The painting is part of the triptych The Three Sisters Sisters created by the artist in 1916 and it consists of two other canvases, the Cultured and the Crazy.
The definition of the three works as a triptych is particularly important, because the artist’s idea was that the paintings should be presented like ancient altarpieces, made of two or more panels – or three as in this case – often of identical dimensions, sometimes with two identical side panels and a different central panel in shape and size put together. In this case the side paintings have the same rectangular shape and size, while the central painting is squarer and it has a different size.
The Wise is depicted in the central painting. The painting, also known as Signora Vacca, is a portrait of a young woman sitting on a bench, dressed in a long and elegant white dress, embellished with a green shawl behind her shoulders. The woman with wavy, short, black hair has heavily made up eyes and particularly pale face. The slender figure is arranged in a very composed pose; in fact, her torso is very straight, and the arms and crossed hands are gracefully resting on the legs. Her fixed eyes are impenetrable and staring directly towards the viewer. This makes her the wise sister, who occupies the central position in the triptych.
The background, colored with shades of green, is not well defined and it brings out well the clear figure. However, the colors and the presence of hedged and vases with flowers in the background suggests that the woman is sitting in a garden.
The colors are vivid and enlivened by the background without the traditional chiaroscuro used to give depth and harmonize by making more delicate the various passages of tones and colors, which are placed here for contrast.
The artist uses chiaroscuro and delicate light effect only to describe the woman’s dress, where the fabric forms transparent effect in the sleeves and bust that seem like tulle or transparent veil. The figure is fully illuminated by a clear light.
The museum preserves the painting of the Wise since 1923 when it was purchased for the sum of 10,000 lire. The other two paintings, the Cultured and the Crazy were donated by the author to the National Gallery of Parma in 1970 to complete the triptych.
Bocchi was born in Parma on August 24, 1883. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Parma in 1901.
The same year he moved to Rome, where he attended the courses of Scuola del Nudo and met artists Giacomo Balla, Duilio Cambellotti and Giorgio Aristide Sartorio and he studied the works of contemporary painters, including foreign artists, in particular Gustav Klimt and Henri Matisse. Bocchi was deeply fascinated by Klimt’s works, which he studied in Venice on the occasion of the Biennale in an exhibition dedicated to the Austrian artist, and where he himself exhibited two works.
He specialized in fresco technique, which he studied in Padua during the decoration of the basilica of Sant’Antonio together with Achille Casanova, while in the 1910s’ he worked on the restoration of the Golden Room in the Castle of Torrechiara, near Parma, which Benedetto Bempo had painted in the 15th century.
He was familiar with the various artistic currents that developed in the first decades of the century, but he never adhered to any specific style, although he was interested in the Roman Secession and especially in newly born liberty style, an Italian interpretation of Viennese novelties.
He decorated several public works in Parma, such as the Council Chamber of Cassa di Risparmio, (1913-1916) in which his interest in liberty style and Klimt’s works is evident.
In 1915 Bocchi moved permanently to Rome, where he developed his style towards divisionism and symbolism.
He became a successful artist, who loved to paint landscapes, female figures and his family, for which he received great feedback and he was appointed academic of San Luca, the same institution that dedicated an exhibition to him in 1964.
He was afflicted by the loss of two wives and his young daughter Bianca, and he continued to paint until his death in Rome on December 16, 1976.
In 1999 the city of Parma dedicated a museum to the artist, housed in Palazzo Sanvitale. The exhibition is organized in chronological order to illustrate the painter’s artistic and personal journey.
The construction of Palazzo della Pilotta started in 1583 for the order of the duke of Parma and Piacenza, Ottavio Farnese, who entrusted the task to architect Francesco Paciotto from Urbino. The name Pilotta derives from the game pelota, played by Spanish soldiers in the courtyard of Guazzatoio.
Today, the building holds the museum of archeology, national gallery, Palatine library, Farnese theater, and the Bodonian museum as well as the Accademia Nazionale di Belle Arti, the artistic lyceum of Paolo Toschi, the Department of Cultural Heritage and Performing Arts of the University of Parma.
After the extinction of the Farnese dynasty their collection was moved to Naples by Charles III of Spain in 1734. Pilotta remained without its artistic treasures until the duke Philip of Spain arrived in Parma in 1749. The son of the king of Spain and his wife Louise Elizabeth, the favorite daughter of the king Louis XV of France. At this occasion, Pilotta became a cultural center, a real symbol of the enlightenment and the French politics. Accademia di Belle Arti was founded in 1757 and a new artistic collection was created, from which will originate the Galleria Nazionale. The Palatina library (1769) and archaeological museum (1769) were added to the complex.
During the years of the restoration, under the duchy of Marie Louise of Austria (1816-1847) the cultural institutions of the Pilotta underwent considerable transformations. The halls of representation of the court were rearranged and the façade of the Palazzo was remade between 1833 and 1834, creating its elegant neoclassical character. Th task was entrusted to the architect Nicola Bettoli and the aim was to giver greater dignity to the ducal residence.
During the 1944 bombardments the building was severely damaged and from this point began a series of restoring interventions renovating the interiors, which became suitable to host the Galleria Nazionale, starting from 1991. The collection includes La Scapiliata by Leonardo da Vinci, the Turkish Slave and the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine by Parmigianino, Correggio’s Madonna of St. Jerome and the Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, Guercino’s Susanna and the Elders and a view by Canaletto.