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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Roger Sant Collection

Natura morta

Natura morta
signed 'Morandi' (lower center)
oil on canvas
13 7/8 x 15 7/8 in. (35.3 x 40.4 cm.)
Painted in 1957
Emilio and Maria Jesi, Milan.
Galleria Annunciata, Milan.
Tullio Mutti, Milan (by 1977, until at least 1994).
Galleria Gian Ferrari, Milan.
Private collection (acquired from the above, circa 1996); sale, Christie's, London, 15 October 2007, lot 210.
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale); sale, Sotheby's, London, 12 October 2012, lot 5.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
L. Vitali, Morandi: Catalogo Generale, 1948-1964, Milan, 1977, vol. II, no. 1051 (illustrated).
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Civiche Raccolte d'Arte, Morandi e Milano, November 1990-January 1991, p. 175, no. 78 (illustrated in color, p. 166).
Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny, Musée Maillol, Giorgio Morandi, December 1996-February 1997, p. 234 (illustrated in color, p. 155).
São Paulo, União Latina, Museu de Arte, Morandi, February-March 1997.
Lisbon, Fundação Arpad Szenes, Vieira da Silva, Morandi, November 2002-January 2003.
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Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

While each of the five protagonists of Giorgio Morandi’s Natura morta are quotidian objects from everyday life—bottles, a vessel, and containers—within the context of the canvas, they become expressive passages of color, light and shadow. The gray tabletop and the surrounding setting becomes an expansive, abstract realm, far removed from its domestic origins. It is these qualities that particularly define Morandi’s work of the 1950s. Following the upheavals and angst of the Second World War, his still lifes became evermore hermetic and abstracted, as he employed thick paint in soft tones to render the arrangements on his studio table, creating infinite worlds out of these elements of the everyday.
The tightly arranged group of objects in Natura morta appear like building blocks composed of contrasting forms. The smooth cylindrical necks of the two bottles and the voluptuous body of the jug contrast with the geometric regularity of the soft green container flanking them. A dash of terracotta orange in the form of the small, rounded pot that stands in the midst of these larger elements draws the eye, imparting a vibrancy to the otherwise softly harmonious composition. Focusing on architectural regularity, Morandi carefully staged these complex arrangements, picking the components of his scenes from his beloved, highly refined selection of still life objects that he gathered around him in his Bologna studio. The poet, Raffaello Franchi, described visiting the artist:
“I recall his house as it appeared to me the first time I saw it, divided into two parts—two worlds… In the second lived the artist with his work—and one could not call it dirty only because the thick dust that covered everything was the result of a religious respect for sacred things… These objects could not be touched by the hand, only by the heart guiding the brush on the canvas, the pencil on the paper, or the steel point on the etching plate. Nevertheless, ‘touched’ is still the correct verb to use. No humble object rendered marvelous by love was every more ardently (if immaterially) touched than Morandi’s models” (quoted in Giorgio Morandi: The Dimension of Inner Space, exh. cat., The Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997, p. 14).
John Rewald was likewise a privileged visitor to this sacred artistic realm. He further described this treasured assortment of objects, writing, “No skylight, no vast expanses, an ordinary room in a middle class apartment lit by two ordinary windows. But the rest was extraordinary; on the floor, on shelves, on a table, everywhere, boxes, bottles, vases. All kinds of containers in all kinds of shapes. They cluttered any available space, except for two simple easels… They must have been there for a long time; on the surfaces of the shelves or tables, as well as on the flat tops of boxes, cans or similar receptacles, there was a thick layer of dust. It was a dense, gray, velvety dust, like a soft coat of felt…” (quoted in K. Wilkin, Giorgio Morandi: Works, Writings, Interviews, Barcelona, 2007, p. 43).
Morandi did not desire to depict these objects with their intended, domestic function, but rather chose them for their aesthetic possibilities. He stripped them of any labels or defining marks, and on occasion painted them with gray or soft white paint so as to mute their surfaces and regulate them. As a result, as the present work shows, these pieces transcend their original appearance to become planes, lines and volumes of color.
By the time that he painted the present work, Morandi’s renown had reached an international level. His work was highly sought after and became a key part of any collection of twentieth-century Italian art. Natura morta was initially part of one such group. It was acquired by Milanese businessman Emilio Jesi, who together with his wife, Maria, acquired a notable group of works by artists including Giorgio de Chirico, Carlo Carrà, and Amedeo Modigliani. They donated their collection to the Pinacoteca di Brera, where it remains today.

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