An Artist Sketching an Elegant Company ("Il Caffè")

Pietro Longhi (Italian, 1702-1781)
c. 1750-55
Oil on canvas 
24 x 19-7/16 in. (61 x 49.4cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
On View

This painting illustrates beautifully Longhi's gift for depicting the bourgeoisie doing nothing, but with great style. His editorial comments lacked the bitter, satiric edge of those by Hogarth or Goya. Rather, he adhered to the role of an intimate chronicler who captured with penetration and a subtly ironic viewpoint the low-key, bourgeois character of the eighteenth-century Venetian aristocracy. He created carefully arranged compositions and frequently cast his group portraits around a table scene. Included here is his own self-portrait, appropriately as the artist sketching the activity at hand.


Gambardi family, Florence (said to have been painted by the artist for the family),
by inheritance to;
Count Giacomo Miari de Cumani, Padua, until ca. 1908[?], to[?];
[(?) Carlo Balboni, Venice and Ferrara, to];
Professor Elia Volpi, Florence and New York (sale, New York, American Art Galleries, 17-19 December 1917, lot 441, to);
E. Segrè, for(?);
Lionello Perera, New York, by inheritance to;
Mrs. Lionello Perera, New York (sale, London, Sotheby’s, 24 June 1964, no. 31, to);
[Julius Weitzner].
[Hallsborough Gallery, London, sold 1969 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation, transferred in 2012 to;
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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