Angelo Morbelli (Italian, 1854-1919)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
Angelo Morbelli (Italian, 1854-1919)

Vecchie Calzette

Angelo Morbelli (Italian, 1854-1919)
Vecchie Calzette
signed and dated ‘Morbelli. 1903.’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 ¼ x 39 ¼ in. (61.6 x 99.7 cm.)
Acquired at the Esposizione della Società di Amatori e Cultori delle Belle Arti, Rome, 1906.
Buscardo Oribe collection, Montevideo (by 1936).
Private collection, and thence by descent.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
A. Colasanti, 'L’Esposizione di Venezia', in L’Arte, August-October 1903, p. 283.
M. Morasso, 'L’infanzia e la vecchiaia alla V Esposizione Internazionale d’arte a Venezia', in Il Secolo XX, year II, 1903, pp. 708-709 (Il Poema della vecchiaia).
V. Pica, L’arte mondiale alla V Esposizione di Venezia, Bergamo, 1903, pp.151-153 (illustrated p. 145).
E. Thovez, 'L’arte a Venezia. La Lombardia', in La Stampa, 14 August 1903, p. 144.
L. Callari, 'La V Esposizione di Belle Arti di Venezia', in Cosmos Illustrato, no. 9, 1903, p. 875.
T. Fiori, Archivi del divisionismo, Rome, 1968, vol. II, p. 113, no. VI.86 (illustrated p. 292, fig. 1451).
L. Caramel, Angelo Morbelli, exhibition catalogue, Alessandria, Palazzo Cuttica, 3 April–16 May 1982, p. 168.
A. Scotti, Angelo Morbelli. Tra realismo e divisionismo, exhibition catalogue, Turin, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, 7 February–25 April 2001, pp. 29 and 143.
Venice, Quinta Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia, 1903, no. 34 (exhibited together with Il Natale dei Rimasti, Siesta Invernale, I due inverni, Sedia vuota, Mi ricordo quand’ero fanciulla- title of the series was 'IL POEMA DELLA VECCHIAIA’.
Munich, Internationalen Kunstausstellung im Kgl. Glaspalast zu München, 1905, 1 June – 31 October 1905, no. 862, as: 'Alte Strickerinnen'. (Gold medal).
Rome, Esposizione della Società di Amatori e Cultori delle Belle Arti, 1906, no. 38 (where sold).
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

Brought to you by

Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

The present painting can be considered one of Morbelli's most important Divisionist works, painted at the height of his artistic maturity. Vecchie Calzette is one of six canvases forming the cycle entitled Il Poema della Vecchiaia (The Poem of Old Age). The series was presented at the Venice Biennale in 1903, where it received great attention, and Vecchie Calzette later won a second gold medal in Munich at the Internationalen Kunstausstellung in 1905. The other works of the series include Il Natale dei Rimasti (currently residing at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Venezia, Ca’ Pesaro), Siesta Invernale (Pinacoteca Civica di Alessandria), I due inverni (Pinacoteca Civica di Alessandria), Sedia vuota (Private collection, Italy), and Mi ricordo quand’ero fanciulla (Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Tortona-fig. 2). The cycle presents a deep reflection on solitude and the passage of time.
Painted in 1903 at the Pio Albergo Trivulzio, an old people’s home and hospital in Milan on the via della Signora, the picture was the result of quiet and sustained observation. Having installed a studio in 1901 in the home, Morbelli developed a deep sympathy with, and understanding of, his subjects, and their psychological journey at the conclusion of their lives. The gently diffused winter light subtly presages their journey into the after-life, while a church can just be discerned through the window.
Angelo Morbelli can be considered one of the six leading exponents of Italian Divisionism together with Vittore Grubicy de Dragon, Giovanni Segantini, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Gaetano Previati and Emilio Longoni. Despite the often cited parallels with French Neo-Impressionism, in particular with Pointillism, Divisionism developed in Milan quite independently. Divisionism is characterized by a meticulous study of the optical effects and the luminosity of colour on canvas itself, which has a profoundly textural element due to the technique used. When touches of paint are applied side by side to the canvas 'divisionistically' as pure unmixed colour, the colours achieve greater luminosity and brilliance in the eye of the spectator. This movement, which bears strong symbolist connotations, can also be seen as socially charged, as its members believed in artistic creation as a way to achieve social improvement. These elements together laid the foundations for the birth of Futurism.

The vibration of the brushstrokes, separated in a myriad of small dots and slender threads of colour, accentuates the reflections on the protagonists’ hands. The power of this composition derives from the exceptional use of light, and of perspective, which is the result of several photographic studies carried out by the artist (fig. 1).
Vittorio Pica described The Poem of Old Age as presenting 'psychological painting without political and social exaggeration and without literary mystification’ (V. Pica, 1903, p. 153), and praised the artist for his authenticity and sincerity. He emphasises the 'luminous effect of exceptional intensity’ which is conveyed in these canvases, and which is particularly visible in the present work.

Last seen on the market in 1906, the present composition was known thanks to a photograph in the Archivio Morbelli and to a preparatory pastel study, dated 1902, which appeared last on the market in the 90’s in Italy.

We are grateful to Professor Giovanni Anzani for his assistance in cataloguing the present lot. We would also like to thank Dott.ssa Aurora Scotti for her support and assistance. The present work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work being prepared by Professor Anzani.

More from 19th Century European & Orientalist Art

View All
View All