Lot 316
  • 316

Giorgio Morandi

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
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  • Natura morta (Still life)
  • signed Morandi and dated 1959 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 25.5 by 30.4cm., 10 by 11 7/8 in.


Galleria del Milione, Milan
C. Guffanti, Milan
Galleria Bergamini, Milan
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1970s


Lamberto Vitali, Morandi, Catalogo generale, Milan, 1983, vol. II, no. 1130, illustrated n.p.


The canvas is not lined. UV examination reveals two small areas of fluorescence, one towards the centre of the lower edge and one to the centre of the composition, both of which appear to relate to residual varnish. There are tiny fly spots in places. Otherwise this work is in overall very good condition and would benefit from a clean.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Stoic, obsessive, philosophical – such are the varied descriptions of Giorgio Morandi’s search for beauty and harmony in the still-lifes which dominate his œuvre. Renowned as one of the greatest still-life painters of the 20th century, Morandi spent the course of his lifetime depicting a choice of bottles, jars, jugs and boxes which he would arrange and rearrange with calculated precision in order to explore their abstract qualities and relationship.

Bar any labels or writing and painted in flat colours to eliminate reflections Morandi used these everyday objects to explore compositional balance through the use of spatial intervals, interrelation of forms, colour and light. Morandi’s paintings go far beyond the objective recording of reality. They display a gift for putting ‘the man into things, filling them with a tension and a lifeblood that makes them vibrate to the touch of that cool fire that lights them up from inside. And the studio is transmuted into an experimental laboratory in which highly sensitive seismographs, Morandi’s “antennae”, register every slightest variation in arrangement and interior atmosphere’ (Giorgio Morandi, Through Light (Exhibition catalogue), Imago Art Gallery, London, 2009, p. 22).

Morandi’s Natura morta of 1959 is a beautiful example of the artist’s mastery of the still life. The ensemble of tightly grouped objects in a variety of shapes and sizes is rendered in subtle tonal variations lending them a dream-like quality, and their material presence is transformed into a composition of pure colour and form. Morandi's mastery was in rendering these common objects with a timeless elegance and grace unique to his œuvre. The sense of classical beauty and harmony in the present work is derived from the subtlety of palette and shapes, whose simplicity is interrupted by the most delicate of variations, giving the composition a dynamic quality. In contrast to earlier still-lifes, in which Morandi used a larger range of shapes and objects, his art developed in the 1950s towards a more austere, geometrical style that allowed him to focus his attention on the pictorial elements of space, light, colour and form.  

Giorgio Morandi’s work is in the tradition of Italian painting and inspired by the great Quattrocento masters such as Masaccio, Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca, whose simple, coherent structure of their fresco paintings, together with the almost sculptural rendering of volume, exerted a significant influence on his painterly style. Morandi fused these influences with lessons learned from the father of modern ‘Classicism’, Cézanne, whose works exhibit the same compositional rigour and highly considered nature. Natura morta is a wonderful example of Morandi’s timeless compositions, created in pursuit of his own idea of a natural and universal truth.