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Vincenzo Migliaro (1858-1938)
I thought I had seen the name before but I wasn't sure. A young woman I know went up to the San Martino museum to look at some paintings that included a few by Vincenzo Migliaro—as she explained it, paintings of the Naples of “once upon a time,” showing the characteristic hub-bub of street life that faded in the wake of the Risanamento, the massive rebuilding of the city between 1889 and 1915. I bet myself I could find what I was thinking of. I won. The third book I picked off my shelf was i Vermi by Francesco Mastriani. The cover (see that last link) is illustrated with Migliaro's Strada di Porto (Port Road).
Migliaro was a Neapolitan artist best remembered for his paintings of popular, animated Neapolitan life of the late 1800s. He was a keen observer of Neapolitan landmarks and customs and his works often radiate the exuberance connected with the small streets, market places, and simple everyday lives of the people of the city. He is regarded as a practitioner of what is called “genre art”; that is, a painter of domestic settings, interiors, festive occasions, street scenes, etc. Critics usually make reference to his use of color and light—shimmering, alive, as if they were describing an impressionist and not someone generally called a realist.
Migliaro studied wood carving and sculpture at the age of 15 and at 17 enrolled in the Naples Academy of Fine Arts and focused on painting. In 1877 he entered a nationwide competition among all the art academies in Italy and placed second with a work entitled Testa di donna (Woman's Head—not this image, left), also a subject matter that would become another of his trademarks—paintings of sensual women. (The image on the left is entitled Fulvia.)
Strada PendinoBetween 1880 and 1930, he displayed in Turin, Barcelona, Rome, Venice and Milan, among other places. His works are in the hands of private collectors, foundations and, in Naples, museums such as San Martino and Capodimonte, but also in places you might not think to look. He was actively involved in the 1890s in the artwork in the Caffè Gambrinus (the best-known period cafe in the city) as well as in the decorations within the Stock Exchange building, also from the same period. To a limited extent, some of his paintings have religious themes. As well, some of his works are of a clearly social nature. His Tatuaggio della camorra (Camorra Tattoo—the camorra is the local version of the mafia, the “mob” ) now in the Naples Provincial art gallery at the Portici royal palace won a silver medal at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. He also did some work in poster art, such as one for the 1911 Exposition of Historical Memories of the Risorgimento in Naples (The Risorgimento was the movement to unify Italy in the 1800s.)
The image at the top of this entry is signed and dated “V. Migliaro / Napoli / 1895”. The painting was thought to have been lost, but it reappeared in the 1980s and was provisionally given the title of Vendemmia (Harvest). Later research pinned it down as a scene from the yearly Piedigrotta festival and parade in Naples showing country folk in for the festivities (the woman on the left is holding a tambourine, there are fireworks in the background, etc) The painting is known to have been displayed as such in Naples in 1896. It is oil on canvas and is quite large—240 x 160 cm (94.5 x 63 inches) That's a good-sized door, perhaps necessary for all the detail. It is currently in the Piazza Scala gallery in Milan.
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