Giuseppe Molteni - inv. 5345
It is a delightful family portrait that shows Giovanni Rimoldi (1801-1849), with his wife Maria Grassi and their firstborn. The painting was recently donated to the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, which already has a consistent number of portraits by Giuseppe Molteni. Unsigned, the work was never exhibited at the many Italian and foreign exhibitions that the painter took part in, but the style makes attribution certain, confirmed also by its appearance in the catalogue raisonné of the master’s works published for his exhibition in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in 2000.
The identity of the sitters is based on family evidence and has been confirmed by archival research. The Rimoldi were shopkeepers and to judge by the clothes they are wearing they seem to belong to the well-off middle class.
The accuracy with which Molteni usually describes clothing is of great help in dating the work. The young woman is wearing a dress with large puffed sleeves, in fashion in 1835. A date to 1835-36 is further confirmed by the age of the child, Felice, born in 1834.
Giuseppe Molteni was the most sought after and fashionable portrait painter in Romantic Milan among the aristocracy and the upper middle classes. Extremely prolific, he was also the Poldi Pezzoli family’s portrait painter. Following Biedermeier painting, Molteni elaborated his formula of the portrait ‘set in a context’ where, as in this case, the sitters were portrayed in their homes, as a way of exhibiting their social standing. His portraits were admired for their seductive verisimilitude, for their brilliant bright palette and for the artist’s incredible skill in rendering the various qualities of materials.