This massive hand painted 19th century canvas is more than 8 feet tall and 16 feet wide. The vibrant colors (brown, green, blue, cream, red, yellow and gray) are fantastic for a canvas of this age. The canvas has a 8 ½ inch stylish border all the way around that includes a cartouche near the top that reads RETOUR DE LA CHASSE (“return from the hunt”).
It was executed by the workshops of the Italian painter, Rodolfo Morgari (1827-1909). Morgari belongs to a dynasty of artists that lies between the late eighteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. The piece seen here can be described as a pictorial representation of a tapestry, which is what his workshop became so famous for in the 1870’s. The workshop was so skilled that they were able to reproduce the effect of the discoloration caused by light, and for which Morgari received the gold medal at the Turin Exhibition of 1884. He received countless awards and was given important commissions all over Italy, including being named “painter and restorer of the Royal Palaces” by Victor Emmanuel II, King of Sardinia and King of Italy.
The scene depicted is aptly described by the title: a hunting party has returned from a successful outing. In the center of the canvas, a large stag is suspended upside down, tied to a long wooden carrying pole. Two men are supporting the yoke with their shoulders as they walk towards the right. A third man, leading one of the hunting dogs, can be seen next to the man at the rear of the pole. The dog breed is probably a lymer, which is a scent hound often sent out on leashes during hunts. A small pond surrounded by vegetation can be seen in the foreground below them.
In front of the pond, two men are walking together, both with spears slung over their shoulders. The man in the front appears to be pointing behind him. The other man is the “huntsman” of the group, as indicated by the horn around his waist. The huntsman is the person most responsible for the care of the hunting dogs. His primary method of controlling the dogs is by utilizing a horn or bugle to indicate directions based on the number and length of the horn notes. Just above their heads in the background, a man talks to a figure on horseback as the horse rears up. The horseback rider is more than likely the “field master” of the party. The field master will typically ride a jumping horse in front of the hunting party, but within eyesight of the huntsman. The field master must know the terrain intimately, as he is responsible for guiding the hunting field (party).
To the left of the pond and on top of a small hill, two women are riding horses. Next to each of them, a man is walking beside the horse; one of the men has a sword in hand. To the right of the horses, a woman controls another dog on a leash. In the background is a sprawling forest and two men talking in front of a bridge that spans a river. On the far side of the river are more trees and the faint outline of some mountains.
The canvas painting or ‘toile peinte’ is signed in the lower left hand corner: “Atelier Rodolphe Morgari a Turin”. It dates to circa 1870, and has remained in good overall condition. Its great size indicates that it was likely commissioned for an important Italian villa or palace. 8.4 Feet x 16.5 Feet Long.
CONDITION: Good overall antique condition with pin prick holes around the border where it was hung at one time. Small tears in a few areas of the canvas. See photos.