In the Venice of the long 18th century both Gasparo Gozzi (in his Osservatore veneto) and Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi wrote “ritratti”, literary portraits of their contemporaries. However, while the imaginary gallery of the salonnière does indeed bring together the guests of her famous salon (Foscolo, Alfieri, Byron, Canova and others), the portraits in Gozzi’s periodical are identified only with common first names because they do not depict individuals but rather characteristics, attitudes or behaviors. Without losing sight of the obvious differences in the conception of a portrait depicted «senza pennello», this paper is primarily concerned with the question as to what extent there are still important connections between these different texts – all published in Venice under the same title Ritratti. Thus, despite Albrizzi’s multiple references to Lavater’s physiognomy – in contrast to which in Gozzi’s texts the outward appearance hardly matters – there emerges in both cases a reflection on seeing and the gaze which includes, and at the same time portrays, the seeing and writing subject as well as the reading and “seeing” addressee. In different ways, the painters and viewers of the Ritratti become «spectateurs de la vie» (Montaigne) in the «teatro all’aperto» of contemporary Venice – just like the moralists or Lichtenberg.