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Mosè Bianchi (Italian, 1840-1904)
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Mosè Bianchi (Italian, 1840-1904)

Lupo di Mare or Il Nocchiero

Mosè Bianchi (Italian, 1840-1904)
Lupo di Mare or Il Nocchiero
signed twice 'Mose. Bianchi/M. Bianchi' (lower left)
oil on panel
29 x 19¾ in. (74 x 50 cm.)
(possibly) Ida Rava Blum, Milan.
Guido Furla, Milan.
Acquired from the above by Sig. Alfredo Castelli, 1936, for L14,000.
with Glauco Cavaciuti, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera, Milan, 1885, p. 17, no. 165.
G. Macchi, 'A Brera IV', in La Lombardia, 15 September 1885, p. 1.
Esposizione della Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente, 1887, p. 35, no. 357.
Catalogo della Mostra commemorativa di Mosé Bianchi, Monza, 1924, p. 60, no. 7, illustrated plate XLVII.
G. Marangoni, Mosè Bianchi, Bergamo, n.d., p. 256, illustrated (other variant, see note below).
P. Biscottini, Mosè Bianchi, Catalogo Ragionato, Milan, 1996, p. 290, no. 393 (photograph of other variant, with exhibition history of the present work).
Milan, Esposizione di belle Arti di Brera, 1885, no. 165.
Milan, Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente, 1887, no. 357.
Monza, Mostra Commemorativa alla Villa Reale, 1924, no. 7.
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Lot Essay

The history of the present work has for a long time been confused with that of another variant of the same subject. Biscottini (op. cit.), unaware of the existence of two versions, uses the photograph and early provenance of one work, and marries them to the exhibition history of this one. Both the photograph and the Ida Rava Blum provenance were first listed in Marangoni (op. cit., which although undated, was certainly published in the late 1920s or early 1930s), to which Biscottini adds: "presumably (our italics), this is the same work that Mosè Bianchi exhibited at the Esposizione Permanente di Milano in 1887. Gustavo Macchi described 'il Nocchiero who is shielding his eyes from the sun, reproducing an already mentioned motif' further commenting on 'the subtlety of tones, the fluidity of the whole composition, which make a particularly admirable painting.'" Macchi's comments suggest that possibly two versions of the painting were already exhibted in 1887. Further, Biscottini's exhibition history lists the Marangoni painting as having been exhibited at Monza in 1924 - the label of which is in fact attached to the present work, complete with the same title as mentioned by Macchi, Il Nocchiero.

Mosè Bianchi was one of the most important Italian painters of the late 19th century, whose subtle and luminous palette not only placed him at the forefront of Italian naturalism, but was also deftly able to translate the subtle harmonies of light and water, so notable in his marine paintings. A pupil of the famous Academy at Brera - which despite its conservative outlook and classical training, also produced such avant-garde artists such as Angelo Morbelli and Giovanni Segantini - Bianchi was soon caught in the cross-currents of modern European Art. Although his emphasis on light and colour places him alongside contemporary movements such as the Macchiaioli, he absorbed a more diverse number of influences, and was more cosmopolitan in outlook than many of his Tuscan peers.

Bianchi quickly eschewed the linear style and historial subject matter of the Academy to produce socially realist genre scenes in the style of Domenico Induno, and public frescoes which in their colouring showed a strong indebtedness to Giambattista Tiepolo. In 1869, Bianchi travelled to Paris for three months, where he assmilated the work of the French realists - in particular Ernest Meissonier - soon afterwards gaining recognition abroad with exhibitions of his work in cities including Vienna, Paris, Munich and London.

The present work is typical of Bianchi's late style. From about 1880, he concentrated on depicting daily scenes on the Venetian Lagoon, becoming almost exclusively a painter of outdoor life, which are noted for their muted atmospheric tones, pointed with strong dashes of colour that recall the bright tones of Tiepolo. Chioggia, a coastal town just a few miles to the South of Venice, was one of the artist's favourite subjects, featuring the daily lives of the fishermen, sailors and their families.

In this work, "Lupo di Mare" (or "Sea dog"), or Nocchiero (Italian sailor jargon, roughly translatable as the master of a ship) is shown looking towards the horizon in windy winter weather. The artist has captured the ever-changing grey tones of the sky and sea within an original and very dramatic diagonal composition.

In addition to the variant illustrated in Marangoni and Biscottini, Bianchi also reproduced this composition in a watercolour entitled "Chioggia" and an etching.

We are grateful to Giorgio Cavaciuti for his assistance in establishing the provenance of the present work.

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