Degas started to work on the painting The Bellelli Family around 1857, during the time he was a guest of the family of his father's sister, Baroness Bellelli, in Florence, and did not finish it until 1859. The artist wanted to portray the figures in a familiar attitude, maintaining poses that were comfortable for them. For this reason the group is not drawn up "on parade": the uncle is seated in an armchair with his back to us and all we see is his face in profile, while one daughter is sitting on the edge of a chair and her folded leg is completely hidden under her skirt. The desire to place his subjects in natural attitudes should not lead us to believe that the painting is the equivalent of a snapshot: the artist arrived at it after numerous studies and sketches, modifying the composition several times and allowing his stylistic choices to reflect the psychology of the personages as well. The painting work shows how the painter has maintained intact the taste for drawing that had come down to him from Ingres. Unlike the latter, however, he did not focus his attention on the human face, but took the same care over it as he devoted to the other parts of the body, an approach that brought him into line with Realism.
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