The Nepoleonic Hall at the first floor of the museum exhibition hosts, thanks to the great generosity of a private collector, around eight unpublished drawings in pencil by Giacomo Favretto (1849-1887) revealing the fleeting details, glimpses, secret portraits, impressions jotted down unseen in the Venetian cafés, in other words, in places of socialisation and learning (reading the newspapers, the Gazettes, magazines, literature), places for prudent political activities, or rather, weaving plots, spying, seduction and betrayals. Not only the important Cafés in Saint Mark’s Square (Florian, Quadri, Aurora and Vittoria) but also in the Giardini and Giardinetti, Caffè Orientale and many other places that made the history of this city – and not always in unimportant things, for example the Biennale.
The “full-blown”exhibition starts at the second floor with the youngest (and least skilled) of the Guardi family, Giacomo (1764-1835), who followed in his father’s footsteps and wandered around the city, making hundreds of sketches, impressions, and caricatures until he perfected the view- memory, the “postcard”, with subjects he repeated dozens of times but which became both original and curious with his incessant wanderings in search of a more modern expressive interpretation.
It continues with two rooms dedicated to a selection of works by different artists who are part of the collection with a smaller amount of material but nevertheless of interest and value: from the Neo-classical Giuseppe Borsato, to the outstanding “Album” compiled by Leopoldo Cicognara, with works by various artists who document views and buildings that are now radically different.
We then come to Luigi Querena (1820-1887) who specialises in a particular genre, short lived but extremely successful: panoramas, the 360° perspective portrayals of a city or landscape, or historical events, which were to reach its height of success in the early and middle nineteenth century, in France, Belgium and England especially. This is followed by a novelty (at least for the wider public): the Flemish artist François Vervloet. Seduced by the camera obscura, the urban landscape, ’objective vedutism’, he tackled Rome with the landscape of the Nordic Pensionnaires (French, Danes, Germans and Scandinavians), and in Naples with what was almost the naive landscape of the South, as well as with the odd, eccentric Englishman. He arrived in Venice – where he was also to die – in 1872, leaving not only his drawings but also a detailed personal diary of great interest, in which he jotted down what was both important and trivial, meetings, exchanges of opinion, and experiences at the art markets. Vervloet did not limit himself to glimpses and views: he would enter sacristies, study relics and candelabras, or outline a gilded hedgehog or marble volute.
After this we have two rooms with works by the great Ippolito Caffi (1809-1866) both resurgent and heroic, in love with ‘people’: commoners resting, Austrian police, sailors waiting to be signed up, someone from the Orient, masks: Venice that is both supine and inclined to outbursts of pride, during the nineteenth century when she was both skinflint and servile, seeking redemption in jeers and gestures of rebellion. Sketchbooks with watercolours and veduta barely outlined on the small forerunners of today’s moleskins, memories, the notes of a great landscape painter who had freed himself of ‘eighteenth-century’ fascination.
The following room is dedicated to the famous engraver and illustrator, Giovanni Pividor (1812-1872) who creates a Venetian inexhaustible reportage: a meticulousness bordering on the obsessive, light as a feather, or structured and pictorial in “fine” inks as in his rich album “Souvenir de Venise”, most of which has never been published.
The exhibition ends with another novelty that is not to be missed: the drawings and watercolours by Eugenio Bosa (1807-1875). No veduta or monuments but a city made of beggars and fishermen, misery and suffering, one glass too many to forget hunger, an argument outside someone’s home, but also the odd moments of rest and tranquillity: a trip to the Lido, having a chat next to a well-head, a dog playing, children laughing and crying, the lottery being drawn in Saint Mark’s Square, winners and losers in annual rowing races.