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Massimo d'Azeglio

(also Massimo Taparelli, 1798–1866, Turin)

View of the Port at Genoa. Pen-and-ink drawing in sepia over pencil, brown wash. 25.5 x 19.5 cm. Signed, dated and inscribed “M. Azeglio / 20 Marzo 1830 / Porto di Genova” in the artist’s own hand.

Massimo d’Azeglio, a statesman, writer and painter, was one of the most resourceful figures of the Italian Risorgimento. Born into an aristocratic family in Turin in 1798, he initially embarked on a military career, which he was forced to abandon for health reasons. D’Azeglio discovered his inclination for painting at an early age and spent the years from 1820 to 1828 in Rome, where he was apprenticed to the Flemish landscape painter, Martin Verstappen. During his very first year in the city he displayed a Roman Campagna landscape at the Turin Academy exhibition and subsequently came to be known primarily as a landscape artist. His pictures with motifs from the Roman Campagna, the shores of Lake Como and Piedmont, which were often furnished with historical staffage, brought him considerable recognition. In 1830 he settled in Milan, where he moved in the circle around Alessandro Manzoni and devoted greater attention to his literary work. In 1831 he married Manzoni’s daughter Giulia. From 1845 d’Azeglio became involved in politics. In several of the memoranda he published he voiced criticism of the pontifical administrative authorities and advocated both liberal reforms and Italian unity. His political ambitions ultimately led to his appointment as foreign minister and president of the council of ministers by King Vittorio Emanuele II. However, personal disagreements with Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, led to his resignation from the cabinet in 1852, after which he concentrated more on painting again.

The present View of the Port at Genoa is an early work in which he has sketched the hustle and bustle in the harbour basin in a succinct and precise drawing style. The scene is enlivened by sailors, passers-by wearing top hats and a soldier on guard duty, all of whom are rendered with great accuracy. The silhouette of a little Pomeranian dog stands out starkly against the gleaming surface of the water. D’Azeglio evidently derived great pleasure from this evocative depiction of the tangle of masts and rigging. The outlines of the city’s famous landmark lighthouse (Torre della Lanterna) can be discerned in the background. The warm tonality of the sepia ink convincingly captures the play of the sunlight. With a dedication in a different hand in the upper margin. Slightly discoloured and foxed, otherwise in excellent condition.

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