CERUTI, Giacomo
(b. 1698, Milano, d. 1767, Milano)

Evening at the Piazza

c. 1730
Oil on canvas, 210 x 298 cm
Museo Civico d'Arte Antica, Palazzo Madama, Turin

Ceruti was Milanese by birth but chose to live in Brescia. He was one of the most interesting Lombard painters of the eighteenth century but his output is very varied and patchy. In his altarpieces and religious paintings he seems unsure of himself, but in his portraits he could be penetratingly intense. In his works about the poor, he sometimes bordered on genius and gave rise to a new genre in painting. No one before him, not even Caravaggio, had ever portrayed with such moving grandeur the rejected of this earth, those whom the Italians call the "pitocchi" (hence Ceruti's nickname Pitocchetto, the Little Miser).

The tradition of "painting from reality" spanned several centuries and was an authentic and deep aspect of Lombard art, where Ceruti's place is crucial both for its stylistic and moral importance. In the middle of a century too often written off as frivolous and superficial, Ceruti painted little seamstresses, washerwomen, errand boys and idiots, stragglers and the destitute. In doing so, he sounded a note of humanity that is still heart-touching. The characters in these street ballads are portrayed nobly. Ceruti's brush explores their souls and melds them with the dull and dark colours of their clothes. It is thanks to Ceruti that we have a different, disenchanted but moving image of the eighteenth century.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.