An elegantly dressed crowd gathers to watch a play in a large salon with a high barrel-vaulted ceiling. The mostly male spectators wear long frock coats, three-cornered hats, and hair tied behind in ponytails. Francesco Guardi quickly sketched the outline of the figures and architecture, and then applied strokes of brown wash to suggest shadows or the texture of fabric. Patches of wash suggest the arches around the windows and create depth on the raised platform of the stage.
This sketch commemorates a performance of the commedia dell'arte on January 21, 1782, in Venice for Grand Duke Paul Petrovitch of Russia and his wife Maria Fedorovna. As part of their tour across Europe, traveling under the pseudonym "Comte et Comtesse du Nord," the Grand Duke and Duchess stayed in Venice between January 18 and 25. Guardi drew several paintings and drawings to record their visit.