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Nella Marchesini, Donna dormiente
ca. 1920
Material and technique
oil on canvas
59x49 cm
Augusta Monferini
The influence of the Turin school is also starkly evident in this sleeping woman by Nella Marchesini, a pupil of Felice Casorati, the master who, from his arrival in Turin in 1919 to the end of the 1930s, provided a focal point for the new generation of artists and was at the centre of innovative trends.  Casorati very cleverly shaped culture in Turin through his many contracts and through the ‘school’ which formed in his large studio, in the rarefied and elitist atmosphere eloquently described by Lalla Romano, well-known painter and writer from Turin and also one of his pupils.
The portrait is of a woman asleep; she is lying naked from the waist up, her head bent to one side and her arms stretched along her sides. The unusual foreshortening of the figure, which is viewed from below, calls to mind the famous perspective in Mantegna’s Dead Christ, although there the similarity ends. The nude embodies the same desire for simplification which inspired the painters of the Turin Gruppo dei sei of the time and which has produced the highlighted sharp square of the neck and deepening shadows around the closed eyelids. The thick impasto, reflecting the light from above, is applied in broad heavy brushstrokes, creating a plastic effect. The woman’s skin glows with a faintly violet tinge that is picked up in the shadows of the pillow and furnishings behind her. Her legs are covered in a greyish purple fabric draped in thick folds. The technique of foreshortening the body to create areas of shadow is a legacy of Casorati, which Marchesini combines with and adapts to a compositional structure that is closer to the style of the Gruppo dei sei.
Donna dormiente
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