Musée d'Orsay: Angelo Morbelli Feast Day at the Hospice Trivulzio

Angelo Morbelli
Feast Day at the Hospice Trivulzio

Feast Day at the Hospice Trivulzio in Milan
Angelo Morbelli (1853-1919)
Feast Day at the Hospice Trivulzio in Milan
Oil on canvas
H. 78; W. 122 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / DR

Jour de fête à l'hospice Trivulzio à Milan [Feast Day at the Hospice Trivulzio in Milan]

The Pio Albergo Trivulzio was a refuge for the sick, and predominantly an old people's home. In the early 1880s, Morbelli began to take an interest in the atmosphere of this place. On several occasions, he painted this vast room from different points of view, with variations in the effects of the light. But each time he put a few figures of old people, painted in the greatest detail, into his composition.

At this point Morbelli was not using the rigorous Divisionism of his later paintings. The large windows and the beams of light on the walls were painted with broad brushstrokes. On the other hand, Feast Day is one of the first works where the artist applied the method of juxtaposing pure colours. They are mainly applied in fine, parallel lines, defining the surfaces of the tables and thus accentuating the effect of perspective.
The attitudes of the different protagonists were intended to bring out the symbolic and emotional meaning of the theme of loneliness and old age. One is dozing; another is staring into space, his eyes lowered. On the left, the framing includes just the legs and hands of a man who has placed his cane, coat and hat in front of him. He is certainly a visitor who, unlike the other three men, will later leave the scene. 

From the 1870s, this type of social subject became established all over Europe - for example, the illustrations that appeared in England in publications like the Illustrated London News and The Graphic, Max Liebermann in Germany, Anton van Rappard in the Netherlands, and Alfred Roll and Henri Gervex in France. In Italy, Morbelli was one of the first to deal with such themes.

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