While Guardi is known for his landscapes and imaginary lagoon views, he also painted a few interiors such as the main hall of the Ridotto, the public gambling house in Palazzo Dandolo at San Moisè, as it looked before the remodelling of 1768. The elegant masked figures are sketched in an exceptionally fluid and sprightly technique.
The Venetian views and imaginary lagoon subjects for which Francesco Guardi is justly famous have for long been well represented in the Metropolitan Museum. The artist also painted a few interiors, which are of a sort more commonly associated with his near-contemporary Pietro Longhi (1702–1785), by whom he was probably influenced. This small picture is one of a pair (see also 1997.117.4) and both are exceptionally scenographic and informative about Venetian public life.
In 1638, permission of the Venetian republic was accorded to Marco Dandolo to open public assembly and gaming rooms on the piano nobile of his palace at San Moisè, near Piazza San Marco. The intention of the authorities seems to have been to control and derive profit from what had been a widespread and illicit private activity by licensing it in a single public place, the so-called Ridotto pubblico, the first public gambling casino, which flourished particularly during the Carnival season. Toward the middle of the eighteenth century, visitors to the Ridotto were pictured by Francesco Guardi arriving in the Sala grande, which was hung with stamped leather and illuminated by chandeliers. There were some ten rooms for gaming, each of which was presided over by a member of the aristocracy, and two refreshment rooms, one offering tea, coffee, and chocolate, and the other fruit, biscuits, and wine. Behavior was reported to have been licentious and thievery widespread. A remodeling and enlargement was undertaken in 1768 by the architect Bernardino Maccaruzzi and the fresco painter Jacopo Guarana, but so many fortunes were lost at the tables in the years immediately thereafter that the Grand Council shut the place down permanently in 1774. The Venetians and their visitors continued to gamble nevertheless.
This is one of more than a dozen paintings and a couple of drawings of the Ridotto pubblico variously attributed to Francesco Guardi, his older brother Gianantonio, Pietro Longhi, the so-called Giuseppe de Gobbis, and other, anonymous hands. They share some figural motifs and each shows the walls of what is evidently the Sala grande hung with stamped leather. All may date from about 1750 to 1768 and the present picture is perhaps among the latest (not only in style, but because the hangings are dilapidated and the pictures crooked). Another small picture closely related in composition and style was lot 1009 in the Elia Volpi sale at the American Art Association, November 21–28, 1915.
[Katharine Baetjer 2011]
Christopher Bushell, Hinderton Hall, Neston, Cheshire (until 1906; his estate sale, Christie's, London, March 17, 1906, no. 24, as "Interior of a Palace, with numerous ladies and gentlemen at a masquerade," for £588.7 to Agnew); [Agnew, London, 1906]; Maurice Kann, Paris [with pendant, which shares ex coll. history until March 17, 1906, and from this date] (d. 1906); his nephew, Edouard Kann, Paris (1906–10; sold to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, Paris, 1910–24; sold to Rothschild]; baron Maurice de Rothschild, Paris and Pregny, near Geneva (1924–52; sold to Rosenberg & Stiebel); [Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, 1952–58/59; sold to Heinemann]; [Rudolf J. Heinemann, New York, 1958/59–d. 1975]; Mrs. Rudolf J. Heinemann, New York (1975–96)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.
George A. Simonson. "Guardi and Longhi." Burlington Magazine 10 (October 1906), pp. 53–54, mentions this picture and its pendant (1997.117.4), in the Kann collection, as from the Piot collection, Paris, and dates them towards 1760.
George A. Simonson. "La mascherata al Ridotto in Venezia di Francesco Guardi." L'arte 10 (1907), pp. 241–46, ill. opp. p. 244.
George A. Simonson. "Francesco Guardi (1712–1793)." Gazette des beaux-arts 50 (1908), p. 498–99, ill.
Louis Gillet. "La Collection Maurice Kann [part 2]." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 26 (December 1909), p. 429, fig. 5, as Guardi interiors in the collection of the late Maurice Kann.
Aldo Ravà. Pietro Longhi. Bergamo, 1909, pp. 43–45, ill., suggests that it may be Guardi's first version of the Ridotto; rejects Simonson's attribution of the Correr picture to Pietro Longhi.
Auguste Marguillier. "Collection de feu M. Maurice Kann." Les arts 8 (April 1909), p. 2, ill. p. 7.
George A. Simonson. "Guardi e Longhi." L'arte 12 (1909), pp. 379–80.
Gino Damerini. L'arte di Francesco Guardi. Venice, 1912, pp. 39, 41–47, 60, attributes both the Kann and Correr pictures to Francesco Guardi, noting that the Kann version may be earlier; introduces a variant (pl. 2, "collection N. N.") of the latter, differing in a few of the figures, notably a harlequin at the left.
George A. Simonson. "Some of Guardi's Paintings in America." Art in America 2 (1914), pp. 100–101, dates it before 1740.
Henry Lapauze. "Un nouveau chapitre sur l'oeuvre de Francesco Guardi." La Renaissance 5 (January 1922), pp. 22–23.
Giuseppe Fiocco. Francesco Guardi. Florence, 1923, p. 68, describes it as a later repetition in small format by Francesco Guardi of his Correr picture, depending in turn on a painting by Pietro Longhi or the engraving after it by his son Alessandro.
Aldo Ravà. Pietro Longhi. Florence, 1923, pp. 17–18, reaffirms his 1909 argument.
Ettore Modigliani. "Capolavori veneziani del settecento ritornati in Italia." Dedalo 5 (1924), p. 357, n. 9, in connection with his attribution of the Correr "Ridotto" to Giovanni Antonio Guardi questions whether the Kann "Ridotto" is by Francesco Guardi.
Max Goering. Francesco Guardi. Vienna, 1944, p. 26, fig. 32, compares the ex-Kann "Ridotto" to what he identifies as Longhi's treatment of the theme, then in the Perl collection, and to pictures in the Correr and in a Viennese private collection, which he attributes to Francesco Guardi.
Antonio Morassi. "Novità su Francesco Guardi." Arte veneta 13–14 (1959–60), pp. 167–69, figs. 226–27 (overall and detail), notes that its pendant is signed and that both are clearly by Francesco Guardi and datable not later than 1765–70.
Terisio Pignatti. Il Museo Correr di Venezia: dipinti del XVII e XVIII secolo. Venice, 1960, p. 97, in connection with his attribution of the Correr "Ridotto" to Gian Antonio Guardi lists the MMA picture as doubtless by Guardi and datable not later than 1765–70.
Larissa Salmina. Disegni veneti del Museo di Leningrado. Exh. cat., Fondazione Giorgio Cini. Venice, 1964, p. 52.
Pietro Zampetti. Mostra dei Guardi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi. Venice, 1965, p. 166, ill. (overall and detail), calls them rather late replicas by Francesco Guardi of the paintings at Ca'Rezzonico (formerly Correr) and in the Pesenti (formerly Crespi) collection.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. "Note alla mostra dei Guardi." Arte veneta 19 (1965), p. 231, describes the "Ridotto" as only loosely related to the Ca'Rezzonico painting and probably derived from Pietro Longhi; compares the figures in both works to those in a view of Piazza San Marco at Stockholm and dates them about the time of the series of "Solennità dogali".
Giuseppe Fiocco. Guardi. Milan, 1965, p. 42.
Michelangelo Muraro. "Asterischi Guardeschi." Problemi Guardeschi: Atti del convengno di studi promosso dalla mostra dei Guardi, Venezia. Venice, 1967, p. 164, fig. 181, tentatively ascribes the pendants to "Giacomo il falsificatore," Francesco's son.
John Masters. Casanova. New York, 1969, p. 6, ill. pp. 68–69 (color).
Antonio Morassi. Guardi: Antonio e Francesco Guardi. Venice, [1973?], vol. 1, pp. 163, 352, no. 236, fig. 258, calls it a replica with notable variations of the painting at the Ca'Rezzonico, and dates the MMA pendants 1750–60.
Luigina Rossi Bortolatto. L'opera completa di Francesco Guardi. Milan, 1974, pp. 95, 102, no. 216, ill. p. 101.
Guido Perocco and Antonio Salvadori. Civiltà di Venezia. 3rd ed. Venice, 1979, vol. 3, ill. p. 1153 (detail).
Filippo Pedrocco and Federico Montecuccoli degli Erri. Antonio Guardi. Milan, 1992, p. 150.
Roberta Ferrazza. Palazzo Davanzati e le collezioni di Elia Volpi. Florence, 1993, p. 140 n. 131, pp. 166, 216 n. 53, p. 274, misidentifies it with the variant that was no. 1009 in the Volpi sale of 1916.
Dario Succi. Francesco Guardi: itinerario dell'avventura artistica. [Milan], 1993, pp. 223, 231, ill. p. 230, dates it 1762–64 and publishes an earlier version by Francesco Guardi (fig. 258) of 1755–58, the painting from the Piot collection recently acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Katharine Baetjer in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1996–1997." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 55 (Fall 1997), pp. 44–45, ill. (color).
J. Patrice Marandel inEye for the Sensual: Selections from the Resnick Collection. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Stuttgart, 2010, p. 96.