During the 18th century, there was a tremendous amount of variety in the subject matter of genre painting, which usually represented scenes from everyday life. Such work often depicted the lives of commoners, including beggars, soldiers of fortune, and tradespeople. One of the most popular subjects was the depiction of women engaged in domestic tasks. These paintings were collectively known as bambocciate, or scenes of "trivial" subjects. An eye for exaggeration and the grotesque was often a characteristic of this style. Flemish and Dutch artists accounted for the majority of genre painters, and Austrian and German painters followed their lead. Many of these, working in Italy as well as in their native lands, were loosely connected with a group of bamboccianti painters who had converged on Rome during the previous century. Of the many practitioners of low-life and peasant scenes, certain painters stand out as exceptional; these include the Italian Giacomo Ceruti (c.1698-1767). who was principally active in Brescia. The English artist William Hogarth (1697-1764) dealt with similar subject matter, but his bitter and witty comments and his moral reflections on the society of his day place him in a different, more satirical artistic category.
(b Milan, 13 Oct 1698; d Milan, 28 Aug 1767)
Italian painter. He was one of a group of artists working in Bergamo and Brescia who observed reality with an unusual freshness and directness. He painted religious subjects and portraits but was most distinguished as a painter of genre and low-life scenes. These included many pictures of beggars and vagabonds ( pitocchi), hence his nickname ‘il Pitocchetto’. He married in Milan in 1717 but settled in Brescia in 1721. In 1723 he received a horse in payment for three altarpieces and four frescoes for the parish church of Rino di Sonico; they were mediocre works executed in an unadventurous blend of Lombard and Venetian traditions derived from contemporary Venetian painters working in Brescia. Ceruti’s early portraits and genre scenes are less conventional and more intensely felt; in 1724 he signed and dated the strikingly naturalistic portrait of Giovanni Maria Fenaroli. Other portraits of local nobility, such as the Gentlewoman of the Lechi Family, may be dated to the same period. These eminent Brescian families showed some sensitivity to social problems, especially poverty, and were linked to religious currents close to Jerusalem.