Project Description

Giulio Viotti ( Casale Monferrato 1845 – Turin 1878 ), Chinese shadows at the Pharaoh’s court

Oil on canvas cm 64 x 96 signed lower right.

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For a painter, as Giulio Viotti, active in Turin in the 19th century, the enchanted and mysterious world of the East was at his fingertips: in fact, King Carlo Felice in 1824, buying the collection of Consul General of France during the occupation in Egypt, the Piedmont Bernardino Drovetti, and putting together with it others classical antiquities came from house of Savoy, gave birth to the first Egyptian museum in the world.

The influence of exoticism, the suggestions inspired from remote and mysterious cultures, the quest into the unknown, historical or fantastic subjects, atmospheres and narratives inspired by the Orient, are fed so in the imagination of painters from Turin, thanks to the study of the artifacts, statues, sarcophagi, mummies, papyri, amulets, jewelry, available in the museum. To a fully romantic sensibility is so impressed a turn towards orientalist direction which, in the artistic production of Viotti, creates genre scenes or historical – literary, sometimes not without sentimental accents, choosing in some cases unusual scenes as in the painting presented in here: the objects that decorate the room, where a young woman, resting on a precious turquoise pouffe, decked out with sumptuous jewelry in the Egyptian manner, intent on projecting, on wall with reliefs counting hunting scenes, a profile of a swan with the play of Chinese shadows, recall reminiscent types of amphorae, vases and colossal statues actually conserved in Turin’s Egyptian museum.

Skilled watercolorist, formed for a short period at the Albertina Academy, Viotti was active in Rome under the guidance of Mariano Fortuny. Thanks to him, he abandons the landscape to pay particular attention to the figure in historic costumes, participating to numerous national exhibitions, taking part in Promotrice Society in Turin, in 1870 and 1875. To the exhibition in Vienna in 1873, his “Idyll at Thebes”, the painting features two academic figures with a strong sensuality, enlivened by the skillful use of light and color, is rewarded with the gold medal. The artwork, exhibited in 2011 in Barletta exhibition “Magic and discoveries. The East in the 19th century Italian painting”, where it gained a renewed interest in the Turin painter, is counted in the collection of the Museum Revoltella in Trieste.


The meeting in Rome with Fortuny, perhaps the greatest orientalist painter of fantasy, which was mentioned before, had probably an important specific weight on the choice of the setting in an old Egypt totally imaginary lively genre scenes – as in the case the painting presented here -, sometimes elevated to the great format traditionally reserved to history painting.