Mrs. Erdleigh if painted by Longhi

When Jenkins encounters Mrs. Erdleigh at the Bellevue, she is wearing “a black coat with a high fur collar, a tricorne hat, also black, riding on the summit of grey curls. … This new method of doing her hair, the tone and texture of which suggested a wig, together with the three-cornered hat, recalled Longhi, the Venetian ridotto. You felt Mrs. Erdleigh had just removed her mask before paying this visit to Cagliostro… [TKO 199-200/197]

The Ridotto in Venice Pietro Longhi, ~1750 oil on canvas, 33 x 45 in Private collection photo in public domain from Web Gallery of Art via Wikimedia.org

The Ridotto in Venice
Pietro Longhi, ~1750
oil on canvas, 33 x 45 in
Private collection
photo in public domain from Web Gallery of Art via Wikimedia.org

Pietro Longhi (1701/2 – 1785) was a Venetian painter, most remembered for his genre scenes of daily Venetian life. Bernard Berenson (1901) wrote:

Longhi painted for the picture-loving Venetians their own lives in all their ordinary domestic and fashionable phases. In the hair-dressing scenes, we hear the gossip of the periwigged barber; in the dressmaking scenes, the chatter of the maid; in the dancing-school, the pleasant music of the violin. There is no tragic note anywhere. Everybody dresses, dances, makes bows, takes coffee, as if there were nothing else in the world that wanted doing. A tone of high courtesy, of great refinement, coupled with an all-pervading cheerfulness, distinguishes Longhi’s pictures from the works of Hogarth, at once so brutal and so full of presage of change.

A ridotto is a Venetian casino, where patrons often cavorted with masks blocking their faces and their inhibitions.

The Charlatan Pietro Longhi, 1757 oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in Ca' Rezzonico, Venice photo in public domain from the Yorck project via Wikimedia.org

The Charlatan
Pietro Longhi, 1757
oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in
Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice
photo in public domain from the Yorck project via Wikimedia.org

Mrs. Erdleigh had been introduced by Dr. Trelawney as “la vielle souveraine du monde” quoting from the French oculist Eliphas Levi (1810-1875). Alessandro Count Cagliostro was the  pseudonym of Giuseppe Balsamo (1743-1795), a contemporary of Longhi’s; Cagliostro’s alchemy and occultism are legendary. Powell could just as well have recalled another painting by Longhi, The Charlatan.

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