Luigi Cavenaghi - inv. 4638
This work is linked to Portrait of Marianna Grandi Baslini (inv. 4639).
Giuseppe Baslini (1817-1887) was an important Milanese antiques dealer well-known in Europe. His name is linked to the Poldi Pezzoli Museum because, thanks to him, both the Museum’s founder and its first director, Giuseppe Bertini, bought many works. In 1866, Baslini gave to the recently opened Museum a Lombard 15th century enamel diptych (inv. 559). Marianna (1823–1923), Baslini’s wife, was the sister of two other famous Milanese antiques dealers of the period, Carlo and Antonio Grandi.
Both sitters have been depicted half-length. Giuseppe Baslini is wearing casual clothes, with edged revers and pocket on the jacket and a loose bow tie. A pendant hangs from his waistcoat, possibly containing miniatures of his children or a watch.
Marianna Baslini is wearing a sober black dress with ruched neck and wrists; a wisp of white blouse emerges from the closed collar and various pieces of jewellery embellish her attire.
Their faces and upper parts of their clothes are portrayed with care, whereas the watercolour is diluted in the marginal areas and the lines are less precise: Giuseppe Baslini’s left arm is merely sketched in and his wife’s right arm ends in a shade of colour.
A pencil inscription on the back of Baslini’s portrait, written by his son Giuseppe, attributes the work to Luigi Cavenaghi in about 1870. This date is debatable since Baslini does not appear to be fifty-three, but at least ten years more older. The portraits were probably done therefore towards the end of the 1870s, or even between 1880 and 1885.
Luigi Cavenaghi, one of the greatest restorers in Italy, was also a painter and had studied at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. We know many frescoes and a limited number of oil on canvas and watercolour by him; in the portraits he seems to follow the contemporary Lombard tradition.