Main | Art magazine | Against the decency of society. Courtesans and nude models in the paintings of Federico Zandomeneghi.
Against the decency of society. Courtesans and nude models in the paintings of Federico Zandomeneghi.

Against the decency of society. Courtesans and nude models in the paintings of Federico Zandomeneghi.

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Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917) was an Italian artist working in the direction of Impressionism, a member of the art association Macchiaioli, whose representatives, unlike most of the French Impressionists, raised social issues, and their paintings in terms of subject matter were closer to the paintings of our Peredvizhniki. Zandomeneghi's works were distinguished by rich colors, decorative, some stylization, thick brushstrokes and dense texture.

Over tea

But the themes raised in them did not correspond too closely to the desire to show the humiliated and insulted, which was customary for itinerant artists. Zandomeneghi paid more attention to moral issues and willingly portrayed uninhibited girls - keepers, courtesans, or even ordinary street "love priestesses" who were ready to take the initiative in their own hands, not particularly thinking about external decency and what others would think of them, as in his painting "In the New Athens Café".

At the New Athens Café.

By modern standards everything is fine there, but based on the morals of the XIX century, a decent girl could not just so make a promising acquaintance with a man and in general appear in such an institution without the accompaniment of relatives or an elderly maid. So the picture clearly shows a courtesan who is making an appointment with a client. This is indicated by the bottles of wine on the table - three is too much, the lady is probably already drunk and is not going to stop.

A Visit to the Dressing Room

A similar situation is depicted in the painting "A Visit to the Dressing Room". There a respectable gentleman comes to the ballerina and obviously not only to express his admiration for her dancing. And the ballerina has nothing against his society has nothing against him, moreover, probably glad that it was possible to make a relationship with a new admirer. Zandomeneghi drew attention to the usual for that time the practice of ballerinas going to keepers. They gladly accepted expensive gifts, and dancing especially clever of them perceived only as an opportunity to attract the attention of wealthy fans. So some ballerinas are just highly paid courtesans, and theaters unwittingly carried the function of brothels.


Federico Zandomeneghi came from a creative family - his father and grandfather were famous sculptors, and the desire of his son and grandson to enter the Venetian Academy of Fine Arts was taken for granted. And at 19, Federico went to war - participated as a volunteer in the "Expedition of a thousand" under the leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the purpose of which was the liberation of Sicily from foreign invaders. After the war, Zandomeneghi began to live in Florence, where he became acquainted with the artists of the Macchiaioli school. In general, they were close to the Impressionists in their style of painting, preferring to work on the plein air rather than in the studio, painting with broad strokes and indistinct contours, and color in their paintings prevailed over drawing.

After bathing.

Even their leisure time was similar to that of the French Impressionists - they gathered in the evening in their favorite cafe and over a bottle of cheap wine - the expensive and young artists simply had no money, argued about new trends in art and the role of color in painting.

My model

But gradually Zandomeneghi felt that in Italy he was getting bored, and fully realize himself in no way. So he went to Paris, where he became his own among the local impressionists. His paintings were exhibited at all the Impressionist exhibitions and the Salon des Indépendants, were on good account among the few connoisseurs. He was friends with Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, was a witness at Renoir's wedding. It turned out that Impressionism was international, and one did not have to be French at all to work successfully in this direction.

Young girl

However, to earn enough money only by selling paintings could not manage, so he had to draw illustrations for fashion magazines. But thanks to the patron and collector of paintings Paul Durand-Ruel, finally managed to focus on pure creativity. And in 1898 was organized and personal exhibition Zandomeneghi - it turned out that he created a lot of wonderful paintings, which are still pleasing to all lovers of impressionism.

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