‘The Mask’, large Italian oil painting by Chierici, 1869

By Chierici, Gaetano (Italian, 1838-1920)


This charming scene is by the Italian artist Chierici (1838-1920), renowned for his playful genre paintings rendered with strong pictorial realism.


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Depicting a humorous domestic dispute, this genre scene effectively conveys the familial relationships at play.

Set within a modest kitchen interior, the scene centres on a mother and her two children. The young girl clings to her mother’s leg, her face contorted in anguish and fear. Her sideways glance reveals the object of her fright – her older brother grins sheepishly as he holds a grotesque theatrical mask in his hands. With a wooden spoon still in her hand, the mother gapes at her son in exasperation. The sense of chaos and disquiet is heightened by the disorder of the room, with shelled pea pods, cutlery, and bits of packaging littered around the room. The artist captures this typical familial scene with exceptional humour, inviting the viewer into the intimacy of the moment.

Of particular note are the superb technical qualities of the work. The figures and their surroundings are rendered with impressive, nearly photographic detail, made possible by the fine application of multiple layers of thin paints and glazes. The technique allows the artist’s brushstrokes to be almost invisible, and gives objects an extraordinarily lifelike sheen. The use of colour is also particularly fine, with the neutral tones of the figures and room contrasted by pops of colour, such as the teal cabinet in the background or the red headbands of the mother and her child.

The work is signed and dated by the artist in the lower right corner ‘G. Chierici, 1869’. Gaetano Chierici (1838-1920) was considered to be one of the best Italian genre painters of his day, expanding his business throughout Europe. The pictorial realism of this scene is typical of his oeuvre, as is the subject: Chierici became known for his charming familial scenes of peasant life, which focused on capturing the atmospheres and relationships of his subjects and their homes.

This particular painting, entitled La Maschera (‘The Mask’), is a version of one of his most famous compositions. A slightly larger version by the artist dated to 1874 sold at Christie’s, ‘19th Century European Art Sale’, 2013, lot 19 (£133,875).

The painting is ensconced in an elegantly carved giltwood frame.

Rendered with the exceptional technical skill that the artist is known for, this charming painting epitomises the genre scene style.

Canvas: Height 72cm, width 96cm
Frame: Height 95cm, width 118cm, depth 8cm


Artist / Maker
By Chierici, Gaetano (Italian, 1838-1920)
Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
19th Century
Figurative Art, Genre
Giltwood, Oil on Canvas


95 cm / 37.4 inches
118 cm / 46.5 inches
8 cm / 3.1 inches


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