Fabio Cipolla

The Courtship

Fabio Cipolla

The Courtship

This late 19th-century oil painting by Italian artist Fabio Cipolla (1854-1935) depicts a young courting couple dressed in 18th-century attire within a palatial interior setting.

Our hero, wearing black, sits perched upon an ostentatious loveseat. His hand in hers, he gazes somewhat forlornly towards her porcelain skin. Flowers adorn the room. A conspicuous bouquet emerges from a blue vase, while a gilt screen is decorated with Rococo embellishments.

Cipolla was a master of ‘costume painting’ whereby he’d look back towards an exceedingly romantic time when aristocratic frivolity was deemed the height of good taste. He imbued each piece with theatre, as if we’re looking through a window towards a misty-eyed vision.

His patrons adored such playful scenes - not only for their aesthetic but also their deeper symbolism. For instance, here we see the use of a fan to convey a secret message, which could only be read by those who’d studied its connotations.

Such was the excitement about fans that Parisian fanmaker, Duvelleroy, published a guide for the uninitiated. A few of its numerous explanations include:

Twirling in the left hand - We are watched.
Presented shut - Do you love me?
Drawing across forehead - You have changed.
Twirling in the right hand - I love another.

And alas for our poor gentleman…

Dropping it - We will be friends.

Further to this, to compound his misery, she’s also extending her pinky finger which translates as ‘Goodbye’.

A classic tale of unrequited love exquisitely rendered by one of the finest Italian costume painters of his generation.

Signed lower left and held within a gilt frame.

Previously sold at Bonhams (16 jun 1994) for £5,000.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 20” x 27” / 51cm x 69cm
Year of creation: c. 1900
Labels & Inscriptions: Dealer's label on reverse.
Provenance: Felix Dennis Estate, Warwickshire, England / Private Collection, England.
Condition: Artwork presents well. Canvas relined. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction maximum: £13,431

Fabio Cipolla

Fabio Cipolla

Working predominantly from his studio in Rome, Fabio Cipolla was a distinguished Italian painter of genre scenes and ‘costume paintings’. He trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and his works were published in various periodicals.

Learn more about Fabio Cipolla in our directory.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

Stay In Touch
Subscribe to our Wednesday newsletter for the latest finds and 10% off your order.