Silvestro Lega, Country Girl Leaning Against a Ladder, c1895
Silvestro Lega (1826-1895) was a prominent Italian painter. He was a Realist, and also a leading member of the Macchiaioli, often considered the Italian counterpart to Impressionism. Lega's work exhibits qualities associated with both Impressionism and Realism, as do the Macchiaioli in general. The Macchiaioli movement mirrored Impressionism in its emphasis on painting outdoors, on accurate portrayals of light, and the free brushwork and paint handling that conveys the subjective reality of the artist. However much of the subject matter and themes of Macchiaioli painting followed the values ascribed to Realism in France. Many of these paintings depict Italian peasant scenes and discuss the realities of these people's lives. In this way, they often contained political ideas and Lega was involved in Giuseppe Mazzini's movement to unify Italy. Country Girl Leaning Against a Ladder is a perfect example of all these ideas. The painting beautifully communicates the reality of the scene, but the loose brushwork gives a very personal and inviting feeling. Lega also successfully communicates the heat of this hazy afternoon and the laboriousness of this girl's daily life. Lega utilizes a narrow palette, but skillfully blends the browns and greens to make the whole canvas engaging. The girl's skin stands out brighter than her surroundings, and her white garments are also noticeable, but the red of the girl's knitting is the most striking. Even without sufficient detail to make out what she is working on (A sock? A scarf?), this small splash of color completes the piece to create a thoroughly arresting painting.