Pietro Falca

Alias: Longhi    Born: November 5, 1701  - Death: May 8, 1785    Located in: Painting of the 18th Century  

Pietro Longhi was born in Venice in the parish of Saint Maria, the first child of the silversmith Alessandro Falca and his wife, Antonia; he adopted the Longhi surname when he began to paint. Longhi was initially taught by the Veronese painter Antonio Balestra (1666 – 1740), who then recommended the young painter to apprentice with the Bolognese artist, Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665 – 1747), who was highly regarded in his day for both religious works and genre painting.

Among his early paintings are some altarpieces and religious themes. In 1734, he completed frescoes in the walls and ceiling of the hall in Ca' Sagredo, representing the Death of the giants. His work from then on would lead him to be viewed in the future as similar to the Venetian William Hogarth (1697 – 1764), painting subjects and events of everyday life in Venice. These were gallant interior scenes that reflect on the 18th century's turn towards private life and the bourgeois.

Many of his paintings show Venetians at play, such as the depiction of the crowd of genteel citizens awkwardly gawking at a freakish Indian rhinoceros. This painting chronicles Clara the rhinoceros brought to Europe in 1741 by a Dutch sea captain and impresario from Leyden, Douvemont van der Meer, exhibiting the rhinoceros in Venice, 1751. There are two versions of this painting, nearly identical except for the unmasked portraits of two men in the Ca' Rezzonico Museum version. Ultimately, there may be a punning joke to the painting, since the young man on the left holds aloft the sawed off horn (metaphor for cuckoldry) of the animal; perhaps explaining the difference between the un-chaperoned women.

His others paintings chronicle 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 artist towards his subjects. Nearly half of the figures in his genre paintings are faceless, hidden behind Venetian Carnival masks. Like Crespi before him, Longhi was commissioned to paint seven canvases documenting the seven Catholic sacraments. Another religiously themed work by Longhi is, The Confession, now in the Uffizi Gallery.

Longhi is well-known as a draughtsman, whose drawings were often done for their own sake, rather than as studies for paintings. His son, Alessandro Longhi (1733 – 1813), was also an accomplished painter.

(This test is taken from the www.wikipedia.org entry on Pietro Longhi, available under GNU Free Documentation license.)

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