This monumental painting shows a large crowd awaiting the results of a lottery draw, which is taking place on the balcony of the Palazzo di Montecitorio in Rome. A man has released the winning ticket into the air – you can just make out a small piece of paper fluttering towards the excited group beneath.
The foreground activity is in many ways more intriguing and captivating than the main event. The energetic throng plays an equal role with the architecture, and Panini seems to have relished the opportunity to depict a wide variety of characters. Elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen stand among market traders and other humble bystanders, their gestures and outfits accented by bright sunlight.
Panini was the greatest view painter in eighteenth-century Rome and this is considered to be one of his most accomplished works.
The Lottery in Piazza di Montecitorio shows Panini’s gift as both a master of architectural perspective and a painter of picturesque scenes of everyday life. In this monumental painting, a large crowd awaits the results of a lottery draw, which is taking place on the balcony of the Palazzo di Montecitorio, Rome. The lottery was held nine times a year from 1743, around the time this work was painted, until 1870. The proceeds were used for charitable and religious purposes.
The artist has depicted this popular event in a highly theatrical way. A man standing on the balcony of the palazzo’s facade has released the winning ticket into the air – you can just make out a small piece of paper to the right of the building’s entrance fluttering towards an excited group beneath. But the foreground activity is in many ways more intriguing and captivating than the main event. The animated throng plays an equal role with the architecture. Touches of vivid colour make up the clothing of the figures, contrasting with the warm, pinkish tones of both the buildings and the earthy ground, and bright sunlight accents some of the details of gesture and dress.
Panini seems to have relished the opportunity to depict a wide variety of characters. Some of the people watching may be too poor to participate in the lottery, while others are so wealthy they don't need to. Elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen enter the scene from either side, on foot or in horse-drawn carriages. While they show little interest in the lottery, several men in black robes at either side of the scene study their tickets. In the left-hand corner, a market seller stands next to a cart full of produce as a number of men climb on the masonry beside him. On the far right, a mother and child sit at the base of the column of Antoninus Pius – which had been excavated nearby and moved to this square – alongside a group of men who drink merrily. Behind this we see the column of Marcus Aurelius, the greatest ancient monument in the area; in reality it would have been just out of view, but Panini has altered the perspective a little in order to include it.
This work was painted for Cardinal Domenico Orsini according to an inscription on the preparatory drawing now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. His reason for commissioning it is unclear; he was not associated with the lottery and his great-uncle, Pope Benedict XIII, condemned the lottery as an immoral practice in 1725.
Panini was the greatest view painter in eighteenth-century Rome, whether depicting real settings, such as The Interior of St Peter’s or imaginary scenes like Roman Ruins with Figures. This is considered to be one of his most accomplished works and is a rare depiction of this contemporary event in Rome.
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