The Ridotto, possibly ca. 1765
Francesco Guardi (Italian, Venetian, 1712–1793)
Oil on canvas; 13 3/8 x 20 in. (34 x 50.8 cm)
Bequest of Lore Heinemann, in memory of her husband, Dr. Rudolf J. Heinemann, 1996 (1997.117.5)
Guardi painted a few interiors, which are exceptional because they are so scenographic and so informative about Venetian private and public life. The figures here are delicate and expressive, the atmosphere luminous, and the handling sprightly and fluent.
The canvas shows the central hall of the principal gaming establishment in Venice, the Ridotto at Palazzo Dandolo, between San Moisè and San Marco. This public Ridotto opened in 1638; was redecorated in the Rococo style in 1768; and six years later was shut down by the government for reasons of public morality. Private gambling rooms then sprang up in its place. The Ridotto was the epitome of the final flowering of a city where the arts flourished and visitors abounded, but virtue was outmatched by vice and dissipation. The fact that the leather wall hangings in the painting are in disrepair suggests a date shortly before the remodeling of 1768.