An illicit letter signed 'VReggianini' (lower left) oil on canvas 39 3/4 x 27in (101 x 68.5cm)
PROVENANCE: Private collection since 1960s.
The 19th century in Europe was a time that saw a great amount of technological innovation but also of military conflicts that spanned the entire century. Tensions and exorbitant expenses related to the pervasive military situation strained every level of society, leaving Europeans desperate for the more settled times of bygone eras, when chivalry and elegance defined previous generations.
In the midst of this general turmoil emerged a group of artists that became known as Costume painters. Their goal was to revive the elegance and luxury of the past by creating idealized paintings of a time when leisure and romance were at the forefront of daily life. Among them worked a highly skilled group of artists referred to as the 'Silk and Satins School', spearheaded by the French artist Charles Soulacroix and the Italian Vittorio Reggianini. (William Rau, Nineteenth-Century European Painting: From Barbizon to Belle Époque, Woodbridge, 2012)
Reggianini worked both in Modena and Florence, and after trying his hand at historical and peasant subjects, he turned his attention to elegant costume themes. As opposed to other Costume painters who would craft tales of knights and maidens of centuries past, Reggianini embraced contemporary fashion which he rendered in spectacular detail and precision. The viewer's eye is treated to an unparalleled opulence and luminosity of fabrics, floor and wall coverings. As his fame crossed the Atlantic, Reggianini received countless commissions from Europe and the United States.