La Chiacchiera (The Gossip)

by Eugenio Zampighi


DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 22.0 x 30.0 in./55.9 x 76.2 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed lower right
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

The Gossip is a beautiful genre scene, painted in the genre style for which Eugenio Zampighi was so well known, and with which he enjoyed great commercial success. The painting portrays a family in a simple countryside interior. The subjects are depicted smiling, with rosy cheeks and a healthy countenance. A young woman sits at the table, with a hen at her feet. She is reading a newspaper, and an older man stands behind her, reading over her shoulder. On the right, a child looks admiringly towards the two adults. The group are surrounded by symbols of an idyllic rural life; leaves litter the stone floor, well used jugs and a bowl sit on the table, and a simple picture of the Virgin and Child hangs on the wall behind. The painting romanticises the lives of rural Italian people; implying their simple happiness and Christian morality. This kind of work was highly popular commercially amongst wealthy Europeans of the 19th and early 20th Century, who longed for a piece of their imagined country existence.


Private Collection, United States

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Eugenio Zampighi was an Italian painter and photographer, mainly of Genre subjects; idyllic images of simple family life in rural Italy.

He enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Modena under Antonio Simonazzi. He was influenced from a young age by the Modern Realist painter Giovanni Muzzioli. In Muzzioli’s style, Zampighi made paintings of scenes from history, with the subjects presented as contemporaneous Italian people. After winning the prestigious Poletti Prize for painting in 1880, with his entry, A gladiator wounded in a Flavian Amphitheater, he was given the opportunity to continue his studies in Rome, and then in Florence, where he settled permanently in 1884.

During the 1880s, he became interested in genre painting. These pictures of simple everyday goings-on, led Zampighi to incredible success on the Italian art market, and brought him international commissions. He was inspired by the style of Gaetano Chierici, and by the Florentine Macchiaioli School.

His forays into the new technology of photography always took place mainly in his studio with the aid of models in peasant costume or the dress of the common people. He used the photographs as a kind of sketch for his paintings, which allowed him to work without the constraints presented by using live models. The photographs were the basis for joyous and idyllic paintings of Italian rural life, devoid of any hint of social criticism. The innocent nature of Zampighi’s work was therefore greatly appreciated by foreign tourists and wealthy people who lived in cities, who wanted a piece of countryside life. Consequently, Zampighi worked in this style until his death in 1944.

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