The Bellelli Family By Edgar Degas



2015-06-26 10:51:48

The Bellelli Family is a 19th century painting by the prominent French artist Edgar Degas.

The Ballelli Family, which is also known as Family portrait, is an oil canvas painting by Edgar Degas (1834 - 1917) the Impressionist artist known for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing.

It was painted in ca. 1858 – 1867, and housed in the Musee d’Orsay. The painting is a portrait of Edgar Degas’ aunt Laura, her husband Baron Genarro Bellelli (1812 - 1864) and their two young daughters Giulia and Giovanna. Even though it is not known with confidence where Dega painted the portrait from, it is believed that he finished the work the moment he went back to Paris using the knowledge acquired while studying in Italy.


Laura, who is his father’s sister, is shown in black a dress which is a significance of mourning her father who died recently and his picture is seen in the framed portrait behind her. Laura’s husband, Baron was an Italian who had been away from Naples and was residing in Florence. In the portrait he is shown separated from his family. The position of his writing desk close to the fireplace depicts his involvement with business and life away from home.

The two daughters are connected to their mother Laura. Her tolerate appears distinguished and serious. The painting gives her a lot of space which is not afforded to the husband making her appear dominant in the portrait. The younger daughter, Giovanna is relaxed in her posture though her eyes are not on her father. On other hand, her elder sister Giulla looks reserved yet close to her mother. It seems as if there is some form of tension in the family and the marriage looks strained.


Edgar Degas used oil on canvas technique on this portrait painting. The canvas material used is made from linen; better yet, the less expensive cotton textile. The usual oil painting generally starts with drawing of an oil sketch onto the linen using light paint, that is, light under printing.


Degas was criticized as ‘being obsessed with relationships sever connections’. It was claimed that all his family portraits, Ballelli Family being included shared one peculiar feature of disconnected figures. This obsession was said to have been in contrast with what was actually happening in the society especially with the middle and upper class families where there were many factors affecting these families and most spouses didn’t leave together due to work. Others said that Degas painted interior view because he could not paint outdoors due to his eyes problems.

Value and notable auction sales

In 1918, Musee du Luxemboug bought The Ballelli Family for 400,000 francs after it had been put up on sale as Degas’ estate.

Appearances at Exhibitions

The Bellelli Family is still Degas’ best landmark and currently it is displayed at the museum Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France. This portrait appeared in at an exhibition in the Winter Palace (Room 334) in November 1, 2006. This exhibition had been organized by the State Hermitage Museum in collaboration with Musee d’Orsay, Paris and supported by the ministry of Culture of the French Republic.

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