Title: The Bellelli family.
Author : DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)
Creation date : 1858
Dimensions: Height 200 - Width 250
Technique and other indications: Painting also known as "Family portrait" Oil on canvas
Storage place: Orsay Museum website
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot
Picture reference: 99DE12625 / RE 2210
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot
Publication date: March 2016
In the middle of the XIXe century, the big bourgeoisie, both actor and beneficiary of the industrial revolution, seeks to leave to posterity the image of its economic and social success. At a time when photography is only a technique and an emerging art, the family portrait is particularly fashionable in painting and does not escape the onslaught of modernity.
During a stay in Italy, Degas is working on a portrait of his paternal aunt Laure, with her husband, Gennaro Bellelli, a baron engaged in business, and their two daughters, Giovanna and Guilia, who have settled in Florence.
Represented in its plush interior - everything from wallpaper to furniture including the cord of the bell to call the servants, refers to the high social rank of the Bellelli - the family is divided into two groups: on the one hand, the mother , still young but rigid, dominates surrounded by her daughters, one wise, already a prisoner of the conventions linked to her rank, and the other turbulent, perhaps attracted to the dog. On the other side, the father, picked up in an armchair, turns his head towards his daughters for a moment. The dark clothes of the mother and the daughters, although enhanced with white aprons, refer to the recent mourning of the baroness's father, always present through the blood made of him by Degas, and reinforce the heavy, almost distressing climate of the scene. .
This ambitious painting, to which he devoted several years of work and research, expresses on the one hand the affectionate lucidity of Degas in front of his family, on the other hand the painter's admiration for the drawing of the old masters and Ingres in as well as his attraction to modern realistic composition and technique.
Himself from the bourgeoisie, Degas is a privileged guide to help us discover the environment which is familiar to him, with its conventions, its interiors, its costumes, its attitudes.
This table, initially called Family portrait, expresses particularly well the position of the mother in the bourgeois family: full of dignity and coldness, she reigns at the same time on her interior and on her family under the eyes of the master of the house, here indifferent. Exactly, The Bellelli Family breaks with the traditional illustration of the triumphant bourgeois family to evoke its dramas, in this case a banal but painful marital disagreement. This masterpiece from Degas’s youthful years holds the promise of all his future daring.
- industrial Revolution
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1. This table takes the definitive name of The Bellelli Family after the identification of the characters in the first decades of the twentieth century.
To cite this article
Fleur SIOUFFI, "Portrait of a bourgeois family"