(Santa Croce sull’ Arno, 1824 – Montemurlo, 1904)
Cristiano Banti was born into a wealthy family in Santa Croce sull'Arno in the province of Pisa. He studied at the Academy of Siena with artist Francesco Nenci from whom he received a neo-classical education, centred on the realisation of large compositions of historical subjects. In 1854, he moved to Florence where he frequented the Caffè Michelangelo, a meeting place of the Macchiaioli. His first paintings of historical subjects ('Galileo before the Inquisition Tribunal' of 1857, 'Torquato Tasso and Eleonora d'Este' of 1858) were influenced by the painting of Domenico Morelli and Saverio Altamura. Alongside the Macchiaioli he became interested in the rendering of nature and light effects, experimenting with the use of the black mirror. Not being subject to financial constraints, he first withdrew to his country villa in Montelupo, where he painted en plein air together with the friends he hosted (including Signorini, Pointeau and Borrani). Then, with Cabianca, he moved to Piantavigne near Castelfranco di Sopra, continuing to search for effects of light in the depiction of peasant women caught in moments of everyday life and posed with intimate nobility. In the meantime, in 1861, a trip to Paris introduced him to the Barbizon school and the works of Corot and Troyon. A second trip to Paris in 1875 was followed by two more to London in 1879 and 1887 to learn about English painting. He put together an important collection of paintings (now dispersed), consisting mainly of the works of the Macchiaioli that he bought as generous financial support. Around 1880, in a moment of disagreement with the Macchiaioli, he moved to Montorsoli near Castelfiorentino and ultimately to Montemurlo where he spent the last twenty years of his life, once again at peace with his lifelong friends.
He was a professor at the Accademia in Florence and a member of the Uffizi reorganization commission.