Portrait of Tommaso Grossi
Giovanni Carnovali detto Il Piccio (1804-1873)
1826, Oil on canvas
This is one of the best-known portraits of the Milanese poet and writer Tommaso Grossi (1790-1853), author of the famous historical novel Marco Visconti and the poem I Lombardi alla prima crociata, celebrated not only for its great likeness, but for the fact that the artist, Tommaso Carnovali, who signed and dated it, was famous in his own right. The composition suggests the romantic soul of the writer, who is shown holding a book, his gaze intent, with a landscape behind him: is it the perfect portrait of the inspired poet, executed according to established conventions. Piccio painted it when he was only 22, at a time in which he had begun to assert his independence from the lessons he had learned at the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, and we see traces here of the emergence of his own bold, experimental style that would ensure him a prominent place in the ranks of the artists of Lombard Romanticism. The atmospheric rendering of landscapes characteristic of his work can also be seen in this painting. Beyond the bust of the writer is an airy river scene, probably a view of the Po valley, where Grossi is likely to have walked.