This Ca’ Rezzonico exhibition comprises a rich and splendid selection, whose significance is enhanced by their obvious relationship to the famous collection of Longhi paintings that forms one of the key features of the Museum and can be seen in the room alongside that which hosts the exhibition. Almost all Pietro Longhi’s drawings are in charcoal or soft pencil on rough paper (generally yellowish in colour). The artist also highlighted the figures in white chalk and, in some cases, used the charcoal to create nuanced effects rather similar to those achieved using pastels. The abrupt, precise lines flow with great agility across the paper, with figures and objects being rendered in careful, analytic detail; this precision is confirmed by the notes that sometimes appear jotted down on the sheets to remind the artist of the colour of garments or other details when he actually comes to paint the picture in his studio. In fact, these drawings are always preparatory studies for paintings; however, “given their unfailingly exploratory character, their attentive rendering après nature … they acquire that independence which is a characteristic of all works of poetry.” (T. Pignatti).
Preparatory study for the fresco on the grand staircase of palazzo Sagredo (1734). This is, therefore, the oldest extant sheet of Longhi drawings.
2.Dancing Master; Study of Hands.
Preparatory study for The Dancing Lesson, now in the Venice Accademia Gallery. This is one of the early works dedicated to the theme of Venetian life and can be dated around the beginning of the 1740s.
3.Violinist; little cage
Preparatory study for the painting The Music Lesson of around 1741, now in the M.H. De Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco.
4.Painter at his Easel; Two Gentlemen wearing a Bauta
On this sheet are some of the figures that appear in one of the most famous of the Longhi paintings at Ca’ Rezzonico, The Painter in his Studio.
5.Gentleman in his bed; a Lady
6.Gentleman in his bed
Longhi would do a total of five preparatory studies for his A Gentleman’s Levee, a splendid painting of 1744 which is now part of the Royal Collection, Windsor Castle.
7.Lady wearing an Andrienne
Preparatory study for the main figure in The Visit to the Library, which dates from the mid-1740s and is now in the Worcester Museum.
8.Plebeian figure raising a hand to his ear
This is one of two drawings in the Museo Correr that contain studies for some of the figures in The Fortune Teller, now in the Venice Accademia Gallery.
9.Drapery; painting; glassware
These are studies for the main components of the furnishings that appear in the room of Visit to a Lady, a painting of 1746 which is now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
This beautiful sketch from real life was used by Longhi for the female dwarf that appears under the platform in The Tooth-Puller, a painting of 1746-52 which now hangs in the Brera Gallery in Milan.
11.Plebeian Woman and Cellarman
12.Three plebeians; tableware
These sheets bear the initial ideas for the painting The Drunkards which, together with other paintings depicting the life of the poorer classes of Venetian society, now hangs in the Castello di Zoppola, near Pordenone.
In the Ca’ Rezzonico painting The Spinstress, usually dated at the end of the 1730s, an almost identical figure of a young musician appears on the left.
14.Lady in her bed; Maid servant
These sheets prove that Longhi also painted A Lady’s Levee, a work that has now been lost; evidence of the work is to be seen in a reverse engraving of it by Flipart and in a later painting of the same subject, now in Palazzo Montanari, Vicenza.
17.An Old Woman Reading; Gentleman Bowing
As with the three previous drawings, this – and the next – sheet prove that Longhi did paint A Declaration of Love, a work of which Flipart did a reverse engraving; there is also a full copy of the Longhi picture painted by the so-called ‘Maestro dei Riflessi’ (now in Palazzo Montanari, Vicenza).
18.Lady Winding Wool
Splendid depiction of a seated young woman winding wool; the figure is heavily highlighted in white chalk, a constant feature of Longhi’s drawings of the 1750s. The artist would use this study for the central figure in the now-lost painting A Declaration of Love (see n.17).
19.Lady with a Fan; Gentleman lying on a Bed.
One of the rare cases in which Longhi produced a drawing of the overall composition of a painting, which we do not know if he actually painted; the study covers both the figures and the setting.
The two lacemakers that are the main figures on this sheet re-appear – their position reversed – in the painting The Temptation, which can be dated around 1755 and now hangs in the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford.
This study of dazzling quality dates from the mid-1760s. We do not know for what painting this lively drawing was used.
22.Back View of Seated Gentleman wearing a Bauta
The figure of this gentleman has no counterpart in any known Longhi painting; an exceptionally realistic life drawing, it can be dated in the 1760s.
Preparatory study for the depiction of the Bohemian musician Giacomo Scumar; he appears in the painting The Family Concert, which can be dated in the mid-1750s and now hangs in Ca’ Rezzonico.
24.Gentleman Leaning against a Chair
Preparatory study for the standing male figure to the right of The Family Portrait, which can be dated in the mid-1760s and now hangs in Ca’ Rezzonico.
25.Maidservant Leaning against a Chair
An identical figure appears in the painting The Tickle in the Thyssen Collection, Madrid. The high quality of the drawing itself confirms that the painting is to be dated in the mid-1760s.
26.Young Woman Feeding a Canary
Dating from the middle years of the 1750s, this splendid drawing shows a young woman feeding her canary. The painting for which this might have been a study is not known.
Together with the following sheet, this charts the work that went into the painting The Hairdresser, now in Ca’ Rezzonico; formerly owned by Teodoro Correr himself, the painting can be dated around 1760.
28.Wetnurse with Child
Preparatory study for the shapely figure of the wetnurse holding a noblewoman’s young daughter who appears in the Ca’ Rezzonico painting The Hairdresser.
29.Doctor Taking a Patient’s Pulse
Preparatory study for the figure of the doctor attending The Sick Lady, a painting of around 1760 which is now to be seen in Ca’ Rezzonico.
30.Lady Seated at a Table
A sketch re-used for Within the Estuary Gardens in Ca’ Rezzonico. The life drawing was not followed precisely in the painting, where one can see various alterations in details.
31.Young Man on Horseback; Young Man wearing a Bauta
The horse in the drawing is rather similar to the two ridden by the young men who are the central figures in An Outing on Horseback now in Ca’ Rezzonico, which can be dated around the turn of the 1760s.
Preparatory study for the figure of the painter who appears in the rather incorrectly titled Painter in his Studio, now in the University of Stanford Museum.
33.Seated Gentleman wearing a Bauta
This can seen in relation to one of the most fascinating Longhi paintings in Ca’ Rezzonico: The Masked Visit. The sole difference is that in the painting the man’s face is covered by the mask, whilst here the bauta has been turned around to the back of his tricorn hat.
34.Parrot and Small Cage
This very famous drawing was a preparatory study for The Music Lesson, which can be dated around 1760 and is now in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.
Usually seen in relation to the painting The Embroidery Workshop, now in the National Gallery, London. However, this drawing was probably not a study for that work but perhaps for others on the same theme, whose present whereabouts are unknown to us.
36.Hunting in the Lagoon
Preparatory study for a similar scene that appears in a painting which can be dated around the 1760s and is now in the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice.
37.Huntsman with a Pipe
One of the two preparatory study for the series of Hunting in the Lagoon now in the Museo Correr. The corpulent figure of this hunter appears almost unchanged in The Drawing of Lots for Hunting Positions.
38.Seated Mandola Player; Studies of Heads and Legs
At a late stage in his career – around the middle of the 1770s – Longhi returned to painting scenes of popular life in Venice. On the same sheet is a female face and feet, probably belonging to the same woman (perhaps posed in a dance step).
39.Arm holding a Jug; tablecloth
Like the previous drawing, this shows Longhi’s return, around the middle of the 1760s – to the theme of popular life in Venice.
40.Wetnurse with Infant; cornice
Preparatory study for the painting now in the collection of the Banco Ambrosiano Veneto at Palazzo Montanari, Vicenza.
41.Lady and Gentleman wearing a Bauta; Lady with a Fan
We do not know the painting for which this very fine drawing was a study. However, the flowing line of the draughtsmanship suggests it was a late work, certainly dating from the end of the 1770s.
42.Seated Lady with Three Children; Woman seated a Table
An exceptional sheet, in which the fine lines of the drawing were achieved using pencil rather than the usual charcoal; probably dating from the early 1780s.
Preparatory study for the central figure in The Spinstress, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
44. Two Ladies Chattering
Probably a preparatory study for the two central figures in The Interrupted Card Game, a painting of the early 1780s that is now in a private collection in Bergamo.
45. Lady with a Fan
A drawing of the 1780s. The numerous annotations regarding the colour of the dress and other specific features confirm Longhi’s realism and his commitment to the perfect rendition of every detail.