The Blessed Labre
1942, oil, canvas, 80 x 65 cm
signed and dated lower right: Pisis / 42
NG S 1993, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The painting is signed and dated at the bottom right: Pisis / 42. The title, The Blessed Labre, refers to Saint Benedict Joseph Labre (Amettes near Boulogne 1748 – Rome 1783). The blessed Labre lived in Italy from 1770 onwards and spent his last years in Rome, where he was known for his scrawny body, which he exposed to the inclemency of the weather, his ragged clothing, his suffering from parasites and wounds, and his food, which consisted of bread and grass. On this painting the artist draws attention to the parallels between the saint and a beggar, who also has a rosary around his neck and who is also ascetic, starving and in tatters.
The style is characteristic of De Pisis' mature period, its main features are rapidly applied, almost stenographic brush strokes and a colouring which alternates between French Impressionism and Venetian 18th century painting.
Provenance: Presented to the Narodna galerija in 1942 by the Italian occupation authority of the province; confirmation of the inventorisation of the painting dated 16 April 1943, old Inv. No. 1879; 1952–1983 on loan to the Moderna galerija, Ljubljana.
Exhibitions: 1942, Venice; 1969, Verona; 1980, Brugherio; 1983, Ljubljana, No. 103; 1985, Belgrade, No. 58; 1987, Belgrade-Zagreb-Ljubljana-Sarajevo, no number; 1996, Ferrara, no number.
Lit.: Umetnost 1944, IX, 1–3, Fig. on p. 17; Zeri [& Rozman] 1983, pp. 84–85, Cat. and Fig. No. 103; World Masters 1987, p. 90, Fig. on p. 91 (text Jure Mikuž); Trento 1992, pp. 142, 145, 164, Fig. on p. 145; Gian Ferrari 1993, p. 173; Buzzoni 1996, p. 122, Fig. 61.