This genre scene depicts an alchemist experimenting under lamp light. It signed by the author: " Ex tabula. J.Molteni". Ex tabula in Latin mean on (at) board, table". The painting was executed in 1837 (due to the antique dating on the back of the painting) by important Italian portrait and genre painter Giuseppe (Joseph) Molteni (1800 Milan - 1867 Milan).
Forced to abandon his studies at the Brera Academy for financial reasons, Molteni took up the restoration of ancient paintings as a pupil of Giuseppe Guizzardi in Bologna. On his return to Milan, he soon became one of the most sought-after restorers of the day, a consultant to the Louvre and the British Museum as well as the leading collectors and connoisseurs in Milan and Europe as a whole. He also devoted his energies to painting.
In 1828 that he inaugurated a genre of portraiture characterized by the meticulous depiction of sumptuous costumes and settings, which proved an extraordinary success and brought him into direct competition with Francesco Hayez. The period spent at the court in Vienna in 1837 to paint the portrait of Emperor Ferdinand I led to an appreciation of Biedermeier painting and friendship with the painter Friedrich von Amerling, and the style of Johann Friedrich Overbeck. A switch to genre painting came in 1837 with scenes of contemporary everyday life that proved an immediate success with the public and critics. Exactly this year in Vienna he painted "our" painting. Because it was common that at this time, when Milan was still part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the artists called themselves to German first names. Giuseppe in Italian means Joseph in German. It is also remarkable that Molteni worked for the Vienna Imperial Court, all of which clarifies show why Molteni signed this painting with J. (Joseph) Molteni. References to his first name Joseph can also be found in two old German magazines "Morgenblatt für gebildete Leser" (Stuttgart, 1831, page 200) and " Kunstblatt" by J.Schor (Stuttgart, 1828, page 403), which reported about art exhibitions in Milan (1830) and Brussels (1827). Here are translations of quitations from both magazines: from first one: "... Portraits .. Hayez ... I immediately go to the fertile Molteni. Twenty one portraits of JOSEPH MOLTENI in a single exhibition! This is honorable for the painter and for the lovers ...". And in the second one: " ...The public has honored the portraits painted by Hern JOSEPH MOLTENI and I have also been tied up several times before them...". Molteni´s regular participation in the Brera exhibitions slackened in the 1850s and ceased when he was appointed curator of the Academy’s gallery in 1854.
Literature: Artist lexicons by Thieme/Becker, Benezit, Comanducci; "Giuseppe Molteni: 1800-1867, e il ritratto nella Milano romantica : pittura, collezionismo, restauro, tutela" (Italian Edition), 2000; Elena Lissoni, Giuseppe Molteni, online catalogue Artgate by Fondazione Cariplo, 2010; " La Pittura lombarda nel secolo XIX., Tipografia Capriolo e Massimino, 1900, page 41"; German Magazine Morgenblatt für gebildete Leser", Stuttgart, 1831, page 200); German magazine "" Kunstblatt" by J.Schor, Stuttgart, 1828, page 403.
Provenance: Spanish private collection.
Inscription: titled and signed in Latin : Ex Tabula. J. Molteni", on the back of the painting different inscriptions, difficult to read, among them dating 1837, and Alquimiste (alchemist in Spanish).
Technique: oil on wood panel, original period gold-plated frame.
Measurements: unframed w 12 1/4" x h 14 1/8" (31 x 36 cm); framed w 18 7/8" x h 20 7/8" (48 x 51 cm).
Condition: very good.