5 November 2015

Pietro Longhi - painter

Painter who allowed us to see inside 18th century Venice

The painter Pietro Longhi, who was renowned for his accurate scenes of every day life in Venice in the 18th century, was born on this day in 1702.

The Correr Museum can be found in
Piazza San Marco
Longhi was originally called Pietro Falca and was the son of a silversmith in Venice, but he changed his name after he began painting.

He started with historical and religious scenes but his work evolved after a stay in Bologna where he encountered Giuseppe Maria Crespi, who was considered one of the greatest Italian painters at the time.

Longhi’s son Alessandro later wrote that his father had a ‘brilliant and bizarre spirit’, which led him to accurately paint people in conversation and show us the love and jealousy going on in the background.

His paintings vividly depict Venetian life and show wonderful details of the clothes and possessions of the upper and middle classes.

For example, Longhi’s painting of The Hairdresser and the Lady, which is in the Correr Museum in Venice, shows a wealthy Venetian lady having her hair dressed by a man, while a maid stands to one side holding a child.

Longhi faithfully shows us how the clothing of each subject reflects the rank of the person wearing it and allows us to see the various objects scattered on the lady’s dressing table.

In The Duck Hunt, which is in the museum of Palazzo Querini Stampalia in Venice, Longhi depicts an archer in a smart coat and powdered wig being rowed out on the lagoon by people in their work clothes.

Longhi's The Charlatan is one of many
scenes depicting Venice's ridotti
He also painted many scenes of masked couples gambling or flirting in ridotti, the gaming salons that were popular in Venice at the time, allowing us to see the behaviour that went on.  The Charlatan, which is kept in the Ca' Rezzonico museum in Venice, is one such scene.

Longhi died in Venice in 1785. He has been compared to his English contemporary William Hogarth but his paintings are ironic rather than satirical and he shows us a more cheerful, prosperous society than the one painted by Hogarth.

While the great Canaletto has allowed us to see what Venice looked like on the outside in the 18th century, Longhi gives us the chance to see what went on indoors.

Travel Tip:

The Correr Museum (Museo Correr) is in St Mark’s Square, Venice and is a great place to learn about the art and history of Venice. It is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm.

Travel Tip:

The Museum of the Querini Stampalia Foundation in Venice contains several paintings by Pietro Longhi, as well as works by Bellini and Tiepolo, in the beautiful setting of a Venetian Palazzo close to Campo Santa Maria Formosa in Castello.


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