“The Meeting of the Procuratore and His Wife”

Around the 1750s and 1760s, Longhi depicts the upper class as masked figures engaging in various acts from gambling to flirting. For example, Longhi’s painting, The Meeting of the Procuratore and His Wife (1746, fig. 1), displays a woman seated in the foreground who is being greeted by a man that is presumed to be her husband. The setting is of a “social milieu” which is a type of gathering place usually for masked people to engage in private matters such as romantic encounters.[1] The main focus of the composition is the meeting of the woman and her husband who are not masked, but there are masked figures in the corners of the room that also command attention. The masked figures include one masked couple holding hands to the right in the composition and another masked couple to the left with a woman seated who is unmasking herself to address the masked man leaning over her shoulder. The woman in the act of unmasking herself can be interpreted in many ways. One way to view this act is to say that the woman’s Moretta mask does not allow the ability to speak because of the lack of an opening for the mouth thus she is unmasking herself in order to speak to the masked man. Another interpretation is to assume the woman is interested enough in the masked man addressing her to remove her mask in order to reveal her true identity to him. Her actions are bringing their encounter into reality and not just in the playful world of masks where one can do whatever he or she desires because no one can recognize them. Removing her mask could allude to removing the illusion of anonymity because the masked man now knows who she is and therefore cannot deny the woman or their meeting’s existence. By removing her mask, the woman removed the illusion of herself that she assumed when wearing a mask and she revealed herself as she is in reality. Parallel to the mask, Venetian society is not what it seems. In this work, Longhi successfully portrays duality in depicting the ordinary occurrence of the procuratore meeting his wife, but he also adds the subtle hints of the masked couples to suggest a more enticing tone and to further portray the troubling aspects of life in eighteenth century Venice.

[1] Terisio Pignatti, Pietro Longhi: Paintings and Drawings (London: Phaidon Press Ltd.,

1969) 81.


[…] often showed masked figures in his work, including women in morettas, as in The Rhinoceros and The Meeting of the Procuratore and His Wife, which, as the University of Mary Washington blog observes, shows a lady removing her moretta for […]

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