The game of chess signed 'F Beda' (lower right) oil on canvas 81 x 117.5 cm. (32 x 46 1/4 in.)
The second half of the nineteenth-century saw a renewed interest in the social and artistic history of the previous century. The earlier publications by Edmond (1822-1896) and Jules (1830-1870) Goncourt on French artists of the eighteenth-century sparked a general curiosity and fascination for the refined taste and decadent lifestyle of the nobility under the Ancien Regime. Paintings and engravings by the great masters of the period, from Antoine Watteau to François Boucher, and from Jean Baptiste Chardin to Jean Honoré Fragonard, provided the imagery of this by-gone era. It was Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) who transcribed these visual legacies into a more contemporary form of art. Indeed, his particular interest in private domestic scenes, equally inspired by Dutch seventeenth-century painting, enabled him to create a form of art that rapidly spread across the continent, among a new generation of the growing bourgeoisie. Meissoniers taste for domestic scenes of daily life became, for some time, highly valued in the marketplace. However, while Meissonier concentrated on depicting the activities and pastimes of a more erudite society of the eighteenth-century connoisseurs examining their art, philosophers absorbed in their readings - his followers soon created a demand for more entertaining scenes, where minute attention is given to the costumes and interior decorum of a small group of young and beautiful protagonists. Among Meissoniers more selective followers, Francesco Beda appears as one of the most talented representatives of this style. Born in Trieste in 1840, Beda attended the Accademia di Venezia where he became a student of Karl von Blaas (1815-1894). Regular visits to neighbouring Croatia and Hungary earned him a number of commissioned portraits. He settled for some time in England, where his genre scenes and history paintings brought him regular commissions from connoisseurs and collectors alike. His son Giulio Beda (1879-1954) led a successful career as a landscape artist in Germany.