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Giuseppe Pelizza da Volpedo - The Fourth Estate
Giuseppe Pelizza da Volpedo - The Fourth Estate

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An emblematic work from an artistic, technical and social point of view, Il Quarto Stato is the masterpiece of Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo (1868-1907). The scene, set in a square in the painter's hometown, represents the protest of a group of workers, whose march towards a bright future claims the cohesive strength and dignity of work from which the redemption of the people must start. It is a monumental painting on which Pellizza worked between 1898 and 1901, years characterized by strikes, protests and demands of the working class, of which painting became the spokesperson.The realization of the painting required the painter a long period of study that lasted ten years . In fact, three previous versions are known: Ambassadors of hunger (1892), Fiumana (1895) and The journey of workers (1899) next to the definitive work, which the painter, inspired by the writings of Jean Jaurès on the French Revolution, will title The Fourth Estate . Presented to the public at the 1902 Turin Quadriennale, the painting remained unsold, but soon became a famous and reproduced symbol. In 1920, in the incandescent climate of the Red Biennium, Il Quarto Stato reached Milan on the occasion of a monographic exhibition at the Pesaro Gallery. The uproar aroused was such as to promote a public subscription to secure the canvas to the city, finding its place in the Balla room of the Castello Sforzesco and then moving to the Gallery of Modern Art in the current seat of the Villa Reale. After the Second World War, the painting was moved to Palazzo Marino, the seat of the town hall, as a symbol of the conquest of democracy and the reappropriation of rights. It is no coincidence that in 1979 he will be chosen by Bernardo Bertolucci for the beginning of the Novecento film. Rediscovered as a masterpiece of Italian painting at the same time as the flourishing of studies on Divisionism and the exhibition in London and Washington, in 1980 the painting returned to the museum. After an interlude of a decade, during which it marked the isolated and spectacular incipit of the new Museo del Novecento opened in 2010, the monumental masterpiece returned to the Gallery of Modern Art in July 2022.

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