Tranquillo Cremona, High Life (A piquant conversation)

Tranquillo Cremona (1837-1878), High Life (A piquant conversation), circa 1876-1877, watercolour finished in gouache on grey paper, 520 x 365 mm. Signed top-right with the monogram "TC" (inv. n. Agg. 742)

Included in the donation by Vittore Grubicy De Dragon, the work was given to the City of Milan in 1920. The history of the watercolour’s ownership was clarified by the same Grubicy in a long note attached to the back of the painting, in which he explains how the work, which was sold to James States Forbes, then ended back in his possession.
Displayed at a commemorative exhibition organized by Grubicy in 1878, along with Le Page Boudeur, the watercolour and the pendant were dated 1877: the handwritten note brings that date forward to 1876.

The subject falls into the category of the genre painting favoured and often portrayed by Cremona and depicts a scene of everyday life of the upper classes. Four women clad in elegant and vaporous dresses captured in light conversation while in a garden. The subjects have been identified as the wife of the painter, Carlotta Cagnoli, wearing a blue dress, and his sister in law Elisa (Lisetta) portrayed three times standing in different poses.

The watercolour is of the highest quality, also due to the use of the technique refined by Cremona, in which zones of liquid and solid application alternate, at times allowing the underlying paper to show through. The technique, thanks to the speed and detail of the notation, creates an atmospheric effect in which the environment and subject are blended in light and colour.