Giovanni Pagliarini was born in Ferrara in 1809. After starting his artistic education as a pupil of Gregorio Boari and Giuseppe Saroli, he moved to Venice to enter the Academy of Fine Arts, at the time directed by Leopoldo Cicognara from Ferrara. From 1829 to 1833, he attended Odorico Politi’s courses and then obtained a boarding school in Florence thanks to his academic success and the funding of some nobles who believed in him.
The study trips from Florence to Vienna and the move to Trieste
In 1834, he stayed in Florence, where he attended the Academy directed at the time by Pietro Benvenuti. Here he consolidated his language, already marked by a tempered neoclassicism, and continued this research during a stay in Vienna at the end of his academic studies. Following these trips for further education, Giovanni Pagliarini did not return to Ferrara, but settled in Trieste, where he opened his own studio which he affectionately called his ‘Ferrara Pantheon’, because he painted illustrious figures from his city on the walls, from Nicolò Ariosto, Ludovico’s father, to famous jurists.
Although Pagliarini’s training was purely neoclassical, during his years in Trieste he devoted himself mainly to genre scenes, painted with a formal precision that immediately met the taste of the local bourgeoisie and aristocracy. Among the works of this first phase are Dancing in a restaurant and Farmer eating soup.
Between Trieste, Udine and Ferrara: the Biedermeier portrait
At the same time, he became involved in history painting, in which the Middle Ages and tales of courtly love find their place through skilful handling of colour and drawing. Collectors began to commission him to paint personal and family portraits, in which the painter wanted to emphasise the social context, setting and status in the Biedermeier style.
In fact, with care and meticulous detail, he carefully describes the objects surrounding the people portrayed, the tapestries, the clothes and often the works of art collected, which help to define their character and class. It was in this way that Pagliarini easily won the appreciation of clients not only from Trieste but also from Udine, the city to which he moved at the end of the 1940s. From then on, he also devoted himself to sacred painting, in which he showed a decidedly purist tendency, working in various churches in the Friuli area, including the Cathedral of Capodistria, where he painted the Immaculate Conception.
However, his favourite genre remained the biedermeir portrait, as can be seen in one of his most famous works, The Family of the Engineer Lavagnolo, a veritable treatise in pictures of the status of a middle-class family in the mid-nineteenth century.
Pagliarini returned to Ferrara in 1859, inaugurating a series of works dedicated to the Risorgimento issue, including Family of the Plebiscito. Again adopting the genre of the bourgeois portrait in the style of Molteni, he emphasised the patriotic qualities, the anti-Austrian orientation of the family and its role in the annexation of Ferrara to the Kingdom of Italy (one of the members holds the paper with the results of the plebiscite). In his city, he continued to work in the field of portraiture, but also took up sacred decoration. In 1861 he exhibited Friulian scene at the National Exhibition in Florence and Rest of Mary in 1863. He took part in the 1870 National Exhibition in Parma with two Portraits from life. After obtaining the chair of figure painting at the Civico Ateneo in Ferrara, he died in 1878.