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The Artistic Heritage of Modena: The Art of Diplomacy


Teasing a Sleeping Girl

Gaspare Traversi (Italian, Neapolitan, ca. 1722–1770)

ca. 1760
Oil on canvas
34 1/8 x 42 3/8 in. (86.7 x 107.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Harry G. Sperling, 1971
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Little is known of Traversi's career, but he was unquestionably the leading genre painter in eighteenth-century Naples. His pictures parodying the pastimes of the noble classes are particularly striking for their emphatic naturalism and biting wit. In this work an old woman tickles a young girl who has fallen asleep with her box of keepsakes on her lap.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Provenance

    [Edward Speelman, London, 1967, purchased in Switzerland; sold for $12,000 to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, New York, 1967–75; bequeathed by Harry G. Sperling, last surviving partner of firm, to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. "Gaspare Traversi: Heiterkeit im Schatten," July 19–November 16, 2003, no. 37.

    Naples. Castel Sant'Elmo. "Gaspare Traversi: napoletani del '700 tra miseria e nobiltà," December 13, 2003–March 14, 2004, no. 42.

    Parma. Galleria Nazionale. "Luce sul Settecento: Gaspare Traversi e l'arte del suo tempo in Emilia," April 4–July 4, 2004, no. 22.

  • References

    Nicola Spinosa. Pittura napoletana del Settecento: dal Rococò al Classicismo. Naples, 1987, p. 109, no. 108, fig. 134, ascribes it to Gaspare Traversi.

    Francesco Barocelli. "The Painter in the Drawing-room: Gaspare Traversi." FMR no. 70 (October 1994), p. 87, describes the subject as "a petit-bourgeois intimacy, a conscious generational differentiation between a world of elderly pranksters and naive and indolent youth, the unwitting butt of their hardened ruses".

    Roberto Contini. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Italian Painting. London, 2002, pp. 395–96, ill.

    Sabina de Cavi in Gaspare Traversi: napoletani del '700 tra miseria e nobiltà. Exh. cat., Castel Sant'Elmo. Naples, 2003, pp. 150–51, 244, 258, nos. 42, R112, ill. (color; black and white), calls it "The Beautiful Sleeper (The Tickle)" and dates it ca. 1755, calling it an excellent example of the artist's mature period; compares it with one of the same subject in a private collection, Mainz-Kastel, Germany, and suggests that the latter served as a "draft" for this one; notes that Traversi has employed his stock characters here and suggests that the subject comes from "opera buffa," popular in Naples at the beginning of the 18th century; points out that the subject of the "tickle" also occurs in the work of northern Italian artists such as Domenico Maggiotto and Pietro Longhi; suggests that this work and "Lo svenimento," or "The Faint," (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid) were once pendants, as they are similar in dimensions and palette.

    Sabina de Cavi in Luce sul Settecento: Gaspare Traversi e l'arte del suo tempo in Emilia. Exh. cat., Galleria Nazionale. Naples, 2004, pp. 108–9, 240, 253, nos. 22, R112, ill. (color; black and white), [see Ref. de Cavi 2003].

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History