Women and work in agricultural landscapes


Lega loved the countryside near Florence. In his own words, it helped him “cleanse myself of any conventional or academic influence, in a baptism of solitude and nature” (Tinti, 1926, p.31). In a macchiaiolo sketch of his, whose finished painting is on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, he depicts his beloved Virgina, whose family hosted him for long periods of time in Piagentina, at work on a water wheel at the Batelli villa. In the 1800s, water wheels were used to draw water from wells and were operated with the help of pack animals. The woman is portrayed from the back, while a vegetable garden is visible in the background. The macchiaiolo painter Cannicci instead depicted the rural landscape in an idyllic, lyrical manner, with his sparse painting style reminiscent of the work of Telemaco Signorini. The painting depicts a spring day: a woman walks through a cherry orchard in blossom, together with two barefoot girls carrying bundles of grass.