ANTONIO BASOLI (Italian, 1774-1848)
Rustic Interior Design for the Stage
Watercolor and brown ink on off-white wove paper
13 ¾ × 17 3/8 inches (34.9 × 44.1 cm)
Signed, in ink, at lower right: Antonio Basoli fecit
Active primarily in Bologna, Antonio Basoli was a painter, interior designer, scenic designer, and engraver. His earliest artistic studies were with his father, Lelio Andrea Basoli, and he frequently worked alongside his brothers Francesco and Luigi, also artists. He later studied at the Accademia delle Arti di Bologna (then known as the Accademia Clementina), where he was docent of ornamentation from 1803 until his death in 1848 and professor from 1804 to 1826.
Antonio was particularly interested in classic art and literature and the works of the artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). His travels included sojourns to Trieste and Friuli to paint frescoes in private palaces (1801-1803), to Florence and Rome (1805), Ravenna (1816), and Milan (1818), where he studied the innovative set designs of Alessandro Sanquirico (1797-1849).
Antonio worked as a set and curtain designer and as a decorator for numerous theaters in Bologna and its environs, including the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Today his work is known primarily through drawings, watercolors and engravings, many of which are in collections in Bologna (Pinacoteca, Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnassio, Biblioteca dell’Accademia di Belle Art, Raccolta Bassi-Certani), Milan (Museo della Scala, Raccolta Bertarelli), and Florence (Uffizi), and evidence of his activity as a decorator can still be found in local Bolognese palaces, such as the palazzi di Giustizia, Rosselli del Turco, Sanguinetti, and Hercolani.
Our drawing, a completely worked up sheet, was executed, perhaps, for an operatic set design. It depicts the interior of a rustic, but well-appointed, cottage constructed from stone and wood. The central hearth has various plates and pitchers ready for use atop its mantel. Two shelves on either side of the hearth display jugs, bowls and platters, while the hearth itself is supplied with the necessary implements for cooking over a fire. In the right foreground, stone stairs lead up to an unseen second level and, in homage to Piranesi, a ladder just to the left of the stairs appears to go nowhere. A second oven is also in view, perhaps for baking bread. Light pours into the cottage from the center back of the image and illuminates the main hearth. Basoli has deftly, but freely, portrayed this cozy interior using soft-colored washes of watercolor, pen and brown ink, creating a welcoming scene that invites the viewer to linger.