The Apothecary by Pietro Longhi
The old Venetian chemist, known as the Apothecary or Speziale, ran a highly personal business, often trading on the cult of his own personality and the special patent remedies he produced. His shop had its own logotype – often an animal, mythical eminence, religious figure or human virtue - which was reproduced on his handbills. More than that, each Apothecary shop, or Spezier, was a fertile ‘contact zone’ between classes, races, professions and the sexes.
Signor Speziale probably came from the citizen class, but he mixed with noblemen, merchants, scientists, doctors, priests, writers, performers, ambassadors and – spies.
His skills and cultural knowledge gave him respectability and social permeability – and so did his establishment, as seen in this painting by Pietro Longhi, 1752.
It shows an apothecary in his elegant shop, examining the throat of a young female singer, while an apprentice takes notes and other patients wait their turn. They include a friar and a nobleman.