The flower the woman in this drawing plucks from the bouquet—a “pink”—was associated with marriage and love in 18th-century Europe.
Giovanni Battista Piazzetta was celebrated for his finished drawings of saints, portraits, and teste di carattere (character heads). Cleveland’s sheet belongs to the latter genre, which describes portraits embellished with props to suggest a character type or types. Here, Piazzetta united three independent studies of individuals into a single scene, in which a young woman appears to purchase a pink—a type of flower related to the carnation—from a boy with a second young woman looking on.The image bristles with tantalizing narrative potential, but it is left to the viewer to interpret the scene as they wish. Drawings of this size and quality of finish were displayed on walls like paintings, rather than stored in portfolios, with the unfortunate consequence that the Venetian blue paper often faded to a grayish-tan as here. However, the virtuosity of Piazzetta’s technique endures on this sheet. His method of modeling—wetting and rubbing his black crayon rather than hatching—produces the density of tone and velvety shadow. Textural details are supplied by white chalk, evoking the silky weave of the boy’s shirt and the hard substance of the figures’ fingernails. Piazzetta's drawings were in high demand among affluent foreign visitors and helped to supplement his income.
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