Angelo Morbelli's work, one of the masterpieces of the Burgundy Museum, was purchased in 1912 at the Art Exhibition of the irrigated countryside held in Vercelli, a few years after the Museum opened to the public.
The painting, signed and dated 1895, underwent a long and tormented elaboration, as evidenced by the correspondence between the artist and his colleague Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo: begun in 1893, it was resumed before being exhibited in 1895 at the Venice Biennale. The canvas assumes an important role for the collection, not only for its belonging to the pictorial current of Divisionism, but above all for the subject strongly connected to the Vercelli area.
The intent of social criticism emerges not only in the title, which explicitly refers to the reduced pay obtained by the workers in the paddy field, but above all in the compositional choice of the subject. These are the years of the first strikes in the paddy field for the achievement of 8 working hours and more equitable wages, obtained in Vercelli in 1906. The mondine, arranged in two rows that proceed backward, are portrayed with their backs intent on transplanting rice, with legs immersed in water. The photographic cut of the scene excludes the representation of the sky, which appears only reflected on the water rendered through vibrant brushstrokes, to evoke the point of view of women at work.
The perspective escape and the geometry of the paddy field highlight a nature shaped by the activity of man. On the same theme, the painter elaborates a later version choosing a different cut both in the pose and in the representation of the landscape in the work In risaia (1901), now in a private collection.