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This portrait of Caterina Giovanna Penza (or Pensa) was probably intended to hang beside a companion picture of her husband, the Venetian architect Tommaso Temanza, in which he holds the instruments of his profession (Gallerie dell' Accademia, Venice). Alessandro was the son of artist Pietro Longhi, whose paintings are also in the National Gallery’s collection.
Born in 1721, Caterina married Tommaso in 1739 and was still alive in 1789, when her husband died. This portrait was painted in around 1760, when Caterina was about 40 years old. Her hair is neatly tied back and covered in wig powder to create a silver-grey appearance; her smile is relaxed and welcoming, her cheeks rosy and her features delicate. She wears an elegant dress embellished with a lace collar and gold embroidery, a corsage of different flowers and a string of pearls. Set against a plain background, her blue shawl and the flowers on her dress and in her hair bring the portrait to life.
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