Eighteenth-century Venetian painting triumphed with Piazzetta and Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1790). Tiepolo was a virtuoso of vast decorative programs, such as his ensemble in this gallery; by contrast, one of Piazzetta's great achievements was development of large-scale paintings of idyllic-rural scenes with figures in contemporary dress, often modeled by his own family. Here the woman is probably Piazzetta's wife and the little boy perhaps one of their children. This is one of a trio "pastorales" - haunting, romantic outdoor scenes-painted between 1740 and 1745. Its counterparts are in museums in Cologne and Venice. These works are widely regarded as the summit of Italian genre painting.
A plausible reading of the painting's message is that the half-naked child holding a basket of grapes is Bacchus and the woman the nymph who raised this god of wine and animals. Representations of Bacchus often served as emblems of autumn; Piazzetta was familiar with idyllic renderings of the Seasons by the French painter Watteau (1684-1721). Portrayal of mythological figures as contemporaries revived a tradition initiated by Caravaggio (1571-1610).
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