A woman in a powder-pink gown seems to be at the center of a domestic crisis as she sinks back, deathly pale, into a chair. The explanation for her indisposition is not hard to discover. A table has been tipped over at the left, spilling cards, an open purse, and coins on to the floor. The lady has been gambling. Dealt an unfortunate hand of cards, she pretended to faint, conveniently upsetting the table as she swooned. Her servants and companions rush to her aid, while the man on the right may be a doctor, or a gambling partner who had been winning.
Longhi's fame rested on such intimate glimpses of Venetian upperclass life in a period of refined decadence. His aristocratic subjects were also his patrons, and they would have appreciated this accurate portrayal of an elegant interior with a chinoiserie card table and moss-green damask on the walls. The realistic comedy of Longhi's playwright friend Carlo Goldoni may have been a source of inspiration, but Longhi's vignettes lack Goldoni's satirical bite. The feathery touch of Longhi's brush and the filtered light soften the scene, as do the pastel colors and the diminutive, doll-like actors.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/italian-paintings-17th-and-18th-centuries.pdf
Prince Alberto Giovanelli [1876-1937], Venice, until c. 1930. (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Rome); purchased 1931 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1939 to NGA.
- A Century of Progress: Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1933, no. 149.
- Venetian Painting of the XVIIIth Century, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, 1936, no. 16.
- Tiepolo and His Contemporaries, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1938, no. 23, repro.
- Pietro Longhi, Museo Correr, Venice, 1993-1994, no. 44, repro.
- Venturi, Lionello. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931. Translated as Italian Painting in America. 3 vols. New York and Milan, 1933: 3:pl. 600.
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. "Eighteenth Century Venice in a New York Collection." The Fine Arts 19 (December 1932): 10, repro. 9.
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. "Tiepolo comes to New York: The XVIII Century Venetians at the Metropolitan." Art News 36 (12 March 1938): 24, repro. 10.
- Tietze, Hans. Tintoretto. New York, 1948: pl. 118a.
- Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 109-110, no. 174, as The Simulated Faint.
- Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 243, repro. 133.
- Longhi, Roberto. Viatico per cinque secoli di pittura veneziana. Florence, 1946: 69, pl. 158.
- Bacchelli, Riccardo, and Roberto Longhi. Teatro e immagini del settecento italiano. Turin, 1953: 128, pl. 16.
- Moschini, Vittorio. Pietro Longhi. Milan, 1956: pl. 18.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 243, repro.
- Pallucchini 1960, 180-181, fig. 461.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 318, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 76.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 67, repro.
- Pignatti, Terisio. Pietro Longhi. Venice, 1968: 116-117, pl. 67.
- Pignatti, Terisio. Pietro Longhi: Paintings and Drawings. Translated by Pamela Waley. London, 1969: 104, pl. 67, color pl. III (detail).
- Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 109.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XVI-XVIII Century. London, 1973: 136, fig. 268.
- Pignatti, Terisio. L'opera completa di Pietro Longhi. Milan, 1974: 88, no. 40, color pl. 15.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 198, repro.
- Paulson, Ronald. Emblem and Expression: Meaning in English Art of the Eighteenth Century. London, 1975: 110-111, fig. 66.
- Pignatti, Terisio. Pietro Longhi dal disegno alla pittura. Venice, 1975: color pl. I.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: I:267-268, II:pl. 183.
- Sohm, Philip L. "Pietro Longhi and Carlo Goldoni: Relations between Painting and Theater." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 45 (1982): 264-273, figs. 3,4 (detail).
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 348, no. 487, color repro., as The Simulated Faint.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 232, repro.
- Spike, John. Giuseppe Maria Crespi and the Emergence of Genre Painting in Italy. Exh. cat. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1986: 196.
- National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 113, repro.
- Mariuz, Adriano, Giuseppe Pavanello, and Giandomenico Romanelli. Pietro Longhi. Exh. cat. Museo Correr, Venice, 1993: 16, 17, 20, 88, no. 44, fig. 4 (detail), color pl. 89.
- De Grazia, Diane, and Eric Garberson, with Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter M. Lukehart, and Mitchell Merling. Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 171-176, color repro. 172.
- Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA II: Covers and Essays from The Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, 2001: 44-45, 209, color repro.
The support is a fine, plain-weave fabric. A cream-colored ground of average thickness covers the entire support. In x-radiographs the ground has a finely striated density and may have been applied with a brush. The paint was applied in thin layers blended wet-into-wet in short, finely textured strokes. There is no significant impasto, but the paint has a slightly higher, stiffer structure in the highlights, which are formed by small strokes of slightly upraised paint. A thin, semitransparent brown glaze was employed to define the contours of the hands and the fingers, as well as the details of the features. Infrared reflectography and x-radiography revealed no underdrawing or artist's changes.
The tacking margins have been removed, but prominent cusping is evident along all but the bottom edge. The varnish, although only slightly discolored, has altered the picture's tonal relationships along the bottom edge and throughout the composition. The canvas was relined, discolored varnish was removed, and the painting was restored by Stephen Pichetto about 1932. The inpainting was adjusted by Mario Modestini in 1955.