of the picture. Instead of placing some spatial distance between the objects, the grey brushstroke suggests an immediate proximity between their forms, connecting them in abstract terms, according to which the cube becomes a flat black square, adjacent to a pinkish, rectangular form and a strip of grey flat colour. The area between the black cube, the red tin can and the glass jug, the fulcrum of the spatial arrangement of the objects, thus dissolves into an abstract arrangement of colour fields.

A similar ambiguity unfolds in the upper space between the objects. Just above the glass jug, a powerful, heavy brushstroke fills the gap between the two red cans behind it. While this brushstroke should express the empty space behind the glass jug, its dense, creamy consistency seems to pour slowly in front of it, as though pure colour advanced over the objects, laying claim to the sheer abstraction of their existence. The background itself, seemingly suggesting the presence of a flat, vertical wall, appears as an incredibly painterly, abstract surface: textured and dense, it displays the traces of the artist’s brushstrokes, the tortuous furrows of its free roaming over the canvas. Capturing one of the most entrancing qualities of Morandi’s art, Natura morta hinges on a subtle equilibrium between representation and abstraction, introducing to still life painting, a genre traditionally devoted to virtuoso illusionism, a modern sense of ambiguity, fragmentation and conceptuality.

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