In one of the many rooms of a noble Venetian house a richly dressed young aristocratic woman is doing one of the main activities of the women at the time: preparing herself at the toilet. The young lady is surrounded by her maids who help her to get into her precious dress, prepare her hair and make-up. She is wearing a typical 18th-century dress with gold tones and colorful flowers. Her skirt is very wide at the sides as in the fashion of this period while the generous neckline of the dress is defined and enhanced by the underlying white lace and muslin blouse. The young aristocrat holds a flower in her left hand while she offers her right arm to the maid, who arranges her abundant white blouse that emerges from her sleeve. On the right there is a young waitress holding a mirror, placed on a wooden table, so that the lady can admire her appearance, while an old woman brings her coffee served on a silver set.
The young woman with a smile on her face seems already satisfied with the result which she will soon see on her mirror, and the gesture of her arm and her posture show a certain affectation of movements.
The room, decorated with brown tones, is very simple and you can only see the slightly damask wallpaper covering the walls, an abundant curtain on the right and a portrait of man wearing a red toga on the left.
The painting is faithful to detail in describing the daily ritual of the aristocratic lady, also in the fashion and the furnishing of a Venetian house in the mid-18th century, influenced by the Anglo-Saxon models and especially those of William Hogarth, who was an attentive interpreter of the reality of his time.
Longhi, however, limited himself to describing a small piece of the daily life of this privileged class, that he observed approvingly without any moral criticism towards these figures, which would have caused some controversy. This is how Longhi distinguishes himself from Hogarth, who expressed a strong social satire and moral protest against the vices of the existing society instead.
Pietro Longhi’s painting was donated to Gallerie dell’Accademia together with similar style paintings that had the same subject and size by a noble Venetian Girolamo Contarini in 1838.
Piero di Giovanni was born in Siena in the second half of the 14th century, but the exact date is not known.
He studied painting in Florence, where he attended the Compagnia di San Luca, brotherhood of painters and craftsmen of Florence and where Visdomini had his workshop.
In 1391 he was already an established painter and he entered the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where he specialized on miniature with don Silvestro Gherarducci and don Simone Camaldolese. Lorenzo obtained a permission to continue his activities even outside the convent and have his own workshop, which was originally in Corso degli Adimari, near to the church of San Bartolomeo and then in Santa Maria degli Angeli.
Among his first major works were the illuminated initials with saints and prophets for antiphonaries of Santa Maria degli Angeli, now in the Laurentian Library in Florence.
In his panels he used calligraphic lines and subtle miniatures with delicate colors, which resulted in elegant design. His most important panels were the altarpiece for the main altar in the church of Monteoliveto with the Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints John the Baptist, Benedict, Thaddeus and Bartholomew (1410, Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia) and the Coronation of the Virgin, signed and dated in 1414, for the high altar of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Florence, Uffizi Gallery).
Lorenzo Monaco studied painting in the workshop of Agnolo Gaddi, but he was also influenced by Spinello Aretino, Giotto and Andrea Orcagna. His style was close to International Gothic but also the late Gothic of Lorenzo Ghiberti and Gherardo Starnina.
He died around 1423-1424.
Prato’s Museo Civico is situated in the Palazzo Pretorio, in Piazza del Comune at the city center.
The first documents of the Palazzo date back to the end of the 13th century, when captain of the Guelfs, Francesco de’ Frescobaldi decided to purchase the building already owned by Pipini, to house the foreign magistrates, the court and the prisons. Between 1334 and 1338 the building was enlarged by Florentine craftsmen and the medieval appearance was changed. During the following centuries and especially in the 18th century a series of improvements were implemented finally until the late 19th century, when the building came under the demolition threat.
In 1912 an important restoration work led to the opening of the Galleria Comunale, which was previously housed in the Palazzo del Comune. The last restoration started in 1998 and it was finished in 2013. In September of the same year the museum reopened with the exhibition “From Donatello to Lippi. Officina pratese”.
The historical origins of the museum are linked to the decision of the grand duke of Tuscany, Leopold II, who wanted to create a collection of paintings for the students of the city’s drawing school (1788).
The collection was enriched thanks to various donations and purchases, until the official inauguration of the first exhibition organized by Giovanni Papini in 1912.
In 1926, thanks to Angiolo Badiani’s initiative, the State museum received their first assemblage of plaster casts by local sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini and in 1954 the museum was reopened with new layout, designed by Giuseppe Marchini.
In the late 1980s’ the gallery was closed for restoration work. During these years of improvements, the museum purchased the Crucifixion by Filippino Lippi and the altarpieces by Santi di Tito and Alessandro Allori were donated to the museum by Angela Riblet.
The museum holds many artworks, ranging from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Among these there are the polyptych with the Stories of the Cintola by Bernardo Daddi, polyptychs by Giovanni da Milano and Lorenzo Monaco, Filippo Lippi’s Madonna del Ceppo and the Adoration of the Child and Vincenzo Ferrer, Filippino Lippi’s Annunciation with St. Julian, Mattia Preti’s Repudiation of Agar and the Cabins by Ardengo Soffici.
The collection includes also an important assemblage of sculptures of the most important artists of the time, among them Andrea della Robbia and Benedetto Buglioni.