‘The Circle of Life’
Oil on canvas 17″ x 25″
Giovanni Battista Torriglia
Italian School 1858-1937
Giovanni Battista Torriglia was born in Genoa in 1858 and later moved to Florence to complete his training as an artist. During this period he decorated the interiors of numerous churches in the area, in particular in the towns of Salviola, Monte Fignoga and Sestre Levante.
Above all, Giovanni Battista Torriglia was a genre painter, tapping into the desire of the nineteenth century art collecting bourgeoisie for historical and narrative paintings. Torriglia’s work often shows a strong narrative content, and ‘The Circle of Life’ is a fine example.
Torriglia liked to portray situations where happiness was not dependent on material wealth – ‘The Circle of Life’ portrays a peasant family: these are nurturing people, caring for their children and chickens, lavishing them with love and attention. In the corner a young girl reads a book, showing the aspirational qualities of the scene, and the family are enjoying the spectacle of the young boy blowing bubbles, presumably to entertain the baby. Nineteenth century painters were keen to
show peasants to be charming, healthy, smiling people, portrayed sympathetically – one could almost say patronisingly.
Giovanni Battista Torriglia’s work was also allegorical. He often painted multi-generational scenes such as this to illustrate the circle of life. At the centre of the painting is the young child, the light from the window shining fully on him, whereas the old man feeding his chickens at the back of the room and at the periphery of the painting, is in shadow. The bubble floats between the young boy and the young child, symbolizing the beauty and fragility of life.