Inganni Angelo, Peasant Lighting a Candle with an Ember
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works associated

1,850; oil on canvas
cm. 102,5 x 75
Signed and dated bottom right: “Angelo Inganni / 1850” Inscription on the upper part of the stretcher at the top: “Angelo Inganni”
Inventory: AH01410AFC
Provenance: 1982, Milan, Finarte
Exibition: 1851, Milano, n. 155

This painting can be identified as the canvas exhibited at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera in 1851. It belongs to a homogeneous group of genre scenes in the Neo-Flemish style produced by Angelo Inganni in the 1850s, a section of his output that increased after he moved to Brescia.


The rustic figure trying to blow a smouldering ember into flame for his candle emerges from the darkness in a virtuoso light effect that generates a strong chiaroscuro contrast. The man’s face glows with the heat and the light of the fire, which reveals all the details of his apparel, such as the peacock feather in his hat and the handkerchief sticking out of his pocket.


Wholly devoid of the moralistic intent that distinguishes the genre painting of the time, the painting presents an engaging and readily comprehensible subject, the real aim being to impress the viewer with a display of the artist’s technical prowess. The positive response on the part of the public led to the creation of a vast repertoire of smokers, peasants and drinkers depicted in dark settings illuminated by a single source of light like a candle, lamp or fire. This became characteristic of the painter’s mature period together with scenes from rural life and animals, as exemplified in the Cariplo Collection by Birds of the Marshes.


The large size of the work in question and its early date suggest that it constitutes the prototype of a successful series of paintings aimed at the general public, small works on canvas and cardboard or miniature replicas in enamel, as exemplified by the Peasant Lighting a Candle with an Ember in the Museo Civico in Brescia.

From November 2011, the work has been on view at the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan.



Sources:Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio Cariplo, Opere d’arte. Atti d’acquisto ex Cariplo. Fald. 2/3, pratica no. 879 R/587


Esposizione delle opere di Belle Arti nelle gallerie dell'I.R. Academia di Belle Arti per l'anno 1851, Tip. Pirola, Milano, 1851, n. 155, p. 24;
Dipinti del XIX secolo, Asta 421, Finarte, Milano, 1982, n. 171, p. 171 (come Contadino che accende una candela);
Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, p. 285, ill. n. 545 (come Contadino che accende una candela);
Paola Zatti, Angelo Inganni, Contadino che accende una candela con un tizzone, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 140, p. 232, ill..;
Elena Lissoni, in Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, Da Canova a Boccioni. Le collezioni della Fondazione Cariplo e di Intesa Sanpaolo, Skira, Milano, 2011, n. III.39, pp. 190-191, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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