A red-robed cardinal chuckles at the letter in his hand in this oil on canvas by the Italian painter Andrea Landini. The vibrantly hued piece illustrates the artist’s genius at rendering charming narratives in remarkable detail. Entitled The Letter, the work is a superb example of Landini’s technical virtuosity — from the finely carved and upholstered chair to the neoclassical painting in the background, every detail is meticulously depicted.
Such works satirizing the clergy would have been severely censured just a generation earlier. Yet, by the time Landini picked up the brush, the European public had grown discontent with the hypocrisy of the clergy, many of whom enjoyed lavish lifestyles. Cardinal paintings such as this became highly popular during the period, and Landini emerged alongside Georges Croegaert, Marcel Brunery and Jehan Georges Vibert as the leading painters of the genre.
Born in Florence in 1847, Andrea Landini trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, first under the animal painter Riccardo Pasquini and later with religious painter Antonio Ciseri. Landini quickly made a name for himself as a painter of portraits, attracting clients such as the Signora Guerrazzi of Livorno, the contessa Lavinia Bocca, the writer signora Elena Landini Ruffino and the Princess of Wales. While his portraits made him a success during his lifetime, today he is best remembered for his highly detailed genre scenes, and particularly his Cardinal paintings such as this.