The Fourth Estate

This pop graphic pays implicit tribute to the iconic status of the painting by the artist Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, who worked on it from 1898-1901 at a time of great turmoil in Italian politics. It gives a sense of socialism as a burgeoning and increasingly confident moviment mobilising not only the masses but also sections of the petty bourgeois intellighentsia, despite the fact that the mass of the population were peasants and the working class was still small as industrialisation began to take off. The artist presents in the foreground three workers, including a mother with a babe in arms marching unarmed but purposely and peacefully forward towards their hopes of a better future, backed up by an imposing mass of proletarians, who by their dress could be either workers or peasants. A number of individuals hold out their hands open before them, as if asking why their reasonable demands for decent wages and conditions cannot be met. Labour activists such as Fantin felt themselves to be exponents of this popular movement, no matter how isolated their circumstances in a given community might be. The painting is an impressive 5.45 metres long and 2.93 metres wide, and hangs in the Civica Galleria d'Arte Moderna Milano.

Graphic from the cover of Manacorda `Il movimento operaio italiano attraverso i suoi congressi: Dalle origini alla formazione del Partito socialista' 1853-1892