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Unusually for the teste di carattere, this drawing is of a mythological figure, Diana, goddess of the hunt. Piazzetta places the figure in a shallow pictorial space and, despite the close-up view, manages to depict all of the goddess’s essential attributes. She is shown with her bow and arrows, and her association with night is made explicit by a crescent moon, worn as a crown in her hair. Piazzetta harnesses his great technical skill to convey Diana’s other attribute – her beauty. By contrasting ribbons and fabric with the expanse of Diana’s bosom, he evokes the warmth of her proximity. Her averted gaze and slight smile contribute to the drawing’s light sensuality, as does the expressiveness of her hand, which elegantly holds her bow.

Diana is one of only two known dated works in the teste di carattere series, which indicates that it was particularly significant for Piazzetta. His work is also represented in the National Gallery of Victoria by two additional portraits, of his wife Rosa and son Giacomo.

Text by Maria Zagala from Prints and Drawings in the International Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, p. 64.

Details

  • Title: Diana
  • Creator: Giovanni Battista Piazzetta
  • Date Created: 1743
  • Location Created: Venice, Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: 39.5 x 31.4 cm (Sheet)
  • Type: Drawings
  • Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1936, © National Gallery of Victoria
  • External Link: National Gallery of Victoria
  • Medium: black and white chalk on faded blue paper
  • Provenance: Collection of Henry Oppenheimer (1859–1932), London, before 1932; Oppenheimer sale, Christie’s, London, 10 July 1936, no. 138; from where purchased, on the advice of Randall Davies, for the Felton Bequest, 1936.
  • Place Part Of: Italy
  • Biography: Giovanni Battista Piazzetta was a leading painter of religious subjects in Venice in the eighteenth century, at a time when the city was one of the cultural centres of Europe. He was also an exceptional draughtsman, who made his reputation with a series of heads drawn in chalk, known as teste di carattere – studies of people from everyday life. The immediacy and engaging quality of these drawings come from the way the figures lean forward into the picture plane, as though confiding in the viewer. Piazzetta often used his wife Rosa and son Giacomo as models, and the sense of intimacy in these portraits is palpable. Executed with a high degree of finish, the drawings were prized by collectors, and provided the artist with a steady income throughout his career.

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