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Giuseppe Piattoli

(circa 1743 – after 1807, Florence)

“Burla del Piovane Arlitto che fa un fastidioso, caccandogli nelli stivali”. Pen and brown ink, greyish-black wash, white heightening. 11.5 x 18.2 cm.

Throughout his life the painter, draughtsman and engraver, Giuseppe Piattoli, worked in Florence, where he made a name for himself primarily with his genre pictures and series of prints, such as La Marfia and I Giuochi. His reputation was further enhanced by his watercolour illustrations of Italian proverbs which were published in 1786 and 1788 in reproduc­tive prints by Carlo Lasinio. From 1785 to 1807 Piattoli taught drawing at the Academy in Florence.

Piattoli was a charming minor master whose drawings and prints brilliantly captured the atmosphere of his period. The present small drawing portrays a farcical occurrence attribut­able to the legendary Piovano Arlotto (1396–1484). A priest in fourteenth-century Florence, Arlotto’s sharp tongue and the outrageous tricks he played in the style of Bocaccio made him a popular hero. His deeds were immortalised after his death in an anonymous text entitled I Motti e facezie del Piovano Arlotto. Arlotto could even see the funny side of his own death. The inscription on his gravestone says that this final resting place is meant for him and all those who would like to keep him company. In the present work Arlotto is seen taking revenge on a contemporary he has grown tired of. The scene takes place
at night in eerily flickering light in an ill-lit bedroom which is divided by curtains. Arlotto is bent over and visibly straining to fill his adversary’s boots with his excrement. He is very productive in his efforts and the peacefully sleeping victim has not the slightest inkling of the far from salubrious surprise that awaits him when he wakes up. With a few deft strokes of the pen and brush Piattoli has consummately portrayed the grotesque scene, the distinctive chiaroscuro effect of which is reminiscent of the grim humour to be found in Goya’s genre scenes.

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