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Cosroe Dusi, the adventures of an artist at the court of the Tsars

A major exhibition in Marostica, featuring paintings and documents, sheds light on the long-forgotten painter Cosroe Dusi, who left Italy as Venice was undergoing a decline. Two hundred works are on display, many for the first time, including prestigious loans from the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg

From 7 July to 14 October, Castello Inferiore in Marostica (Vicenza) hosts “Cosroe Dusi 1808-1859. Artistic diary of a Venetian at the court of the Tsars”, an exhibition curated by Nico Stringa and Maurizio Mottin, and staged on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the artist’s death in order to  present to as broad an audience as possible the life and work of this little-known artist. The event, promoted by the Municipality of Marostica and the Veneto regional government, with the patronage of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Affairs and the Province of Vicenza, explores Dusi’s leading role on the international and Venetian art scenes in the 19th century.
A Romantic painter and a leading colourist, Dusi’s artistic career stood out for his sophisticated yet energetic drawing style, where every detail was carefully and precisely defined, his historical settings, and the natural way in which he allowed affection to come across .
With about 200 works, many on show for the first time, and comprising 40 paintings and over 150 drawings, watercolours, lithographs, and original documents from churches, archives, private collections, and museums, the exhibition concentrates on the life and work of an adventurous artist, whose curiosities and passions were recorded in his travel diaries.
Cosroe Dusi (1808-1859) worked for about twenty years in Russia, at the court of Tsar Nicholas I. He was one of the Italian artists who lived in Venice when the city was undergoing a difficult historical transition from its formerly politically dominant role, and suffered from a veritable intellectual and artistic diaspora.
The exhibition is the outgrowth of a monograph edited by Nico Stringa and Maurizio Mottin, which traced the artist’s life and career. Dusi began his career in Venice in the first half of the 19th century, and subsequently moved to Tyrol, Munich, and Saint Petersburg. His artistic career blossomed during a historical period in which Venice was undergoing the decline associated with the Napoleonic era. Within the course of a few years, Venice was ruled by France, Austria, then back to France, and finally Austria again. During Dusi’s era, the artists and intellectuals that had begun to flee the city at the end of the 19th century continued to do so, leading to cultural impoverishment. As early as 1770, an artist of Tiepolo’s stature died in Madrid; other cases that parallel the “brain drain” of our modern era include those of Bellotto, who moved to Warsaw; Casanova, who moved to Duchov in Bohemia; and Goldoni, who moved to Paris.
The situation was further worsened by the condition in which the Academy of Fine Arts found itself in: in spite of its conversion into a public institute ordered by Napoleon in 1807, it was unable to create a context worthy of the many artists who completed their studies there, unlike its counterpart in Milan. It followed that many sculptors, architects, and painters, including Dusi, created the bulk of their work away from Venice or from Italy itself. The choice of working abroad for many years inevitably led many artists, Dusi among them, to fall into oblivion, to the extent that in spite of initial efforts to piece together his biography through drawings and paintings, an overall assessment of his career remains elusive.
The exhibition was made possible by the efforts and persistence of the artist’s descendents. Of fundamental importance for the exhibition are the works held by the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, which loaned 12 unpublished drawings and contributed an interesting essay by Natalia Demina included in the exhibition’s catalogue, published by Skira.
Cosroe Dusi, Finnish landscape, oil on canvas, 97x122 cm, Private collection
Cosroe Dusi, Finnish landscape, oil on canvas, 97x122 cm, Private collection


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