THE MUSEUM DISPLAY
183 paintings divided by subject through 14 rooms
At the end of 2017, Fondazione Luciano Sorlini reunited its entire painting collection in Calvagese. Until then part had been kept in Calvagese, part in the Montegalda Castle in the province of Vicenza and part in the Gran Canal family palazzo in Venice. The eighty-four paintings that arrived from Montegalda and Venice were mainly seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Venetian and Veneto artworks by artists such as Gaspare Diziani, Gian Battista Pittoni, Marco and Sebastiano Ricci, Gianantonio Pellegrini and Gianantonio Guardi.
Once the 154 paintings of the Fondazione Luciano Sorlini and MarteS collection were finally reunited, Cinzia, Silvia and Stefano Sorlini, in keeping with Luciano’s project decided to even entrust to the museum the 29 paintings that their father had donated to them personally.
The current display therefore consists of 183 paintings divided by subject through 14 rooms presenting the artworks to the public and also illustrating the evolution of the collection and the changes in Luciano Sorlini’s taste as a collector.
Compared to his early acquisitions mainly focusing on eighteenth-century Venetian painting, over the years Luciano Sorlini sensibly refined his instinct that led him to also choose non Venetian paintings.
This is the case for instance of the two gold-ground paintings (from the Carlo De Carlo collection), one by the fourteenth-century painter known as Maestro di Panzano and the other by Gherardo Starnina (active in Florence between 1387 and 1409).
Also of note are the impressive panels by sixteenth-century painter from Ferrara Ludovico Mazzolino (former Costabili Collection) depicting the Holy Family with Saints Sebastian and Roch (1511), Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Marco Palmezzano (1459 –1539) from Forlì, and The Old Peasant (formerly part of the Monti della Corte Collection) by Giacomo Ceruti known as the Pitocchetto (1698–1767). The collection also includes the beautifully restored polyptych by Callisto Piazza from Lodi (1500–1561) with the Nativity and Saints (1524) from the Brescian church of Santi Simone e Giuda Taddeo and the door shutters by Carletto Caliari (1470–1596) from the Venetian church of San Nicola dei Mendicoli today displayed on the wall of the staircase at the entrance of MarteS.
- The Gallery
- The Pietro and Alessandro Longhi Room
- Landscape Room
- Seventeenth-century Baroque Painting Room
- The Diana Room
- The Giambellino Room
- The Callisto Piazza Room
- Luciano Sorlini’s Study
- The Gold-ground Painting Room
- The Judith Room
- The Pitocchetto Room
- The Francesco and Gianatonio Guardi Hall
This is the museum’s first large exhibition space where viewers can admire a selection of Venetian eighteenth-century paintings displayed so as to illustrate how Luciano Sorlini liked to decorate his residences, this being his purpose when he first started his collection.
The most notable pictures in this room include Truth Unveiled by Time by Sebastiano Ricci (1659–1734), Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Giandomenico Tiepolo (Venice 1727–1804), the Angel of Fame by Giambattista Tiepolo (1696–1770) and the Journey of the Ark of the Covenant by the less-known but most remarkable painter Giovanni Battista Crosato (from the Alvar Gonzales-Palacios collection, Paris). Also significant is a group of paintings by Gaspare Diziani (1689–1767).
This large room is made even grander by three extraordinary Venetian coloured-glass chandeliers and a number of valuable pieces of furniture, such as the light blue Venetian mirrored console table and chairs that were commissioned in the eighteenth century by the Dolfin family. Another notable piece is the Italian Louis XV table clock from Palazzo Sorlini on the Gran Canal still in perfect working order.
The Pietro and Alessandro Longhi Room
In this room we find portraits and genre paintings, such as The Merry Company and The Polenta by Pietro Longhi.
Pietro’s son Alessandro was an affirmed portraitist and his production is here represented by The Official Portrait of Francesco Grimani, complemented by two preparatory sketches. Also of note are two pictures by Jacopo Amigoni (Naples 1682–Madrid 1752): The Immaculate Conception and the Portrait of the Marquis de La Ensenada, that once belonged to the most famous opera singer of the eighteenth century, Carlo Brioschi known as Farinelli.
Luciano Sorlini was not particularly fond of vedutas and rather preferred traditional landscape paintings. In this room are some curious battle scenes by Francesco Simonini and landscapes by Marco Ricci, Canaletto, Zais, and Luca Carlevarjs. Most remarkable are the paper and canvas works by Giuseppe Bernardino Bison (1762–1844) attesting the spread of eighteenth-century-style Venetian landscape painting during the 1800s.
Seventeenth-century Baroque Painting Room
Here displayed are pictures by some of the major Venetian painters of the Baroque period, representative of the evolution undertaken by some tenebrosi painters towards a lighter and brighter palette announcing the typical Venetian luminism of the eighteenth century.
Alongside the works of Pietro della Vecchia (1603–1678), Giulio Carpioni (1613–1678) and Girolamo Forabosco (1605–1679), also of note are the extraordinary paintings by Andrea Michieli known as Vicentino (1542 ca.–1618) depicting The Procession of Dogaressa Morosina Morosini Grimani (from the Turn Und Taxis Duino Castle in the province of Trieste) and Saint Jadwiga Queen of Poland by Andrea Celesti (Venice 1637–Toscolano Maderno 1712), an artist who from Venice moved to Lake Garda becoming one of the most famous seventeenth-century painters working in the area of Brescia.
Also part of the display in this room are works by Francesco Maffei (1605–1660) and Sebastiano Mazzoni (1611–1678).
The Diana Room
The great hall displays a rare telero painting by Giacomo Ceruti depicting Diana and Actaeon that once used to hang in Palazzo Arconati Visconti in Milan. Similar in subject is Gaspare Diziani’s Diana that used to hang in the “Red Living Room” of Sorlini’s Venetian residence.
This vast room also welcomes large seventeenth- and eighteenth-century paintings such as the Our Lady of Mount Carmel altarpiece by Antonio Balestra (1666–1740) complemented by a mythological painting by the same artist depicting Achilles Returning the Body of Hector to His Family (1734).
Also of note are the seventeenth-century paintings by Alessandro Varotari known as Padovanino (1588–1649) entitled Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, Lot and His Daughters by Pietro Liberi (1605–1687), and Spring and Summer by Giulio Carpioni.
This room clearly reflects Luciano Sorlini’s preference for figure paintings, with their apparent erotic allusions – a trait common to most Venetian and Veneto paintings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The Giambellino Room
The Room of Diana leads to another room that displays one of the iconic pieces of the MarteS collection, a panel by Giovanni Bellini, an artwork that certainly marks a change of taste in Luciano Sorlini’s collection.
Acquired from the Contini Bonacossi in 2000, Bellini’s Virgin and Child is displayed with other early sixteenth-century paintings such as The Virgin by Bramantino (1456–1540), The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo (1480–1530), and the Sacra Conversazione by Domenico Campagnola (1500 ca.–1564).
The carefully designed lighting and the well-spaced painting arrangement intend to highlight the collector’s change of taste and his new determination towards creating an authentic Museum where his love of beauty could be shared by everyone.
The Callisto Piazza Room
This room presents two groups of works by Callisto Piazza from Lodi: the 1524 polyptych with The Nativity and Saints for the Brescian church of Santi Simone e Giuda Taddeo, and the two remarkable pairs of Saints. The latter were part of a polyptych once attributed to Moretto, testifying the relation of Callisto Piazza’s figuration to that of the most important sixteenth-century Brescian painter. Echoes of Romanino’s eccentric style can be seen in the Cleopatra by Francesco Prata da Caravaggio.
Luciano Sorlini’s Study
This room was the study of entrepreneur and art collector Luciano Sorlini. The desk was commissioned in the 1940s, while the four Frau red armchairs attest the collector’s taste for modern design. Here hang two works by Flemish painter Lambert Sustris, a Virgin and Child and Saint Joseph attributed to the workshop of Paolo Veronese and a Nativity attributed to a painter working in the ambit of Tintoretto and a Crucifixion by Paolo Farinati.
The Gold-ground Painting Room
In 2001 Luciano Sorlini acquired two extraordinary gold-ground paintings: a triptych by Sienese painter Maestro di Panzano and a small early fifteenth-century panel by Gherardo Starnina. These two paintings attest Luciano Sorlini’s interest for non-Venetian art. In this room, the gold-ground paintings establish a dialogue with the oldest painting in the collection: the 1367 Pietà by Nicoletto Semitecolo part of a polyptych for the cathedral of Padua.
The Judith Room
This room was built in the nineteenth century when the main palazzo building saw the addition of a new wing. This is the area of the palazzo where Luciano Sorlini used to live.
The walls are entirely decorated with nineteenth-century Brescian landscapes. Also on view are The Sibyl by Palma Vecchio and Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Marco Palmezzano.
On the staircase wall are Susanna and the Elders by Gregorio Lazzarini and an intense Saint John the Baptist by seventeenth-century Neapolitan painter Battistello Caracciolo.
The Pitocchetto Room
Here are two masterpieces by Milanese painter Giacomo Ceruti known as Pitocchetto: The Bravo and The Old Peasant. The pendant paintings once part of the Baroni Monti della Corte collection, are considered two highpoints of seventeenth-century Lombard painting of reality focusing on pauper related subjects. In the same room are some Venetian character heads and portraits whose presence highlights the remarkable difference between the Venetian and the Lombard school of painting during the eighteenth century.
The Francesco and Gianatonio Guardi Hall
The museum tour ends in the ground floor hall which holds one of the most interesting series by Gianantonio Guardi. The six paintings (that were displayed here by Luciano Sorlini himself) illustrate the main episodes of the Story of Joseph, the favourite son of Jacob.
These international Rococo style pictures dating to the mid eighteenth-century were originally made for Villa Bombardini in Bassano del Grappa; in the early twentieth century they were moved to Palazzo Grassi in Venice as part of the Stucky collection, and around 1930 they were acquired by Prince Lutormirski.
Giantonio’s works are here displayed next to other paintings by his brother Francesco, including his remarkable Pietà, considered a key work of this artist’s production.