Giancarlo Vitali: faces of Lombardy

Until September 24 at Palazzo Reale you can visit the Giancarlo Vitali exhibition (free admittance). In his painting the real faces of people from Lombardy.
The Wedding Party by Giancarlo Vitali
The Wedding Party by Giancarlo Vitali

Disclaimer: I am not and I will not ever be an art expert, this review is not a critical one.

Giancarlo Vitali is a contemporary painter and engraver born on the Como lake who, starting from the 1940’s has been portraying people from Lombardy. The exhibition is pretty extensive, divided in several sections (apart from the one at Palazzo reale there are three more, located in various parts of the city (the Sforza castle, the Natural History Museum and the Manzoni house, the latter has a small admittance fee).

Giancarlo Vitali, Portrait of Giovanni Testori
Giancarlo Vitali, Portrait of Giovanni Testori

I have visited the section of the exhibition held at Palazzo Reale and, while not an enthousiast, I have found it amusing. In his long career Vital has touched a large number of themes and his stiyle and subjects have evolved noticeably, but from my point of view the most interesting element of the paintings is how his subjects illustrate the people of Lombardy, and especially the area between Como Lake and Milan. Faces, gestures, postures are all very familiar to the milanese eye, regardless of the status of his subject, everyday person or intellectual (like playwright Giovanni Testori in the portrait here); regardless of the fact that the portray is realistic, or a caricature like the one that opens this article.

Set tables and smoked fishes

Missoltini were a staple food, served wit hot polenta
The missultit (missoltini) are lake Alosa fishes, preserved by drying and smoking

Apart from the portraits, Vitali has also produced a number of paintings of food and flowers, from fully set tables left in disarray at the end of a lavish meal to plain everyday items like the missoltini in a can (on the left), the traditional smoked and dried lake fishes that made up a large part of the proteins consummed by farmers in northerl Lombardy. The fishes, once treated, could be stored (canned or in casks) for several months. They were served after grilling and then marinading in vinegar, garlic and parsley overnight, with the mandatory very hot polenta.


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