GASPARE GALLIARI (Treviglio c.1760 – c. 1823 Milan)

Gaspare Galliari

Gaspare Galliari (Treviglio c.1760 – c. 1823 Milan)

Design for a Stage Set with Sunrays Breaking through Clouds

Design for a Stage Set with Figures in a Cave Watching an Erupting Volcano

Both pen and brown ink, grey wash, partial watermark crown and posthorn, 168 x 213 mm (6.6 x 8.4 inch)

Private collection, Paris


These extraordinarily modern and haunting drawings of a two figures seated in a cave, watching a volcanu erupting in the distance and a sky with sunrays breaking through clouds, are in fact designs for stage sets, executed by theatrical designer Gaspare Galliari, who worked in Milan for most of his career. Due to the temporary nature of Galliari’s designs, the artist is now largely forgotten. Only through his own studies, such as the present work, and a small number of prints, is it now possible to capture an impression of his artistic output.

Born in a family of artists, the son of Giovanni Antonio Galliari (1718–1783), Gasparo trained with his uncle, Fabrizio Galliari (1709-1790).1 He worked in Milan, Genoa, Venice and Vienna. In 1814 a collection of mezzotinted designs by Gasparo was published by Batelli and Fanfani in Milan: NUMERO XXIV INVENZIONI TEATRALI. A similar set of watercolour stage designs is preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The watercolour frontispiece is entitled ‘DECORAZIONI TEATRALI INVENTATE DA G. GALLIARI. 1817’ (fig.).2 Among these designs is another study of an erupting volcano, this time seen through a half-drawn Classical archway (fig.).3
The near-identical dimensions of our drawings to the V&A sheets suggests that they could originally have formed part of the same set. This is further suggested by the fact that they share an un-painted band along the upper border of the sheets, presumably where they were bound in an album. It is likely that our drawings were executed around the same period, c. 1817.

1. For the Galliari dynasty, see Rossana Bossaglia, I fratelli Galliari: pittori, Milan 1962, and Mercedes Viale Ferrero, La scenografia del ‘700 e i fratelli Galliari, Turin 1963.
2. Pen and ink, grey wash, 210 x 166 mm; inv. no. E5291-1960.
3. Pen and ink, grey wash, 167 x 213 mm; inv. no. E5299-1960.