As It Was(n't?)

Giacomo Ceruti at the Metropolitan Museum is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: In the 1740s, Giacomo Ceruti made the real look realer.

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 1930)

A servant girl with a dog, painted in the 1740s by Giacomo Ceruti, who was nicknamed "Pitocchetto" (the little beggar). The painting is now up in the rehung Old Master galleries at the Met. It has an amazing, proto-photographic quality – once reserved mostly for pictures of workers and animals, always somehow considered more "real" than the elites. Or maybe it looks photographic only because Ceruti chose to "real-up" his humble sitter, adding the gaps in her teeth and a slight double chin.

I spent five years of my life trying to figure out Old Master ideas about the real and its representation, and I still find the subject a hall of mirrors.

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