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Michelangelo pittatore and his pupils
Arts and crafts overthrow the aristocracy.

The tradition of portraiture has always had the celebration of important families or its center of gravity

Michelangelo Pittatore and his pupils portrayed the middle-class of Asti, from the banker to the grocery shop’s owner.


Sebastiano Pittatore had reluctantly abandoned his artistic career as a painter and had specialized himself in a much more remunerative art: that of framer and decorator, in a small workshop located in Asti, in the area of Borgo San Pietro. Sensing Michelangelo’s talents, in 1836 he sent his son, then eleven years old, to the painter Agostino Cottolengo, the brother of the more famous Benedetto. This is the letter of presentation:

“…I send you my son according to our intelligence; when you will have tried him and recognized his ability or not, please give me a report […] About the teaching, I will take care to be grateful to you. I commend myself to your magnanimous heart in all, asking you to keep my son always busy “

After a long stay in Rome, during which Michelangelo Pittatore refined his skills, he returned to Asti in 1855, more or less permanently.

In the years of his stay in Rome, in fact, Pittatore will be influenced by the liveliness of the capital, creating a group of works defined as “genre painting”, only apparently minimalist, but actually the result of investigations on the chronicle and the small domestic things, which reveal all the concerns and aspirations concerning the social rise of the new middle class.

Returned to Asti he will become the protagonist of the local commission by painting a considerable series of portraits. He will also work on religious works for the churches of Asti area.



Observing Michelangelo Pittatore’s paintings, you will be captured by softness of the brushstroke, a technique used to create a rich gallery of the new Piedmontese bourgeoisie that was on its way to achieve the Unification of Italy.

Rejecting Baroque mysticism, or the daring “vedutism” of his late evolution into Rococò style, Pittatore inserted himself in the artistic currents by proposing a portraiture only apparently canonical, but in total contrast with the spirit of the time.

If in the tradition of portraiture we find nobles and prominent figures of the clergy, in the works of Pittatore and his pupils (e.g. Giulio Musso, Anacleto Laretto, Paolo Arri) we observe the exact opposite: a testimony of the faces of a rising social class and, at the same time, of a fragmentary and suffered humanity.

In their only apparent simplicity, they convey a profound and poignant fragility, representing a document of  Asti bourgeoisie in the post-unification period.

The whole of these portraits gives us back, like a mosaic, an overview of the history of the city and, at the same time, realizes the typical Italian storytelling, without the modesty and the rigidities of the traditional conventions. A sharp, dramatic and sometimes “disrespectful” but, also for this reason, free tragicomedy.


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