For eighty cents a day – 13 October 2019
In a waterlogged field women are weeding rice. They are bent over, working in a line. They wear white shirts and brightly coloured skirts, and their legs are bare. The picture is vibrant with colour, and the design content is high. The vanishing point, far in the distance, pulls the eye along the length of the field. In the distance another team of women is working. This is a beautiful painting, where hard working women are the subject matter.
The women painted here did this work all day for minimal pay. They worked bent over, barely standing straight and tall, bent by the nature of their task, but also the system of low pay that tied them to the fields. This was farming work for women, low paid and arduous. As it was then it remains still in most parts of the world. The painting is by Angelo Morbelli, and called Per ottanta centesimi, (For eighty cents, c1895). The women depicted are working in a field in the artist’s native Piedmont.
Morbelli was a member of a group of Italian socialist artists called ‘divisionists’, a name derived from the technique they used in their paintings where small brush strokes were used to create a luminous effect. Morbelli was concerned to depict themes of labour and the life of the poor, balancing painterly matters of beauty and stillness with the reality of the exhausting labour being depicted.
You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.
We pray for all
through whom we receive sustenance and life;
for farmers and agricultural workers,
for packers, distributors and company boards;
as you have so ordered our life
that we depend upon each other,
enable us by your grace
to seek the well-being of others before our own.
Lord of all creation:
hear our prayer
Common Worship, Harvest intercessions