Musée No:819.004

Musée No:819.004

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Portrait Of A Lady

Artist: Pietro Longhi


Pietro Longhi (1701–1785) was a Venetian painter of contemporary genre scenes of life in the Rococo style. He was highly regarded in his day for both religious and genre painting, influenced by the work of Dutch painters. His first major documented work was an altarpiece for the church of San Pellegrino in 1732, but in the late 1730s he began to specialize in the small-scale genre works that would lead him to be viewed in the future as the Venetian William Hogarth, painting subjects and events of everyday life in Venice. Many of his interior scenes show Venetians at play, a good example being the genteel citizens staring at a freakish Indian rhinoceros exhibited in Venice in 1751. Nearly half of the figures in his genre paintings are faceless, hidden behind Venetian Carnival masks. His great eye for detail and sense of humour and his selective and careful depictions of contemporary Venetian life, often with hidden meanings and love stories, brought him immediate success. He worked for powerful Venetian families; the Emo, Grimani, Pisani, Querini, Rezzonico, and Sagredo families.

From 1763 Longhi was Director of the Academy of Drawing and Carving and he began to work extensively in portraiture. One of his contemporaries, Gaspare Gozzi, said he admired Longhi because "he portrays in his canvases what he sees with his own eyes" unlike the contrived "figures dressed in ancient fashion and characters of fancy" of historical painters.

The identity of this sitter as she gazes out at us across 3 centuries is unknown. Her fabulously opulent silk dress in rich blue and silver with embroidered silk flowers combined with the lack of jewellery apparently suggests to scholars that she is going for the ‘simple shepherdess look’, a fashion at the time.

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