Luigi Busi was born in Bologna in 1838. He completed his training at the Venturoli Art College in his city, with Gaetano Serra Zanetti. He then attended Clemente Alberi’s courses at the Academy of Fine Arts. His production began with history painting, but was already directed towards a personal interpretation based on truth.
History painting: the focus on truth
He made his debut in 1855 with Jacob’s Meeting with Rachel, while in 1857 he exhibited Nicolò de’ Lapi before the execution and in 1858 Jeffe’s daughter. Thanks to the critical and public success he received with these early paintings, the Bolognese painter was awarded an artistic pension in 1858.
He went to Rome, where he was finally able to pursue his realist research, without ever neglecting the historical genre. In the future capital of Italy, one of the most fertile centres from an artistic point of view, he met Cesare Fracassini, Federico Faruffini and Stefano Ussi. These comparisons offered him new insights that enabled him to give Bolognese history painting an innovative, clearly realist direction, with great attention to the rendering of light and colour.
Returning to Bologna in 1860, he painted The Last Hours of Doge Foscari and above all Torquato Tasso and Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini in the Convent of Sant’Onofrio in Rome, exhibited in Bologna in 1864 and at the Universal Exhibition in Paris three years later.
Genre painting: anecdotal subjects
His return to his city also encouraged him to deal with themes linked to Bologna’s contemporary life and not just its history. In the Seventies, in fact, he was involved in a series of anecdotal subjects with strong moral overtones bordering at times on sentimentality, in works such as Condolence Visit of 1870, Uncertainty of 1874 and Consequences of a Marriage Celebrated in a Religious Rite of 1875.
In these years Busi also received a series of public commissions: he painted The Martyrdom of Saints Vitale and Agricola in 1873, for the church of the same name in Bologna, and an Adoration of the Magi in Villa Hercolani Belpoggio. He then decorated Palazzo Pighini in Imola and the Sala Rossa in the Palazzo Comunale in Bologna, among other important commissions in the Bologna area. In the meantime he continued to participate in national and international exhibitions.
In 1877, at the National Exhibition in Naples, he presented Visiting the Birthmother, Maternal Joys and The First Steps, and in 1881 Bebè’s Name Day. He died in Bologna in 1884. After this date, at the 1889 Bologna Exhibition, the artist was remembered with the presentation of a series of his unpublished works, including Allegorical Figures, The Reading of the Testament and The Swallows.