The origin of the Giovanni Züst Cantonal Gallery was the act of great generosity whereby Giovanni Züst (Basel, 1887 – Rancate, 1976) decided to link his name permanently to the small town in the municipality of Mendrisio that had been his home for years. Having moved to Ticino for work, the owner of the Chiasso-based Züst & Bachmeier transport company made an authentic private museum out of his beautiful villa at Rancate, built in the Russian style in the 19th century by the Botta firm of architects, previously active at the court of the Tsar.
In addition to the paintings from the 17th-20th centuries donated to the state in 1966, his collections comprised ancient silverware, bequeathed to the Historisches Museum of San Gallo (1969), and objects of Etruscan and Greek art, which constituted the initial nucleus of the Antikenmuseum, Basel (1959).
Züst began by collecting the work of Antonio Rinaldi (1816-1875), born near Rancate in Tremona, a corpus of nearly 100 paintings and over 200 drawings that still highlights the gallery’s local roots today. Like the other 19th-century artists from Ticino featured in the collection, including Luigi Rossi, Adolfo Feragutti Visconti, Pietro Anastasio, Ernesto Fontana and Gioachimo Galbusera, to name just a few, Rinaldi studied at the Brera Academy in Milan, an authentic cradle of talent and fertile melting pot that stimulated cultural interchange between young people from areas far apart. Despite the high quality of his work, Rinaldi remained confined to Mendrisio, producing portraits of the local bourgeoisie, frescoes for churches and very enjoyable genre scenes, whereas painters like Rossi and Feragutti Visconti attained international renown.
While the primary focus is on the 19th century, the gallery is also the public institution with the largest number of works – all of excellent standard – by Giuseppe Antonio Petrini (Carona, 1677-1758/59), a leading artist in Lombardy and Ticino during the 18th century.
The pride of the collection is, however, a trio of Caravaggesque masterpieces by Giovanni Serodine from Ascona (1594/1600-1630), described by Roberto Longhi as “not only the most talented painter of the Canton Ticino but one of the greatest in 17th-century Italian art as a whole”: Saint Peter in Meditation (“a stick of dynamite thrown into a stove”), the Virgin of the Mercedarians and Portrait of a Young Draughtsman.
Despite the very short career of this “glowing meteor that suddenly appeared and vanished all too soon” (Wilhelm Suida) and the fact that less than 20 autograph canvases are known today, Serodine’s work is considered among the best in European painting at the beginning of the 17th century.
The collection continue to grow as a result of purchases and donations as well as loans, including the Molo collection with its masterpieces of Italian art by painters such as Fattori, Segantini, Previati, Mosè Bianchi and Cabianca.
March - June: Tuesday - Sunday: 9 am -12 am / 2 pm - 5 pm
July - August: Tuesday - Sunday: 2 pm - 6 pm
September - beginning of January: Tuesday - Fr: 9 am - 12 am / 2 pm - 6 pm and Saturday, Sunday and festivities: 10 am -12 am / 2 pm - 6 pm
Closed: Mondays; 24/12, 25/12, 31/12, 01/01
Monday: Chiuso / Geschlossen / Fermé / Closed
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