Previati in Love: A Rediscovered Masterpiece

Gaetano Previati
Gaetano Previati, Il Bacio, 1889-1892

It is rare to be enraptured by a work of art at first sight. But this is what happened to me with Il Bacio, an extraordinary masterpiece by Gaetano Previati dated 1889-1892. When we first “met”, the painting was mistakenly hung on the wall horizontally, its keepers possibly led astray by the decades of dust and varnish covering it and especially by its subject, which is difficult to read.

I was immediately entranced by the allure of the figures and their graceful pose, the extraordinary painting technique and the unmistakable light of the great Ferrara master. But also by the incredible back of the painting, filled with stamps and labels reporting its exhibition history, from the shows at the renowned galleries of Alberto Grubicy (first in 1902 in Milan and then in 1907 at the Paris gallery, listed as Romeo and Juliet) to the 1928 Venice Biennale and the exhibition of Italian art in Berlin in 1937.

Gaetano Previati, Il Bacio (detail), 1889-1892

I could see that the painting was covered with years of grime and marred by unfortunate restoration attempts and I could imagine what it must have looked like when Previati painted it.
And I said to myself: this is a masterpiece that needs to be brought back to Italy post-haste. We hope that we have achieved our aim of giving Italy back a masterpiece of 19th-century Italian art and returning the painting itself to its original splendour, through its careful, painstaking restoration.

Gaetano Previati, Il Bacio (detail), 1889-1892

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