He was born in Reggio Emilia, and attended the Reggio Emilia School of Fine Arts in 1850 and 1851. Chierici continued his studies at the academies of Modena and Florence before completing his training in Bologna under the guidance of Giulio Cesare Ferrari. His early work was in Italy influenced by the Neo-classicism of his uncle, the artist Alfonso Chierici, and of Adeodato Malatesta, but subsequently by the innovations of the Macchiaioli painters.
It was in the late 1860s that he took up anecdotal genre painting with domestic interiors, which came to be his field of specialisation. While the artist’s participation in the Fine Arts Expositions at the Brera Academy of 1869 marked the beginning of his success with critics and collectors, his work subsequently declined into mechanical repetition of the same subjects. He was the director of the Workers’ School of Drawing in Reggio Emilia from 1882 to 1907 and the city’s first Socialist mayor from 1900 to 1902.
The Emilian painter Gaetano Chierici proposes in this canvas one of his usual images of laughing family life, as it appears in other works exhibited in the same room: The good stepmother , The ugly joke , The cobbler’s son and Childish games . The setting in the interior of a humble peasant kitchen, populated by children intent on their daily activities, is representative of that small world of happy images, far from any desire for social denunciation, constant in the genre painting of Chierici, also defined painter of micro-history.
The scene takes place around the hearth, the center of family life, next to which the children eat a simple plate of pasta and beans and carry out their daily tasks such as spinning wool, a typically female activity since prehistoric times. The objects described in the most minute details are typical of rural life together with the simple games of childhood: the cupboard, a rustic piece of furniture for storing food, the steelyard hanging on the wall, the life of “Il Pescatore Reggiano” which marks time of the peasants based on the alternation of the seasons, the oil lamp, the figurine of the soldier on the peeling wall.