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Pietro Longhi (Venice c. 1701-Venice 1785)

The Married Couple's Breakfast Signed and dated 1744

Oil on panel | 48.9 x 60.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 403029

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  • The Married Couple's Breakfast formed part of George III's purchase of Consul Joseph Smith's collection of paintings, drawings, prints and books and was recorded at St James's Palace in 1819. The painting, along with its pendant Blind-Man's Bluff (RCIN 403030) is unusual in Longhi's oeuvre: both are on panel and are signed and dated, indicating the importance of Smith's patronage for the artist.

    The composition portrays a luxurious bedroom: a gentleman sits up in bed, gazing at his new wife, or mistress, who leans against him, apparently lost in thought. His face is probably a portrait: as Guarienti noted in 1753, Longhi painted with such veracity that 'it was easy to recognise the places and people portrayed'. The female figure is holding a cup of chocolate or coffee, both thought to have aphrodisiac qualities, while the gentleman is about to be served by the two servants. Though in half shadow and thus separated from the highlighted couple, the servants are very much part of the story, exchanging meaningful glances that are open to interpretation; are they applauding the love between the couple, or do they deride what they see? The theme of love is reinforced by the two paintings on the wall showing the mythological story of Venus being abandoned by Adonis.

    Several preparatory drawings for both paintings are in the Museo Correr and demonstrate Longhi's careful attention to the details that make up the compositions. Both this painting, and its pendant, strongly recall contemporary French paintings of wealthy couples in elegant settings enjoying games and lovemaking; they are the first of Longhi's paintings on this theme. 
     
    The frame is a good example of the 'carved gilt frames in modern & elegant taste' in which Smith's paintings were described in the 'Italian List', drawn up in George III's reign; it is a refined product of a Venetian workshop. 

    Signed and dated Petrus Longhi / 1744

    Catalogue entry adapted from Canaletto & the Art of Venice, London, 2017.
    Provenance

    Acquired in 1762 by George III from Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice (Italian List no 343); recorded in the Duke of Cumberland's apartments at St James's Palace in 1819 (no 1063)

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on panel

    Measurements

    48.9 x 60.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    60.7 x 71.7 x 5.0 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    'The Morning Levée', previously entitled

    Attending the Sick, previously entitled