Pietro Longhi’s “Pharmacist”

Pietro Longhi is known for his series of paintings depicting the daily life of the Venetian aristocracy in the middle of the 18th century. These genre paintings follow the high-class men and especially women of the Serenissima while they drink chocolate in the morning, while they go about their business, visiting the barber, the pharmacist, merchant stalls, or taking part in the Carnival. This light and far from formal style made Longhi famous during his time and his enlightened attention to detail make his works a significant visual source of the era. We were interested to see his painting entitled “The Pharmacist” on display at the Galleria dell’Academia in Venice. We have analyzed in detail the interior of the pharmacy (the drug jars made of pottery and glass, the drug boxes, the retorts, but also the furniture, the painting, and the plant in a pot), and especially the depicted characters. Baroque pharmacies were not only places where medicine was produced and dispensed, but also places for medical consults and the administration of remedies, meeting places for discussions, debates of the news, and the inspection of exotic goods. We also noted upon the high social standing of the pharmacist, as he is seconded by an assistant and an apprentice. Another of Pietro Longhi’s paintings, “The Alchemists”, on display at the Ca’ Rezzonico, is also relevant for our research as it shows the laboratory equipment that was also used in the era’s pharmacies.