Before the entrance to a cafe during Carnival, a tryst is arranged. The man with the keys is a vendor of theater boxes and the gentleman invites the lady, who wears the bauta or half-mask with a lace veil and tricorn hat.
Pietro Longhi was renowned in Venice for his small paintings representing scenes of everyday life. These were often salacious and depicted love stories, even though no particular narrative was presented and it is unlikely that these works would have had any moral commentary. The paintings often appeared in series and, again, these habitually did not follow a specific theme. Such paintings were avidly collected by patrician families, and the theatrical comic writer Carlo Goldoni praised Longhi’s work.
The scene is set outside a fashionable café under the arcade of the Procuratorie Nuove in St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Most figures are masked, suggesting a Carnival setting. A lady dressed in yellow has removed her veil and bauta (a characteristic Venetian type of white mask) under her tricorn hat, to reveal her face to a gentleman who is approaching her. Behind them a fitta palchi (vendor of theater boxes) is presenting them with keys. The implication is that the two lovers will meet for an amorous encounter in a theater box. Two other masked couples frame the scene. For a discussion of the theme, see Bagemihl 1988.
This painting, together with three others at the MMA (14.32.1, 14.32.2, 17.190.12), is said to have been a part of a larger set of canvases by Longhi. It has been proposed (Volpi 1917) that the artist painted twenty pictures for the Gambardi family in Florence, and that the last member of the family left half of the set to the marchese Freschi in Padua and the other half to the conte Miari de’ Cumani in Padua. Out of the ten Freschi canvases, two are supposed to be in the National Gallery, London (An Interior with Three Women and a Seated Man and The Exhibition of a Rhinoceros in Venice), and two others in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan (The Little Concert and The Tooth Puller). These two pairs, however, are different in format from each other. The four MMA paintings, instead, were sold by conte Giacomo Miari de’ Cumani in 1912–13. He was said to have owned ten paintings by Longhi, four of which are at the MMA, and six of which were in the collection of Elia Volpi in Florence and later in that of Lionello Perera in New York, before being dispersed at two sales: four were sold at Sotheby’s, London, on June 24, 1964 (nos. 31–34) and two were sold at Sotheby’s, London, on April 19, 1967 (nos. 18–19). Documentation in the MMA archives, however, suggests that conte Miari owned fourteen canvases by Longhi, and not ten. He commissioned copies of the paintings he sold, but these works are still untraced. Four of the Miari canvases were sold to Carlo Balboni who, together with Antonio Carrer, sold them to the MMA. Of these four, two (14.32.1 and 14.32.2) were exhibited at the Museum, while two were sold to J. Pierpont Morgan (17.190.12) and Henry Walters (36.16), before eventually returning to the Museum separately. Of the six remaining paintings that were sold in 1964 and 1967, three are the Artist Sketching an Elegant Company (Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena), The Quack Doctor (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), and The Card Players (Alte Pinakothek, Munich). Three more (A Gentleman and his Wife Taking Chocolate, A Musical Party, A Girl Dancing at a Picnic) are currently untraced. The set probably dates around 1746, the date inscribed next to Longhi’s signature on the back of The Visit (14.32.2). All four paintings have matching eighteenth-century Venetian frames, supporting their origin from the same set of canvases.
This composition was engraved (in reverse) by Charles Joseph Flipart and by Hayd. Four more versions of this composition by Longhi are known and are in the Pushkin State Museum, Moscow; Casa Goldoni, Venice; Museo Correr, Venice; and formerly in the Dal Zotto collection, Venice.
[Xavier F. Salomon 2011]
?Gambardi family, Florence; conte Giacomo Miari de Cumani, Padua (until 1912/13; sold to Balboni); [Carlo Balboni, Venice, and Antonio Carrer, Venice, 1912/13; sold through MMA to Walters]; Henry Walters, Baltimore (1912/13–d. 1931; his estate, 1931–36; on loan to MMA, 1914–35/36; sale, American Art Association-Anderson Galleries, New York, January 10, 1936, no. 50, for $4,200 to S. J. Brooks); Samuel H. Kress, New York (1936)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 8.
Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 6.
Aldo Ravà. Pietro Longhi. Bergamo, 1909, p. 153, as "Il ritrovo"; reproduces an engraving in reverse after it by Flipart.
"New Acquisitions of Pictures." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 9 (March 1914), pp. 75–77, ill., as "The Rendezvous," on loan from Henry Walters; calls it one of a series of nine pictures said to have been in the collection of the Miari family since the eighteenth century.
Ancient Italian Art Treasures of Extraordinary Artistic and Historical Interest. American Art Galleries, New York. December 17–19, 1917, unpaginated, under nos. 441–46, identifies the four MMA paintings, as well as pictures in the National Gallery, London, the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, and six works included in this sale catalogue, as from a series of twenty works painted for the Gambardi family of Florence; gives provenance information for the series.
Aldo Ravà. Pietro Longhi. Florence, 1923, p. 152, reproduces the Flipart engraving, as well as a painted copy (p. 29) made after the engraving.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, under pl. CCCCXXXI.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 3, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century. New York, 1933, unpaginated, under pl. 602.
Margaret D. Sloane. "A Genre Scene by Longhi." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 31 (March 1936), pp. 51–52, ill. on cover, repeats the provenance information given in Ref. Volpi 1917.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 293–95, ill., repeats the provenance information given in Ref. Volpi 1917.
Marian Davis. "Two Eighteenth Century Paintings: A Fete Galante by Pater and a Scene from Everyday Life by Longhi." Worcester Art Museum Annual 5 (1946), pp. 60–61, accepts the Gambardi provenance and the connection with the London, Milan, and ex-Volpi pictures; dates the series to the artist's middle or late period, 1750–70.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 727, no. 2034, ill. (cropped).
Antonio Morassi. "Una mostra del Settecento veneziano a Detroit." Arte veneta 7 (1953), p. 55.
Michael Levey. The Eighteenth Century Italian Schools. London, 1956, p. 72 nn. 7, 10, notes that there is no evidence to confirm the provenance given in Ref. Volpi 1917.
Vittorio Moschini. Pietro Longhi. Milan, 1956, p. 22, pl. 67, colorpl. 8, identifies the subject as the meeting of a procurator and his wife.
Francesco Valcanover. "Affreschi sconosciuti di Pietro Longhi." Paragone 7 (January 1956), p. 25 n. 1, lists the "bellissima" series at the MMA, noting that there are preparatory drawings in the Museo Correr, Venice.
Carlo Donzelli. I pittori veneti del Settecento. Florence, 1957, p. 135.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. La pittura veneziana del Settecento. Venice, 1960, p. 181.
Terisio Pignatti. Pietro Longhi. Venice, 1968, pp. 92–93, pl. 78 [English ed., "Pietro Longhi: Paintings and Drawings," London: Phaidon, 1969, pp. 80–82, pl. 78], calls it "L'incontro del procuratore con la moglie" ("The Meeting of the Procuratore and His Wife") and dates it about 1746; gives the provenance as the Gambardi collection, Florence; notes that it is the prototype of a number of versions and copies of the subject [see Notes]; reproduces the engraving in reverse by Flipart (pl. 78a), as well as one by Hayd (pl. 78b) which omits the two figures on the right.
Jean Cailleux. "The Literature of Art: The Art of Pietro Longhi." Burlington Magazine 111 (September 1969), p. 567, notes that it must date from before 1750 since it was engraved by Flipart, who left Venice for Madrid in that year; calls the engraving for this picture and that for "La lezione di ballo" (Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice) pendants, adding that the two paintings themselves have the same dimensions.
Michael Levey. The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Italian Schools. London, 1971, p. 154 nn. 9, 14, p. 159 n. 2.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 108, 496, 607.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, p. 39, pl. 43, call the version in Moscow "a rather crude copy," which they date to the late nineteenth century.
Fern Rusk Shapley. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Vol. 3, Italian Schools: XVI–XVIII Century. London, 1973, pp. 136–37, no. K393, fig. 265, dates all four pictures 1746, finding them "completely homogenous in style".
Antonio Morassi. Guardi: Antonio e Francesco Guardi. Venice, [1973?], vol. 1, p. 353, under no. 241, catalogues the painting based on Flipart's engraving of this work [see Notes], attributing it to Francesco Guardi and dating it about 1755 or slightly later; calls it a pendant to "La lezione di danza" (no. 242; private collection, Milan), also based on an engraving by Flipart after a painting by Longhi.
Luigina Rossi Bortolatto. L'opera completa di Francesco Guardi. Milan, 1974, p. 93, under no. 65.
Terisio Pignatti. L'opera completa di Pietro Longhi. Milan, 1974, pp. 88, 94, no. 44, ill. p. 89.
Filippo Pedrocco. "Francesco Guardi pittore di figure." Guardi: metamorfosi dell'immagine. Exh. cat., Castello di Gorizia. Venice, 1987, p. 35.
Rolf Bagemihl. "Pietro Longhi and Venetian Life." Metropolitan Museum Journal 23 (1988), pp. 233, 236, 238–39, 243, fig. 6, identifies the setting as a café along the north side of the Piazza San Marco in Venice; interprets the scene as a chance meeting between a husband and wife during Carnival, the man with the keys being a vendor of theater boxes.
Giorgio Fossaluzza et al. inPietro Longhi. Exh. cat., Museo Correr, Venice. Milan, 1993, pp. 114, 130.
Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts. Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames. London, 1996, p. 450 n. 20.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 52, 54–56, no. 8, ill. (color) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 36, 38–39, no. 6, ill. (color).
Old Master Paintings: Part I. Christie's, New York. January 28, 2015, p. 132, under no. 48.
The frame is from Venice and dates to about 1746 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–4). This delicate variant of a Salvator Rosa (1615–1673) type frame is made of pine and has half-lap construction with a mitred face. The early water gilding with its distinctive luster, though a restoration, includes a pale gold leaf applied to an orange-colored bole on a thin gesso layer. The sight edge is ornamented with applied carving of pierced acanthus leaf and husk. A gentle ogee rises to a step before a swept astragal top edge. A hollow on the outside falls back to articulated raked knull ornament at the back edge which emerges from center points. This frame is original to the painting and the style is associated with the artist. Slight variations to the scale of the ornament occur on the pair of frames on 14.32.1 and 14.32.2 and on 17.190.12 in this series of four.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
Jean Cailleux ("Les Guardi et Pietro Longhi," Problemi Guardeschi, [Venice], 1967, fig. 157) publishes a painting (private collection, Milan) he attributes to Gian Antonio Guardi which is based on the engraving by Flipart, with the figures in reverse, but with a horizontal rather than a vertical orientation. Antonio Morassi (1973) attributes the painting to Francesco Guardi.
Another version with the figures in reverse, attributed to a Follower of Pietro Longhi, was sold at Sotheby's, New York, May 25, 2000, no. 216 (one of four), ill.
Artist: Pietro Longhi (Pietro Falca) (Italian, Venice 1701–1785 Venice)Date: 1702–85Medium: Black chalk stumped, highlighted with white chalk, on light brown paperAccession: 1994.86On view in:Not on view