Giovanni Servi - inv. 4702
This painting shows Napoleon on the island of Elba in 1815 – the fortress of Portoferraio rises behind him – preparing to leave for Cannes to reorganise the army with which he will be defeated at Waterloo one hundred days later. He is watching the boats full of soldiers as they make their way out to the galleons that can be glimpsed in the distance.
The patron who commissioned the painting is not at present known, nor is the date of execution, although this can be surmised after comparison with another two works by Servi of a Napoleonic theme. In 1841 and 1844, the artist exhibited at Brera Lo sbarco di Napoleone a Cannes fuggito dall’Isola d’Elba and also Napoleone a Boulogne sur mer il 14 luglio 1805. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that the three Napoleonic subjects were conceived in the same decade.
Giovanni Servi was extremely active in Milan during the years of the Restoration, but very little is known about him. He trained at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice with Odorico Politi and from 1839 to 1857 was assistant professor and professor of figure elements. From 1827 he took part in the Brera exhibitions, beginning as a portraitist and painter of religious subjects. Stylistically very close to Francesco Hayez, he moved closer to the great Venetian master from 1839 onwards also in his choice of subject matter, specialising in history painting.