Longhi, Pietro (1702-1785) - The Visit (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC) by Milton Sonn
<br /><i>Via Flickr:</i>
<br />Pietro Longhi was a Venetian painter of contemporary scenes of life. He was born in Venice. He adopted the Longhi last name when he began to paint. He was initially taught by Antonio Balestra, who then recommended him to apprentice with the Bolognese Giuseppe Maria Crespi, who was highly regarded in his day. Among his early paintings are some altarpieces and religious themes. In 1734, he completed frescoes in Ca' Sagredo, representing the Death of the giants. Henceforward, his work would lead him to be viewed in the future as the Venetian William Hogarth, painting subjects and events of everyday life. The interior scenes reflect the 18th century's turn towards the private and the bourgeois. Many of his paintings show Venetians at play.
Other paintings chronicle the daily activities such as the gambling parlors that proliferated in the 18th century. In some, the insecure or naive posture and circumstance, the puppet-like delicacy of the persons, seem to suggest a satirical perspective of the artists toward his subjects. Nearly half of the figures in his genre paintings are faceless, hidden behind Venetian Carnival masks.
A paraphrase of Bernard Berenson states that “Longhi painted for the Venetians passionate about painting, their daily lives, in all dailiness, domesticity, and quotidian mundanity. In the scenes regarding the hairdo and the apparel of the lady, we find the subject of gossip of the inopportune barber, chattering of the maid; in the school of dance, the amiable sound of violins. It is not tragic… but upholds a deep respect of customs, of great refinement, with an omnipresent good humor distinguishes the paintings of Longhi from those of Hogarth, at times pitiless and loaded with omens of change”.
<br /><i>Via Flickr:</i>
<br />Pietro Longhi (Venice, 1701 - Venice, 1785) depicts the act of painting as an intimate scene of contemporary life. Longhi invites the viewer into a painter's studio, where the artist, surrounded by an array of his tools and props, creates a faithful likeness of a typical Venetian lady sitting for her portrait. Her costumed companion has removed his mask, which allowed him to pass incognito in public during the free-spirited months of Carnival.
[Paul Getty Museum - Oil on canvas, 41 x 53.3 cm]
Pietro Longhi (1702 or November 5, 1701 – May 8, 1785) was a Venetian painter of contemporary genre scenes of life.
“The bauta (sometimes referred as baùtta) is a mask, today often heavily gilded though originally simple stark white, which is designed to comfortably cover the entire face; this traditional grotesque piece of art was characterized by the inclusion of an over-prominent nose, a thick supraorbital ridge, a projecting "chin line”, and no mouth. The mask’s beak-like chin is designed to enable the wearer to talk, eat, and drink without having to remove it, thereby preserving the wearer’s anonymity. The bauta was often accompanied by a red or black cape and a tricorn.
In 18th century, together with a black cape called a “tabarro”, the bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government. It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision-making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers. Only citizens (i.e., men) had the right to use the bauta. Its role was similar to the anonymizing processes invented to guarantee general, direct, free, equal and secret ballots in modern democracies. Also, the bearing of weapons along with the mask was specifically prohibited by law and enforceable by the Venetian police.
Given this history and its grotesque design elements, the bauta was usually worn by men, but many paintings done in the 18th century also depict women wearing this mask and tricorn hat. The Ridotto and The Apple Seller by Pietro Longhi are two examples of this from the 1750s.“