On 13 August 1839, Giovanni Renica embarked from Ancona on a journey of around ten months to the Mediterranean. The artist had long since established himself as one of the most talented vedutisti of the Lombard school. After learning perspective drawing in Brescia from architect Rodolfo Vantini, he moved to Milan in 1928 to follow the teachings of Giovanni Migliara at the Brera, a master from whom he derived the broad scope of views and attention to detail, while through his friendship with Giuseppe Canella, his works were enriched with luministic and atmospheric sensitivity.
After having portrayed numerous locations in northern and central Italy, in 1939 Renica was then involved by the Milanese count Renato Borromeo in a journey with the aim of documenting places and customs in the Middle East. The dates recorded in the numerous drawings have made it possible to reconstruct the exact itinerary travelled (Anelli, 2003; Spetsieri Beschi, 2004): after passing through Corfu and sailing along the Peloponnese, on 30 August Renica arrived in Athens where, after visiting other places in Greece, he would stay again on 20 and 21 September. From Piraeus he then sailed to Egypt, arriving on 25 September to remain there until the end of the year.
of the year. In January, the journey continued to the East, with stops in Palestine, Beirut, Cyprus, Rhodes, Smyrna, Constantinople. From here, the return in May with stops in Malta, Messina and Naples. The rich graphic corpus constitutes not only an extraordinary reportage from which the artist would draw for years, as the many paintings executed in the atelier show, but also a testimony, in the effective dosage of the pencil stroke often enriched with watercolour, of careful luministic research. It is precisely the expression of light in the different hours of the day that is the protagonist of these paintings, as the artist specifies in the notes on the verso.
Thus, to represent Night we have an evocative view of the port of Ancona bathed in the reflections of the full moon, counterpointed by the light of the aedicule illuminating the devotees in the foreground; in Midday, the sun’s rays penetrate through the clouds and powerfully illuminate the Acropolis with the city of Athens at its foot, then just a small village, while the panorama opens out to the sea and the small figures in the centre reveal the meticulous study of local customs. To render the subtlety of the Morning light, with all its rich violet-orange hues, the artist could only choose a view of the flooding of the Nile, complete with pyramids in the background. Three paintings, therefore, not framed together but conceived to form a triptych exemplifying, through the different states of the day, the key moments of a journey that made Renica one of the first Italian Orientalist painters.