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Oil painting - Card Players

Card Players

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    early 19th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Longhi, Pietro (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Pietro Falca called Longhi (1700/02-1785) was born in Venice and trained there with Antonio Balestra and then probably in Bologna with the genre painter Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747). He appears as a member of the Fraglia, the Venetian guild of painters, in 1737. Around the same period, he specialised in small-scale genre paintings for which he is renowned. He trained his son, Alessandro (1733-1813), who specialised in portraits.

This painting is a good imitation and yet not a direct copy of a genre scene by Pietro Longhi showing card players in a Venetian domestic interior. Illustrating a common activity of the Noble Venetian life, this genre scene is also a family portrait representing the husband and wife in the foreground with their child and his nurse standing behind the table. Two servants, a lackey and a woman, are also included in the scene.

Physical description

In a bourgeois domestic interior, elegant figures, two women, a man and a child, sat around table playing cards, a lackey stands behind the woman on the left and a servant, behind the man on the right, is receding into the shade; in the background against the wall hangs a richly carved and gilt mirror.


early 19th century (painted)


Longhi, Pietro (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


Height: 70.2 cm estimate, Width: 95 cm estimate

Object history note

Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon, 1886
Ref: Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, (Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990), p.xx.
Joshua Dixon (1811-1885), was the son of Abraham Dixon of Whitehaven and brother of George Dixon (who was head of the foreign merchants firm of Rabone Brothers in Birmingham 1883-98). Educated at Leeds Grammar School, and was deputy chairman of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company 1869-70. Died Winslade, near Exeter, 7 December 1885. Bequeathed all his collection of drawings, watercolours and oil paintings to the Bethnal Green Museum; they have since been transferred to the V&A. He also collected engravings, Japanese vases and panels, and bronze and marble sculpture.

Historical significance: This is an imitation or pastiche, probably of 19th century date, of a composition by Pietro Longhi, depicting cards players seated at a table in an elegant domestic interior (Statens Museums for Kunst, Copenhagen). The original composition is seen from a more distant viewpoint. The two principal characters, the husband and wife, are copied almost directly from the original.

The present work depicts the paterfamilias on the right, his wife opposite him, a third woman and a boy in the middle, with a man servant behind the wife's chair and a maid withdrawing behind the husband. The copyist has imitated Longhi's typical dark tonality and small figures with doll-like faces. Their proportions appear gauche, with stiff poses making the figures resemble puppets and an unspoken dialogue seems to unite the characters.

Historical context note

Pietro Falca, known as Longhi, (1700/2-1785) was born in Venice, where he trained with Antonio Balestra, before moving to Bologna, where he trained with the genre painter Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747). He became a member of the Fraglia, the Venetian guild of painters, in 1737, and specialised in small-scale genre paintings. He trained his son, Alessandro (1733-1813), who specialised in portraits.

Longhi's representation of Venetian life may have been influenced by prints after William Hogarth and Antoine Watteau (he was even described by the 18th century French connoisseur J.P. Mariette as 'another Watteau'). His small-scale anecdotal genre paintings have a satirical air, complementary to the work of his friend, the playwright Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793).

Genre scenes of everyday life were introduced to Rome in the 17th century by the Bamboccianti mostly itinerant Netherlandish painters specialising in low-life subjects. They were popularised in Bologna and the Veneto by Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747), Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682-1754), Pietro Longhi (ca. 1701-1785) and Giacomo Ceruti (1698-1767).

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Card Players', follower of Pietro Longhi, early 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 174-75, cat. no. 214.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Servants; Genre scene; Mirror; Interior; Playing cards; People




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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