Carlo Bellosio was born in Milan in 1801 and is one of the main representatives of Lombard Neoclassicism. He studied at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, following the lessons of Pelagio Palagi, from whom he inherited all the stylistic features of classical and academic painting.
Initially he was active in Milan, especially in the creation of sacred works: he frescoed the lunettes of San Protaso with the Beheading of the Baptist and the Martyrdom of San Protaso, but also the church of the Holy Sepulchre with Episodes from the Life of Saint Charles. In the 1830s, however, he combined his work as a decorator with that of easel painter.
Academic painting and classical models
The David and Saul in the Pinacoteca di Brera dates back to 1835. It was painted while he was working on the decoration of the royal residences in Turin commissioned by Carlo Alberto and entrusted to Palagi. Together with Vitale Sala he devoted himself to the decoration of the Cabinet of Apollo in the Castle of Racconigi, creating scenes linked to the myth of Apollo.
With academic precision and constant reference to classical models, filtered through 17th-century colours, he executed the Sacrifice of the Bulls, the cycle with the great poets of the past, Jupiter and the Olympian gods in the vault of the dining room, The Stories of Ulysses in the Gallery of Aeolus and in the Chapel, The Four Evangelists, The Sibyls and God the Father.
The first romantic styles: between history and mythology
In 1842, for the Church of San Vittore he painted The Virgin and Child in Glory, The Education of the Virgin, The Martyrdom of San Vittore. Again chosen by Palagi, in the first half of the 1840s he worked at the Royal Palace in Turin, where, together with Francesco Gonin, he frescoed the Ballroom with Dancers of clear classical influence. While a slightly more up-to-date approach to Romantic styles can be seen in Amedeo VIII in the act of instituting the order of SS. Annunziata, in the Salone degli Svizzeri. The historical episode has a different verve from the other mythological or allegorical frescoes, such as Jupiter Striking the Giants in the Rotunda of the Armoury.
In 1845 he travelled to Russia to study at close quarters the places to be included in the Berezina Landscape, a painting that he left half-finished because he was taken by death during its preparation in 1849.
A series of seven historical and mythological works were presented at the Turin Exhibition of 1850, after his death: Vittorio Alfieri writing the tragedy Saul, The Meeting of Ulysses with Penelope, The Giant Polyphemus, Sacrifice to Ceres, Sacrifice to Vertunno, The Green Count Duke of Savoy with Allegories and The Green Count Instituting the Supreme Order of SS. Annunziata.