La «scomparsa» di Morelli. Sfortuna critica di un grande pittore ottocentesco (1915-1961)
Domenico Morelli was notoriously a central figure of his time, but many people came to terms with him even after his death. Further, consecration through a profusion of writings dedicated to him and a relatively constant exhibition presence made the Neapolitan painter a point of reference, even a controversial one, in early 20th-century Italian figurative culture. The aim of this essay is to set the robust oscillations of Morelli’s criticism against the backdrop of the complex phenomenon of critical and historiographical rediscovery of 19th-century Italian and Neapolitan painting that took place during the 20th century. From this perspective, the flourishing denigrating literature on the Neapolitan painter is of particular interest, rich in insights and interpretative perspectives intertwined with stereotypes and critical clichés. In some ways, the frequent attacks on Morelli constitute the other side of the tormented phenomenon of historicisation – steeped in actualising instances – of the ‘Macchiaioli’ 19th century that occurred between the two wars and continued after 1945. Two dates will serve as chronological stakes for this study. Upstream is the publication of Morelli and Dalbono’s writings in a volume in 1915, and downstream the exhibition of Palizzi and Morelli held in Naples in 1961.