Portrait of Antonio Ghidini with his Family
Pietro Melchiorre Ferrari (1734/35-1787)
18th century, Oil on canvas
In this portrait, a profusion of fabrics seems to allude to the prosperous business of the sitter Antonio Ghidini, who was official supplier of fabrics and textiles to the ducal court and maintained profitable relations with Booth of Manchester, an English warehouse of suppliers (as seen in the papers in the top left) and one of the most important European business families of the time. The floral fabric of the dress worn by the elegant hostess came from Melandri, which had factories in Veneto, Lyon, and Spittlefields (London); the elaborate embellished bodice appears to be Venetian. Confident in his happy family, Ghidini asked one of the best artists in the Duchy to portray him with his wife and children according to a canon that reflects, in the striking naturalness of the composition, in which the sitters appear to be have been captured in a moment of domestic intimacy, the new direction of English painting, the conversation pieces that appealed so much to the enlightened bourgeoisie of the time. Until a few years ago, the painting was believed to have been the work of Baldrighi, Ferrari's teacher, but the painting has been attributed to Ferrari due to a reference in the list of works of Ghidini’s heirs: 'A large painting representing portraits of the Ghidini family by Pietro Ferrari Lire nuove 110'. The work can be dated after 1769 due to the presence of a portrait medallion held by the child with the blue headdress commemorating the marriage of Maria Amelia of Habsburg to Fernando of Bourbon in that year. In addition to the admirable quality of the portraits, the nonchalance of the poses, and the serene calm that characterises the painting, we may note the preciousness of the clothing–a tribute to the patron–particularly the woman’s superb and very elegant silk brocade from Lyon.