By Giorgia Ferro
Showcasing in the splendid setting of Palazzo Pallavicini, via San Felice, from October 22nd, 2020 to the 14th of February, 2021, the exhibition “Vittorio Corcos Ritratti e Sogni” explores over 40 evocative works that trace the entire artistic career of Vittorio Corcos (Livorno, 1859 – Florence, 1933).
Dedicated to one of the most appreciated painters of the feelings and customs of the Belle époque, this show includes some of the most beautiful known women of the time who are the undisputed protagonists of the artist’s portraits. Characterized by the delicacy of the stroke, by the almost photographic minuteness in the representation of luxurious objects and fabrics but also by the psychological depth of the characters that give the subjects a mysterious appeal. These women are suspended between myth and reality on a plateau of ideal beauty and hidden meanings.
His production is also enriched by intricate landscapes immersed in the light of the Livorno coast, revealing his closeness to the poetics of naturalism, but his fame remains linked first and foremost to female figures. His most intriguing and controversial portrayal of a woman, considered by the critics of the time too explicit for the bold and unconventional pose which he depicts, is enticingly titled “Dreams”, this work is striking for the boldness of the woman’s body language and her deep and introverted gaze which draws you into the painting grasping a prolonged connection with its viewer.
With an inclination for introspection, Corcos portrays his family and intellectual friends, documenting the cultural panorama and exchanges that went on in his Florentine house giving us an insightful representation of his expertise from a technical point of view, and the ability to capture the soul and magnetism of his subjects which transpire across the ages to us today. Some of the portraits on display, at times austere, in others spontaneous, include his painter friends such as Silvestro Lega, the critic Enrico Panzacchi and fellow countryman Yorick, the publisher Emilio Treves, writer of maritime stories Jack la Bolina, and characters of the calibre of Giosuè Carducci and, of course, Emma Rotigliano, Giovanni Pascoli’s, friend and companion, known as the “gentile unknown”.
In the autumn of 1880 Corcos travelled to Paris where he measured himself with the novelties of Impressionist painting both in landscapes, paintings ‘en plein air’, and in the more congenial genre of portraits, daring a comparison with Boldini and De Nittis. In perfect harmony with the international taste and expectations of the merchant Goupil, he skillfully composed intimate scenarios and graceful “jolies femmes” an emblem of neo-eighteenth-century elegance and style, whilst being updated on the most significant influences of the contemporary art of his period.
Corcos had a villa built in Castiglioncello, at the end of the century, overlooking a large inlet of the sea, which has become one of his most popular settings for his portraits and ‘conversation scenes’, where the elegant protagonists of Umbertine Italy are portrayed, in the splendor of the summer light incarnating a bourgeoise society that had made holidays a particularly suggestive rite.
Pleasing to the eye and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, this exhibition is a must see for it gives a direct window into the past, incarnating its poetics and moods which, in parallel with the birth of psychoanalysis, induce representations of ineffable mystery to its viewer which is left with a pure sense of wonderment.