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In Barletta, invitation to Casa De Nittis

The life of the Apulian painter who enchanted Belle Époque Paris is a novel

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Where is

Puglia

Via Cialdini, 74, 76121 Barletta BT, Italia (12m s.l.m.)

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What it is and where it is

Barletta is a beautiful city in Adriatic Apulia, with a spectacular Romanesque-Gothic cathedral and a church dedicated to the Holy Sepulcher, harking back to the time when people embarked for the Crusades from here. Then there is the famous Disfida, launched by Hector Fieramosca in 1503 and revived in a famous 19th-century novel, now raised to literary park status. The wonder that remains to be discovered is the Pinacoteca di palazzo Marra dedicated to Giuseppe De Nittis, a Barlettano who made his fortune in the Paris of the Impressionists.

Why it is special

Giuseppe De Nittis (1846-84) was, together with Giovanni Boldini from Ferrara, one of the so-called Italiens de Paris, painters who managed to make a name for themselves in Parisian high society. His story is told in the more than 200 works donated to the city of Barletta by his widow: Apulian and Campanian landscapes from his early days, views of Paris and London from his golden years; aristocratic interiors, but also family scenes. In France his success was such that he was awarded the Legion of Honor and buried in the Père-Lechaise cemetery.

Not to be missed

"Breakfast in the Garden" is considered De Nittis' most significant work: exhibited in 1884, the year of the artist's sudden death, it is considered a kind of his artistic testament. The painting, which revisits a cherished theme of en plein air painting, is set in the garden of the painter's Parisian home. Surrounding the laid table are his wife Leontine and son Jacques. Everything, even the objects arranged on the tablecloth, is functional in recreating the sense of bourgeois sophistication that was the author's most characteristic feature.

A bit of history

Contributing to De Nittis' affirmation was undoubtedly his wife Leontine. Indeed, it was she who favored his inclusion in the Parisian high society by keeping a salon that was distinguished by Saturday night receptions with music and delicacies. It was frequented by the most famous painters of the time, but gradually the parterre expanded in an increasingly worldly sense, thanks especially to the favors of Princess Matilda Bonaparte (depicted in another famous painting preserved in the Pinacoteca di Barletta).

Curiosities

Barletta's collection also includes a self-portrait of the painter, made inside his Parisian home in 1884, that is, shortly before his sudden death from a cerebral stroke at the age of only 38. Looking at it, one shares the meaning of the epitaph written for him by the author of "The Lady of the Camellias," Alexandre Dumas son: "Here lies the painter Giuseppe De Nittis, who died in full youth, in full love, in full glory. Like heroes and demigods."

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Francesco Soletti

An Italian in the Paris of the Impressionists... The story of this painter comes alive in the paintings in the collection donated to his hometown.

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