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Description

Renowned artistic scholar and the first known owner of the 'Donna Laura Minghetti Leonardo,' he granted it to Donna Laura Minghetti, the wife of a close friend, in his will.

Creator

Claire Summa

Source

"Giovanni Morelli." Encyclopedia Britannica. Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. Accesssed March 2016. https://dictionaryofarthistorians.org/morellig.htm

Biographical Text

Born to a protestant family, Giovanni Morelli studied medicine at the universities of Munich and Erlangen because Italy had banned protestants from universities. Once graduated, he never practiced medicine but began his career in art under a pseudonym in a mock study of iconography (analysis of subject matter and its meaning in the visual arts). Until 1840, Morelli lived in Paris, where he gave up science for good. He then returned to Italy, serving in the Risorgimento ("Rising Again" - political movement for Italian unification which produced the Kingdom of Italy in 1861). He became Senator of the unified Italy in 1873, and went on to chair many commissions of art. Most importantly, Morelli helped enact legislation which forbade export of art treasures from Italy, and which standardized conservation practices of museums. He played an instrumental role in saving many masterpieces for Italy.

Morelli didn't publish the first work concerning his methodology of art, "Italian Masters in German Galleries," until 1876 as a series of articles and then as a book in 1880. He explored this "Morellian Method" again in his treatise, "Italian Painters: Critical Studies Of Their Work," which used the perspectives of two famed art scholars to speculate on the authenticity of the attribution of many works of art. Essentially, he criticized each work by explaining why it could be correctly attributed (credited to an era, place, artist, etc.) and why it could be a fake or falsely attributed, without ever making any real accusations.

The "Morellian Method" supports the idea that the key to correctly attributing a painting lies in the homology of the works of the era/place/artist to which it should be attributed. More specfically, the idea that "all painters, however great, tend to fall back on a formula for rendering such details as the ear or fingernails, and. . . these minor details are therefore the most characteristic parts of a picture and the surest guide to attribution" (Giovanni Morelli). The principal follower of this method, Bernard Berenson, helped Morelli correct hundreds of false attributions. Morelli's influence opened doors for Berenson that enabled him to establish his career. Morelli's work influenced many other art historians, including Jean Paul Richter, who went on to work for Theodore Davis.

Morelli was the first known owner of the mysterious 'Donna Laura Minghetti Leonardo.' In his will, he left the painting to Donna Laura Minghetti, the widow of two-time Italian Prime Minister, Marco Minghetti, who Morelli connoisseursed for, befriended, and guided in artistic scholarship. He referred to Donna Laura when writing to a friend as "good and wholly lovable – but, unfortunately, like all the women equipped with such excellent qualities, essa è tiranna. And I am too old for allowing someone tyrannise me, since I cannot be hoping anymore for efficient revolts with a happy result. Thus I prefer to see her and to stay with her only two or three times a year – with all the friendship and sympathy that I have for her" (Seybold).

Birth Date

February 2, 1816

Birthplace

Verona, Italy

Death Date

February 28, 1891

Occupation

Italian art connoisseur

Bibliography

"Morelli, Giovanni [Lorenzo]." Dictionary of Art Historians. Dictionary of Art Historians, n.d. Web. Accessed March 2016. https://dictionaryofarthistorians.org/morellig.htm

Seybold, Dietrich. "The Giovanni Morelli Monograph." Microstory of Art, 13 Feb. 2016. Web. Accessed March 2016. http://www.seybold.ch/Dietrich/TheGiovanniMorelliMonograph

Abbreviated Biography

Morelli was the first known owner of the mysterious 'Donna Laura Minghetti Leonardo.' In his will, he left the painting to Donna Laura Minghetti, the widow of a two-time Italian Prime Minister that Morelli likely met and befriended while serving as Senator of the Italian state. He referred to Donna Laura when writing to a friend as "good and wholly lovable – but, unfortunately, like all the women equipped with such excellent qualities, essa è tiranna. And I am too old for allowing someone tyrannise me, since I cannot be hoping anymore for efficient revolts with a happy result. Thus I prefer to see her and to stay with her only two or three times a year – with all the friendship and sympathy that I have for her" (Seybold).

Citation

Citation

Claire Summa, “Morelli, Giovanni,” The Emma B. Andrews Diary Project, accessed June 20, 2021, https://www.emmabandrews.org/project/items/show/116.

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