Pietro Longhi Italy
11-5-1701 Venice, ITA – 5-8-1785 Venice, ITABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Among Pietro Longhi early paintings are some altarpieces and religious themes. His first major documented work was an altarpiece for the church of San Pellegrino in 1732. In 1734, he completed frescoes in the walls and ceiling of the hall in Ca' Sagredo, representing the Death of the giants. 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 Pietro Longhi paintings show Venetians at play, such as the depiction of the crowd of genteel citizens awkwardly gawking at a freakish Indian rhinoceros. This painting, chronicles Clara the rhinoceros brought to Europe in 1741 by a Dutch sea captain and impresario from Leyden, Douvemont van der Meer. This rhinoceros was exhibited in Venice in 1751. There are two versions of this painting, nearly identical except for the unmasked portraits of two men in Ca' Rezzonico version.
Other paintings chronicle the daily activities such as the gambling parlors (Ridotti) that proliferated in the 18th century. Nearly half of the figures in his genre paintings are faceless, hidden behind Venetian Carnival masks.
In the 1750s, Pietro Longhi, like Crespi before him, was commissioned to paint seven canvases documenting the seven Catholic sacraments. These are now in Pinacoteca Querini Stampalia along with his scenes from the hunt (Caccia).
From 1763 Pietro Longhi was Director of the Academy of Drawing and Carving. From this period, he began to work extensively with portraiture, and was actively assisted by his son, Alessandro.
Celebrated genre canvases were produced by other contemporary artists in Italy such as Gaspare Traversi and Giuseppe Maria Crespi. Longhi had not only departed the world of grand mythology of history that often allured the Venetian nobility, but also taken residence in its intimate present, as few painters in Venice had ever done. If Cannaletto and Guardi are our window to the external rituals of the republic, Pietro Longhi is our window to what happened inside rooms.
Art Movement: Baroque
Influences: Antonio Balestra, Giuseppe Maria Crespi