Morandi’s still lifes often suggest an entire world with a few objects. In paintings such as his Still Life from 1952, that world was Bologna, the city where he lived and rarely left.
The bottles, vases, and boxes grouped together in this work resemble the rooftops and towers of Morandi’s native city. Bologna was represented in several paintings that Morandi could have seen in the National Pinacoteca of Bologna, including Madonna and Child Enthroned between Saints Petronius and Tecla by Lorenzo Costa (b. 1460, Ferrara; d. 1535, Mantua). The city-in-miniature in Saint Petronius’ hands reveals the interplay of forms that make up the Bolognese skyline and that reappear in Morandi’s still life.
Morandi most probably studied similar cityscapes in paintings by other Italian artists, such as St. Jerome in the Desert by Giovanni Bellini (b. ca. 1430, Venice; d. 1516, Venice). Formerly in the famous collection of Florentine collector Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, it is now in the Uffizi Gallery, a museum that Morandi visited often when in Florence.