Carlo Barbiano of Belgiojoso

Oil painting on canvas

Carlo Barbiano of Belgiojoso (1815-1881)

Christopher Columbus departing from the port of Palos recommends his children to Father Giovanni Perez (copy of the original by Pelagio Palagi)
Painting technique: Oil on canvas


The work of Carlo Barbiano is a faithful reproduction of the famous painting by Pelagio Palagi, exhibited at the Pinacoteca di Brera.

Christopher Columbus is depicted as he affectionately greets his children entrusting them to Father Giovanni Perez before reaching the Santa Maria by boat. The scene takes place at the port of Palos, from which Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492 for his historic enterprise.

The focal point of the work is constituted by Columbus and his little son who surrounds him in his arms, preparations for the voyage are in full swing: the sailors load the last trunks and a globe, the soldiers barely contain the enthusiasm of the cheering people and hopeful.

Dimensions: 134 x 159 cm

Historical-artistic analysis:

The original work was performed by Palagi in 1826-1828, a moment of particular literary fortune for the character of Columbus. It is a romantic-patriotic celebratory scene, which follows the trend inaugurated and so well expressed by Francesco Hayez. But, if the latter aimed to conquer and involve through a subtly emotional impact, so often emphasized by the play of gazes of the portrayed characters, in this work the neoclassical formation of Palagi prevails, careful to accurately reconstruct the episode, restoring the setting with detail and customs of the time.

In Italy, romanticism was above all historical: in a political situation characterized by fragmentation and foreign domination, art was a means of spreading a common ideal of nation in the soul of the Italians, idealizing a glorious past. This is the context for the work of Palagi, who intends to celebrate an illustrious Italian in a memorable moment in the history of the West.

The author of the splendid and effective copy is Count Carlo Barbiano di Belgiojoso (Milan, 1815-1881). Son of Count Antonio and Marquise Teresa Pallavicino Trivulzio, he studied law at the University of Pavia but at the same time cultivated a keen passion for the arts.

Illustration 1: Francesco Hayez, Portrait of Count Barbiano di Belgiojoso

He ventured into painting, to which he was initiated early by the painter who frequented their home, Giovan Battista Zali, and then had as teacher Hayez, a friend of his maternal uncle Giorgio Pallavicino Trivulzio, who was one of the main patrons and patrons of Francesco Hayez. A portrait of Count Barbiano, now kept at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, was painted by Hayez himself in 1873, and the count pleased the count so much that he asked for a replica (which was drawn up in an oval format).

The reproduction of Palagi’s work was carried out between 1845 and 1854, a time span in which Count Belgioioso dedicated himself more specifically and precisely to historical painting and portraits, also exhibiting in Brera. Later he abandoned the art of painting to devote himself to the literary activity in which he will experience the transition from romanticism to realism. He was president of the Brera Academy from 1860 until his death; in 1870 he was elected provincial councilor and in 1875 senator of the Kingdom.
The painting is presented in a beautiful coeval frame in gilded tablet with frieze decorations.


– A. Caimi, Delle arti del disegno…, Milano 1862, p. 61

– A. M. Comanducci, Dizionario dei pittori italiani dell’Ottocento, Milano 1934, p.44

– M. C. Gozzoli, F Mazzocca, op. cit., p. 250

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