Jeffrey Smart and Ermes De Zan met in 1973 and lived together as a couple at Smart’s home in Tuscany, Posticcia Nuova from 1975 until Smart’s death in 2013. As Smart recalled in his 1996 autobiography Not quite straight, picking De Zan up from the town of Borgo San Sepolcro in 1975 ‘was the beginning … of the happiest time in [his] life’. He and De Zan were renowned for their generous hospitality which they extended to their many friends and guests from Australia and around the world. De Zan shared Smart’s passion for art, music and architecture and the pair travelled widely together. Although Ermes acted as a model for some of Smart’s figure studies, The two-up game (Portrait of Ermes) is the only time Smart formally painted his portrait.
Smart and De Zan lived together from 1975 until Smart’s death in 2013. His ashes are laid at Migliari Cemetery, near Posticcia Nuova.