Showing extraordinary talent at a very young age, Giacomo Favretto’s father encouraged his artistic studies. His artistic education began in the atelier of the painter Vason while he was simultaneously visited and ‘studied’ the private collection of Count Antonio Zanetti, the owner of the house he lived in with his family in San Cassiano. In 1864 he then began his studies at the Venice Academy of Fine Arts where he was awarded numerous prizes from 1866 to 1870, an honorary mention the following year, and was given a post as substitute teacher for the elements of the figure from 1877 to 1878.
Rooms 1-4. His teachers at the Academy included Pompeo Marino Molmenti for painting, Michelangelo Grigoletti and Napoleone Nani for figure drawing and Domenico Bresolin for landscape, all of whom are present in this exhibition with works of the greatest undertaking and importance. In this early phase Favretto tackled both subjects that were close to him such as scenes of family or local life, and settings that were characteristic of the Academy. One can see a realistic underlining that was probably taken from works by Federico Zandomeneghi and the Neapolitan Michele Cammarano. His eloquent work Scuola di Pittura [School of Painting] ( was already finished in 1871. In 1872, when he had just left the Academy, he completed In Francescano Duns Scoto nella Cella [The Franciscan Monk Duns Scoto in his Cell]. (The following year he painted La Famiglia Guidini [The Guidini Family], (a masterpiece from his early period, today in Ca’ Pesaro although in that year it was also to be in the Brera Exhibition where it attracted the critics’ attention and marked the birth of the modern Venetian school, also thank to positive reviews and praise from a critic as shrewd as Camillo Boito. His smaller works such as Una lezione anatomica [A Lesson in Anatomy], La moglie gelosa [The jealous Wife], In pinacoteca [In a Picture Gallery] or I miei cari [My Loved Ones] (are also from this phase and are characterised by a style that is both intimate and lyrical, perceptive and ironic.
In 1877 he was afflicted by a serious illness and lost an eye. The following year, together with Guglielmo Ciardi he took part in the Universal Paris Exhibition with two works; at the Brera he presented Il Sorcio [The Mouse] ( that met with resounding success and painted the splendid (Villanella Pollaiuola( that is now in the Cariplo Collection. In the same room, the exhibition offers a comparison with a work that is somehow similar to these subjects, the Infilatrici di perle [The Pearl Threaders] (by Cecil van Haanen that was on show in the ’76 Salon where it was awarded a prize. L’ultima Parola [The Last Word] and Due Quadri da Vendere [Two Paintings for Sale] ( were finished in the following year and are now in the Milan Gallery of Modern Art.
Rooms 5-6. La Raccolta del Riso nelle Terre del Basso Veronese [Picking Rice in the Lowlands of Verona] ( is also from the same period and is Favretto’s only attempt at landscape, characterised by limpid light, and on display here with works by other contemporary landscape painters such as Bresolin and Ciardi, while a selection of works of figures by painters close to him, either thematically or chronologically, allows the visitor to understand the judgement of the critics and the taste of that period.
Room 7. His 18th century costume subjects are from the early Eighties (for these Favretto often used his family as models) and these represent a genre that was highly fashionable at that time, and was to make the artist a true point of reference and was to influence nearly all painters in and around the Veneto.
Rooms 8-10. In 1880 he won the Principle Umberto Prize with Vandalismo. Poveri Antichi! [Vandalism. Poor Ancients!] (the title refers to the controversy regarding the inexperience of some restorers who would intervene inappropriately on the works by ancient masters) at the Brera Exhibition. The same year he took part in the Turin National Exhibition where he received enthusiastic reviews, such as the following by Filippo Filippi: “An outstanding artist whose paintings attract the crowds, command one’s admiration and satisfy the most demanding connoisseurs […] a profound observer, a great artist in the true sense of the word. He portrays the exterior domestic life of the Venetians with a truth that is amazing, and in addition to this truth is a powerful, dense, luminous colour, detailed drawing, a surprising brush technique, achieved with real effects and minute appearance with an incredible simplicity of means. He sent six paintings that are six gems of the same jewel. One might prefer one or the other but they all have unique merits that justify any preference”. His works from the 1880s mark Favretto’s artistic maturity and his participation in various important public exhibitions. On display here Mercato in Campo S. Polo [Market in Campo S. Polo], Il Bagno [The Bath] (from the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, his sultry and sensuous Caldo [The Heat] (on display in Milan in 1885, Susanna e i due Vecchi [Susanna and two old Men] (on loan from the Budapest National Gallery and, for the first time in Italy, (Lavandaie [Laundresses], from the Katalinic collection and on display for the very first time). He took part in the Venice National Exhibition in 1887 with three paintings: Traghetto della Maddalena, El Liston [The Walk], La fiera di Pasqua al Ponte di Rialto [Easter Fair at Rialto Bridge], (but he died in June of a fulminating disease). On display here is the artist’s last work, unfinished, Liston Moderno, purchased by the King and now in a private collection. In 1899 the Venice Biennale dedicated a retrospective to him, displaying a wide selection of his works, three of which are now in Ca’ Pesaro: Ritratto del padre [Portrait of the Father] (1884, on display in room 9, Dama veneziana del secolo XVIII [Venetian Lady from the XVIII century] (and In Piazzetta, 1884, on display in room 7) purchased for the museum by King Umberto I.
Room 11. Favretto’s ‘legacy’, documented by the uninterrupted great demand for genre paintings in the tracks of his compositions, is exemplified here in the exhibition by the works of various artists who explicitly evoke both subjects and fashion, thus fuelling the taste in collections of that period. However, the ’99 retrospective was the only one-man exhibition to be dedicated to him. Until today.