Argelia Butti was born in Trieste in 1855, into a family well known in the city’s intellectual circles. Her father Luigi ran a commercial business and was the brother of the marine painter Lorenzo Butti; her mother Alessandrina came from a wealthy family in Trieste. The three sisters, Adele, Sofia and Argelia, grew up in a very intellectually fertile environment: they studied literature, music and painting.
Argelia appeared to be more skilled than the others in painting and was therefore sent to perfect her skills in the studio of Antonio Lonza, a genre painter specialised in the reconstruction of 18th century scenes and deeply influenced by the bright and lively colours of Mariano Fortuny.
As a result, the young Argelia Butti developed a marked inclination towards genre scenes of an anecdotal nature, but also towards portraits. At first she exhibited in Munich, but found it difficult to gain critical acclaim.
The Trieste literary salon and the irredentist cause
Nevertheless, she remained a passionate animator of the family salon in Trieste, together with her sisters, fervent supporters of the political and philosophical thought of Giuseppe Mazzini and faithful and obstinate irredentists. In the meantime, Argelia continued to devote herself to painting, producing fresh and luminous genre scenes set in interiors with detailed furnishings, using a witty and lively style and vibrant colours inherited from her master Lonza.
Among her most important works, exhibited mainly in Munich, are scenes in 18th century costumes and historical reconstructions, such as The Lovers’ Thanksgiving. One of Argelia Butti’s best-known paintings is Reverie, a nostalgic depiction of a young girl looking out of a window and being bathed in light, in a richly detailed interior constructed with lively brushwork and small, luminous touches.