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Lot 32*
Angelo Morbelli
(Italian, 1853-1919)
Il telegramma
Sold for £118,750 (US$ 158,651) inc. premium

Lot Details
Angelo Morbelli (Italian, 1853-1919)
Il telegramma
signed and dated 'Morbelli. 1915.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
42.5 x 67.5cm (16 3/4 x 26 9/16in).

Footnotes

  • We are grateful to Professor Giovanni Anzani and Elisabetta Chiodini for confirming the attribution to Angelo Morbelli on the basis of photographs, and for their assistance in cataloguing this lot.

    Provenance
    Private collection, South America, by the early 1920s.

    Exhibited
    Milan, Bottega di Poesia, Esposizione retrospettiva dell'opera di Giovanni Segantini, Gaetano Previati, Vittore Grubicy de Dragon, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Angelo Morbelli, 1922, no. 77.

    Literature
    Milan, Esposizione retrospettiva dell'opera di Giovanni Segantini, Gaetano Previati, Vittore Grubicy de Dragon, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Angelo Morbelli, exhibition catalogue, 1922, p. 29.

    The present lot is one of four known oils that Morbelli produced between 1915 and 1917, using the motifs of the abandoned table, the telegram and the terrace. Exhibited as part of a retrospective exhibition of the Divisionist Painters held in Milan in 1922, this work has remained in a private South American collection since that time.

    The present lot was painted overlooking the gardens at Colma di Rosignano, where Morbelli kept a studio, visiting every summer. A table sits on an open terrace, beyond which are rolling fields, peppered with houses, with a line of distant hills beyond. On the table lay the remnants of a meal, in front of which lies an opened envelope. A domestic serving maid hides in the corner, appearing to console herself, perhaps hinting at the possible contents of the telegram. The drama of the scene is suggested by the hastily abandoned meal, the chairs pushed back and the serviettes quickly discarded.

    In a letter to Guiseppe Ricci Oddi, dated 26 January 1917, the artist refers to a second version of this composition, also painted in 1915, which is very similar to the present lot, save for an overturned chair which further increases the dramatic intent of the scene: 'a table set on the terrace of a garden with an open telegram on the table and an upside-down chair, beside a woman sitting on a stairway to the left' (Achivi divisionismo, II, p.117, n. VI. 168).1

    Various pencil studies for this series can be found in Morbelli's sketchbooks, and Morbelli re-visited the motif in 1917. A larger version of Il telegramma was exhibited at the Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente in Milan, and entered the collection of the Banca Italiana di Sconto; here, the terrace now overlooks the sparkling blue waters of a lake, the depth of the landscape serving to further 'make the drama simple and terrible'.2

    The success of the 1917 work prompted Morbelli to paint a final version; perhaps mindful of one critic of the Permanente Exhibition, who urged the artist to 'not insist on tragic intentions',3 in this final version, also set beside the lake, the scene is unpopulated, the same hastily abandoned meal hinting at the dramatic contents of the telegram.4

    As Aurura Scotti observes, these compositions combine ideas from earlier canvases in Morbelli's oeuvre: the table still life revisits Morbelli's 1884 work Asfissia, painted long before the artist embraced the principles of Divisionism; the pots of geraniums and agave along the balustrade call to mind the landscapes painted around Colma (see for example Giardino alla Colma, 1915); and the terrace backdrop is reminiscent of such magnificent works as S'avanza (1896) and Tempo di pioggia (1916).5

    1 Exhibition catalogue, Angelo Morbelli, 3 April-16 May, 1982, Palazzo Cuttica-Alessandria, pp. 172-173.
    2 G. Marangoni, Nature and Art, XXVII, 1917, Vol. I, December, pp. 5-10, 'Art in War Time, Monument Protection and Autumn Exhibition at Permanente in Milan'.
    3 Perseverance, no. 278, October 7, 1917, 'Permanent I'.
    4 This version was exhibited at the Palazzo Cuttica- Alessandria in 1982, no. 60 (illustrated in colour in the exhibition catalogue, p. 151, and also illustrated in Aurura Scotti, Angelo Morbelli, Soncino, 1991, p.106.
    5 Aurura Scotti, Angelo Morbelli, Soncino, 1991, p. 106.
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