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Material and technique
88 x 52 cm
Antonio Del Guercio
Maternità, painted in 1881–1882, is one of Silvestro Lega’s most powerful works. The central focus is on the two crucial areas of the mother’s face and the child; the mother’s hands frame the space in which the scene – or event – takes place, the right hand firmly supporting the child and the left balancing it in the air.
The dark colour of the mother’s dress is broken up by the child’s face and clothes, while the light falls gently on the right side of her face, creating an area of brightness against the shadow that spreads over her left cheek.
At the time Lega painted Maternità his style centred on the arrangement of dense masses, brought to life by the play of light and shade, both of which gain substance from the very density of colour. Yet, clearly present in this arrangement of masses and strong contrast of light and shade is the lyrical, moving element that was a hallmark of Lega, a dominant figure in 19th century Italian art and well-known throughout Europe.
Lega’s paintings never “impose”, as it were; they do not demand an immediate visual and mental response from the viewer, but claim our attention and slowly unfold before us, triggering powerful feelings.
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