The Pinacoteca cantonale Giovanni Züst (Züst Gallery) of Rancate, close to Mendrisio, gathers works of artists that were active in Ticino from the 17th to the 19th century. The apex of the collection consists of a trio of Caravaggio-style works by Ascona artist Giovanni Serodine, one of the greatest authors of 17th century Italian art. The museum also offers important works of Giuseppe Antonio Petrini of Carona, protagonist of 17th century Ticino and Lombardy. The century that is best represented is, however, the 19th century with paintings of Antonio Rinaldi of Tremona and other important Ticino and Lombardy painters.
According to the well-known Italian art historian Roberto Longhi, Giovanni Serodine (1600-1630) "not only is the most eminent of Ticino painters, but is also one of the leading artists of 17th century Italy". Among the works of this author that can be admired at the Züst Gallery, there are the "Virgin of the Mercedarians", the "Portrait of a young artist" and the "Saint Peter in meditation". The latter one is the most important and is commented as follows by Longhi: "Everything revolves around the oscillating flame of the tallow candle, pale color on St. Peter's head and hand, his bleeding flesh; it almost scratches the table, soaks the filthy wall, inflames the book's pages and lingers on the horrid skull which so resembles an imaginary precious cave filled with pearls. It almost reminds of Rembrandt's 'Carcass of an Ox', or of the modern Soutine".
The Züst Gallery is a public museum that owns the greatest amount of works – all of excellent quality – of Giuseppe Antonio Petrini of Carona (1677-1758/59), one of the main figures of 18th century Ticino and Lombardy. The century that is most widely represented remains however the 19th. The local heart of the Gallery is represented by almost 100 paintings and over 200 drawings of Antonio Rinaldi (1816-1875), native painter from Tremona, near Rancate. Rinaldi, as well as other Ticino artists of the 1800s, well represented in the collection – Luigi Rossi, Adolfo Feragutti Visconti, Pietro Anastasio, Ernesto Fontana, Gioachimo Galbusera, to cite a few – attended at the Brera Academy in Milan, a true forge of talents and fertile melting pot that stimulated cultural confrontations between youth from faraway places.
The Gallery's collection – later enriched by new purchases, donations and loans –originated from the private collection of Giovanni Züst (Basel 1887 - Rancate 1976). Owner of the transport company Züst&Bachmeier of Chiasso, he settled in Rancate in a pretty Russian-style villa built in the 1800s by Botta architects, already active at the court of the Czars. The Gallery, housed in the striking spaces of an old parish home, refurbished and enlarged by architect Tita Carloni (1967), is today active in the promotion of culture thanks to the biannual offering of temporary exhibits. These are research exhibits, always curated by renowned personalities of the artistic environments who privilege the rediscovery of Ticino and Lombardy artists that have worked on the territory.