Sitting for a Portrait
Traversi was very fond of this scene, painted in 1750, as we know of two other versions, one in Rouen and one in Kansas City in the USA.
Traversi was around twenty years old when he painted these, and the continuing influence of Giuseppe Bonito is evident in the caricatural aspect of the figures. We also know that the artist was interested in the satirical writings of the Neapolitan dramatist, Baron de Liveri, from whom he possibly took the biting irony and grim humour of his characters. Traversi’s paintings, contemporary with Voltaire and in tune with the anti-academic movement of the Neapolitan culture of the Enlightenment, are also essays in socio-moral criticism; here he seems to depict “parvenus”, newcomers to the social “scene”. Whether a caricature or a character painting (comparable with La Bruyère), the artist could not ignore the famous treatise of the Neapolitan Giambattista della Porta, Fisiognomia dell’uomo.
The last heir to the Caravaggist style, a prophet of European enlightenment, a contemporary of William Hogarth, Traversi painted the human comedy fully aware of its illusions and tragic gravity.