Masterpieces from Italian collections

12 NOVEMBER 2019

Masterpieces from Italian collections

Auction, 0325

Palazzo Ramirez-Montalvo

6.00 p.m.

Friday        8 November    10am-6pm
Saturday    9 November    10am-6pm
Sunday     10 November   10am-6pm
Monday     11 November   10am-6pm

Palazzo Ramirez-Montalvo
Borgo degli Albizi, 26

Estimate   0 € - 250000 €

All categories

1 - 13  of 13


Egypt, mid-second millennium BCE

h. 63 cm

An export licence is available for this lot

The wooden statue portrays a standing male figure, his shoulders straight and his arms at his sides. The legs are almost parallel; the left leg is only slightly advanced. The shorn head is inclined slightly forward; the facial features, the supraorbital ridges, the nose and the mouth are rendered with accentuated differences among the planes. Stone eyes, carved separately and inserted in the otherwise finished piece, complete the face. The hands are closed into fists; the left hand displays a perforation for insertion of an attribute, now lost. The flesh tone used on the figure is a dark brown.

The man is bare-chested and wears a long white kilt that falls from the waist to mid-calf. The garment is held in place at the top by a band; a downward-flaring trapezoidal panel or apron characterises the front.

The sculpture portrays an official of high standing. It is probable that it originally stood on a base, perhaps made of a different wood, which also quite probably bore dedicatory or commemorative texts such as to permit identifying the subject. However, statues of this type should not be considered portraits, but rather portrayals of individuals’ ka (spiritual entity and life-force), eternally youthful and in perfect form. In the words of well-known Italian Egyptologist Sergio Donadoni, ‘In the main, Egyptian sculpture springs from the desire to provide a point of physical support for a given “soul” (if we may call it that) which is defined by the singularity of its name. The statue is not a monument, a celebratory memorial; it is a specific form of the person; it possesses vitality in virtue of the rite performed over it to “open its mouth” (just as was done with the body after mummification). This fact cannot be overly stressed if we are to understand the roots that nourish the Egyptian figurative experience and what meanings accrue to its typifying vocation and to its vocation for realism.’ (S. Donadoni, L’uomo egiziano. Rome-Bari 1990, p. 277).

The iconography faithfully reprises that used in the case of high-ranking Middle Kingdom individuals: solely as examples, with analogous renderings of the garment (type D.3a – Harvey 2001), the statue of Senbi at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York (inv. 11.150.27 – D. Arnold, ‘Statuette of Senbi Standing’ in A. Oppenheim et al., (eds.), Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom. New York, 2015, 146-50, no. 80 (Fig. 1) and the small male figure from the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (inv. 11.033 - C. M. Woodward et al., A Handbook of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. Rhode Island 1988, 96, no. 3 (Fig. 2).

The figurative models of the Middle Kingdom carried over into period of political uncertainty that followed the end of the 12th dynasty and ran through the Second Intermediate Period into the 18th dynasty (Harvey 2009, p. 5). In favour of dating the sculpture to the New Kingdom – a dating confirmed by archeometric analyses (Fig. 3) – are (with respect to the schematic rendering of the preceding period) the figure’s greater dynamism and the more accurate modelling of the musculature and the anatomy.

One particularly important aspect of the precious sculpture presented here is the excellent state of the colours – not only the white of the kilt but also the figure’s brown flesh tones. The fact that the skin seems to be unusually dark-hued could be a sign of the artisans’ desire to imitate ebony, a precious imported wood used in pharaonic statuary – think, for example, of the busts of Queen Tiye (Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum, inv. 21834/17852) or that of her husband Amenhotep III (Brooklyn  Museum, inv. 48.28) – or, in exceptional cases, for private statues such as those of the priest Amenhotep and his wife Rannai (Moscow, Pushkin Museum, inv. I.1.а 2103, 2099).


Bibliographical References

Differently from what has been the norm for quite some time now in the case of stone statuary, it is only relatively recently that comprehensive studies of the Egyptians’ wooden sculpture have been undertaken. A systematic work cataloguing 240 Old Kingdom works is available (J. Harvey, Wooden Statues of the Old Kingdom. A Typological Study. Leiden-Boston 2001), but for the works of the Middle and New Kingdom we must still make reference to studies of single works, to mentions in general repertoires (J. Harvey, ‘Wooden Statuary’ in Willeke Wendrich (ed.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. Los Angeles 2009) or to treatises on statuary (J. Vandier, Manuel d’Archéologie égyptienne, III. Les grandes époques: la statuaire. Paris 1958).


Our thanks to Dr. Anna Giulia De Marco (University of Pisa), who is now preparing  a study on this sculpture, for her input to drafting of this description.



Private collection


Accompanying Documents

Documentation of the results of C14 analysis conducted by CEDAD (CEntro di DAtazione e Diagnostica) at the Department of Mathematics and Physics ‘Ennio de Giorgi’, University of Salento, signed by Prof. Lucio Calcagnile.

Estimate    20.000 / 30.000
Price realized  Registration

Maestro della Madonna di Riomaggiore (Master of the Madonna of Riomaggiore)

(sculptor of the Campione school active in Liguria in the early 14th century: “Maestro di Giano” ?)


polychrome wooden statue, 165x56x38 cm

An export licence is available for this lot



J. Boccador - E. Bresset, Statuaire médiévale de collection, s.l. 1972, p. 56 fig. 50


This regal, sophisticated statue presents the iconography of the “Madonna in Majesty” which usually depicts the Virgin enthroned with the Infant Jesus seated on her left arm and raising His hand in blessing. This iconography was very popular in wooden sculpture between the second half of the thirteenth century and the early decades of the fourteenth in a more unusual rendering with the Virgin standing erect, making the figure more powerful and impressive. The solemn, stately tone, emphasized by the immobile frontal position of the Christ Child, with the features of a little emperor sheathed in His simple tunic, is softened by the noble grace of Mary’s face and her gentle hand on her son’s stomach. These features speak to the transition from the more abstract, iconic shapes of the Romanesque tradition towards the naturalism and sorrowful humanity of Gothic art. The statue, which is noteworthy for the conservation condition of the carving and polychromy (even the gilded copper coronet that is finely decorated with relief stars and openwork seems pertinent), is important evidence of the development of wood sculpture in Liguria. It can be dated to the early decades of the fourteenth century and a very interesting cultural climate.

The stiff frontal arrangement and the almost cone-shaped structure of the group, the Child’s rigid posture, the faces - His round and Mary’s slender; the hair – hers dressed in waves, and the Child’s ancient-style; the verticality of the folds of the robe and mantle that opens like a fan in zigzagging, sharp folds show that this piece is very closely related to the wooden Madonna of the Chains in the oratory of Nostra Signora Assunta in Cielo at Riomaggiore, described by Piero Donati (in La Sacra Selva. Scultura lignea in Liguria tra XII e XVI secolo, Genoa exhibition catalogue, ed. by F. Boggero and P. Donati, Geneva-Milan 2004, pp. 116-117 n. 5) with a dating around 1310. And he linked it to the work of the “maestri campionesi” – masters from Campione - the Lombard stonecutters who, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, monopolized the main construction sites in Genoa such as the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and the church of San Francesco di Castelletto.

The striking comparison made by Donati can be matched with the works of most outstanding and recognizable of these sculptors, whom scholars call the “Maestro di Giano” for the bust of Re Giano (King Janus), the mythical founder of Genoa, on a pilaster of the left-side women’s gallery of the cathedral, completed in 1307, where the same anonymous master also carved a capital depicting the Madonna and Child with Two Prophets (C. Di Fabio, La Cattedrale di Genova nel Medioevo. Secoli VI-XIV, Cinisello Balsamo 1998, pp. 280-289; R.P. Novello, “La ricostruzione dopo l’incendio del 1297”, in La Cattedrale di San Lorenzo a Genova, ed. by A.R. Calderoni Masetti and G. Wolf, Modena 2012, pp. 75-82, p. 364 n. 555, p. 367 n. 561). The marble sculptures attributed to the “Maestro di Giano” reveal a marked stylistic affinity with the wooden statues discussed here, especially all the features we have noted, and Donati’s hypothesis, albeit not shared by Novello (ibid., p. 82, note 22) maintaining that the Riomaggiore Madonna is “perhaps more than fifty years older”, has been “fully confirmed” in a recent and precise study by Federica Siddi (Scultura in legno nella Lombardia dei Visconti, doctoral dissertation, University of Trento, 2015-2016, pp. 644-646 n. XIII.4), and through comparisons with other early fourteenth-century Lombard wooden Madonnas.

This important workshop’s wooden output, which Donati “augmented” (“Verso Levante. Sculture erratiche di provenienza genovese nella Liguria orientale”, in Prospettiva, 125, 2007, pp. 22-34, p. 34 note 31; “La ‘Madonna delle Catene’ di Riomaggiore e la sua gemella di Montebruno”, in Città della Spezia, 26 April 2015) comparing the Riomaggiore statue to a standing Madonna and Child in the church of Santa Maria Assunta at Montebruno (see also Siddi, op. cit., pp. 641-642 n.XIII.3), and then by Gentilini and Lucidi who attributed a seated Madonna from the same private collection as the statue presented here to it (Pandolfini Casa d’Aste, Mobili, dipinti e sculture: ricerca e passione in una collezione fiorentina, sale catalogue, Florence, 16 October 2019, p. 169 n. 118). The Madonna presented here is the most significant evidence of their work and it is truly worth of the Maestro di Giano and his place in Genoese Gothic sculpture.


Giancarlo Gentilini and David Lucidi


Estimate    15.000 / 25.000
Price realized  Registration

Maestro del San Sebastiano di Cascia (Master of the Saint Sebastian of Cascia)

(sculptor of German origin active in Umbria during the last quarter of the 15th century)


polychrome wood, 148x52x40 cm

An export licence is available for this lot

In this fascinating and unusual effigy of the popular martyr – invoked as a protector against plagues – the once athletic body of Saint Sebastian’s (Narbona 256 – Rome 304) is thinned by suffering. Sebastian was a young Roman officer whom the emperor Diocletian condemned to death for having spread the Christian faith among the troops. His body, pierced by arrows (originally set into the statue) shot by his fellow soldiers, arches back bending his torso to the right as if contracted by a sharp spasm of pain while his head is turned heavenward and his face expresses serene acceptance of his horrible torture. The marked naturalism of the harsh image, with the taut tendons and muscles, the swollen veins and the texture of the skin, is gentled by the grace of his facial features, and then is rendered more stylized and refined by the metallic carving of the thick hair with the symmetrically arranged springing spiraling curls. The workmanship on the loincloth (with its graffito  gilding – that may be original like the gilding on the hair and polychrome flesh tones), developed as a sash gathered into tight, narrow folds is equally elegant and masterful. The rendering of the right hand is unusual: it is tied to the left behind his back with bent pinky and ring finger displaying the number three presumably alluding to the Trinitarian dogma which developed during Sebastian’s life and was proclaimed as doctrine by the Council of Constantinople in 381, not too long after his death.

Most of the formal peculiarities such as the arched posture, the anatomical realism, the curly hair, the fan-like shirring of the loincloth clearly make this piece comparable to another intriguing statue of Saint Sebastian in the Museo di Palazzo Santi in Cascia in Valnerina – the Nera River Valley  (fig. 1) (from a confraternity of flagellants dedicated to Sebastian at the church of Sant’Agostino), which, though widely discussed in the scholarly literature, has not yet received a definitive attribution (E. Mancini, in Museo di Palazzo Santi. Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate, ed. by G. Gentilini and M. Matteini Chiari, Florence 2013, pp. 112-113 n. 200, with previous bibliography). One issue – the authorship of the Saint Sebastian from Cascia and other statues related to it, examined with lively curiosity in recent studies on sculpture in Umbria that will definitely find new vital lymph in the heretofore unpublished statue presented here that may be perhaps attributable to the same artist or his close circle, albeit at a later time as suggested by the bizarre expressionistic vein that dominates the Cascia figure in favor of a more moderate and classicized tone in keeping with a dating around the turn of the century.

Without delving more deeply into the issue, it is important to mention that the statue from Cascia – initially attributed to the famous Venetian sculptor, Antonio Rizzo who is documented as having fled to Ancona and the nearby Foligno in 1498 - , had already been compared by Geza De Francovich (“Un gruppo di sculture in legno umbro-marchigiane”, in Bollettino d’Arte, VIII, 1929, pp. 418-512) to other wooden statues of Saint Sebastian in the Valnerina and southern Umbria. He recognized “schemas and forms which in a certain sense are typical of late fifteenth-century Paduan-Mantegnesque naturalism but viewed and interpreted via Antonio Rizzo’s personality”, similarly to the way Paduan painting was brought into and spread through the Umbrian-Marches territories by Carlo Crivelli and Niccolò Alunno. Among these, the Saint Sebastian from the parish church of Muccia (fig. 2), along the Apennine pass that leads from Valnerina to Camerino, seems the most similar to the statue from Cascia and the one presented here because of the bent and off balance pose, while the statues from the Terni area, in the churches of San Francesco at Sangemini (now in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria in Perugia), the convent of San Francesco in Stroncone, San Pietro at Collestatte (fig. 3) and Santa Maria della Misericordia in Terni (now in the Museo Diocesano) (fig. 4) – the last two added to the group by Lorenzo Principi (“Il Sant’Egidio di Orte: aperture per Saturnino Gatti scultore”, in Nuovi Studi, XVII, 2012, 18, pp. 101-128,  p. 127 note 67) who also mentions another in the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin (Ohio) – are characterized by the crossed legs derived from the famous statue Pothos by Scopas. On the other hand, notwithstanding the features shared by the group from Cascia – with each other and those from the Terni group, in all these sculptures we find typological and qualitative variations that up to now have not encouraged scholars to put together homogeneous nuclei that could be attributed to one artist.

We must, however, mention that the several attribution hypothesis advanced for the Saint Sebastian from Cascia (fig. 1) include Nicola di Ulisse da Siena, a well-known painter who was very active in Valnerina during the middle of the fifteenth century and the sculptor Battista di Barnaba da Camerino, a close collaborator of Donatello documented at the court of Mantua on several occasions, in Perugia in 1454 and from there in the Marches until the 1470s (see Mancini, op. cit.). However, the recent and growing trend (C. Sapori, in Arte e territorio. Interventi di restauro. 4, ed. by A. Ciccarelli, Terni 2006, pp. 277-286 n. 30; Principi, op. cit.; G. Gentilini, “La scultura nelle raccolte museali e nel territorio di Cascia”, in Il Museo di Palazzo Santi, cit., pp. 15-24,  p. 19), that recognizes a figurative tradition that can be tied to the German carvers who were active in those areas during that time in the eccentrically intense expression, in the meticulous attention to anatomical details, the elegantly stylized hair and the  technical virtuosity characterizing the pieces we have mentioned. One of the most outstanding was Giovanni Teutonico (Giovanni di Enrico da Salisburgo), documented in Perugia, Terni and Norcia between 1478 and 1498 and known for having produced many crucifixes – objects favored by the Franciscans. In fact, Sara Cavatorti (Giovanni Teutonico. Scultura lignea tedesca nell’Italia del secondo Quattrocento, Perugia 2016, pp. 67-71, p. 222 n. E.II.11) has plausibly ascribed the Saint Sebastian in Terni (fig. 4) to him, finding support for the attribution in local sources.


Giancarlo Gentilini and David Lucidi


Estimate    40.000 / 60.000
Price realized  Registration

Raffaello Sorbi

(Firenze 1844 - 1931)
oil on canvas, 40.5x73.5 cm

signed lower right

An export licence is available for this lot


A. Parronchi, Raffaello Sorbi, Firenze 1988, n. 112


Raffaello Sorbi’s Regata in Arno (The Regatta on the Arno) is an excellent example of that production of costumed genre scenes to which the artist turned in the 1860s and 1870s. The painting shows us a broad panorama of the area to the south of Florence, surrounded by hills, as Sorbi imagined it to have looked in the Middle Ages.
From the terrace of a medieval building, a cheerful gathering of smiling, elegantly-coiffed young women in brightly-coloured dress watches the regatta disputed by the traditional navicelli on the Arno River. The event attracts ladies and knights, who flock to the riverbanks in search of the best observation post for viewing the competition. Upstream, on the right bank of the Arno, we note the Torre di San Niccolò, the oldest of the city gates, which takes its name from the neighbourhood in the Oltrarno area. Built in 1324, probably to plans by Orcagna, it is the only one of Florence’s gates to have retained its original height. At the sides of the tower, we note the city walls and the pescaia, the weir which denied access to the river by enemy vessels coming from the east (to the west, the same functions were performed by the Santa Rosa weir), an ideal continuation of the city walls to the Zecchia Vecchia tower and the crenulated walls on the left, behind the young women. Another function of the pescaia was to channel and regulate the level of the waters to guarantee sufficient and constant flow to the fulling mills, the tenters’ establishments, other manufactories and the tanners and dyers who operated in the area.
The perspective in the painting is rigorous; the graphic layout and the alternating planes respond to what would seem to be the artist’s need to construct a sharply-defined scene while delicate layers of colour soften the sign. The lesson taught by the Macchiaioli painters is apparent in the hill country composing the background but stands in contrast to the clear brightness of the foreground  light and colours.
The work can be dated to 1874-1876, years in which Sorbi painted analogous subjects and similar compositions. Here, we note the same figures of young people gathered in merry, carefree groupings as in Una terrazza sull’Arno (A Terrace on the Arno) oil on canvas, 51 x 66 cm, signed and dated 1874, Concertino all’aperto (Florentine Concert) oil on canvas, 50 x 63 cm, 1875 and Il Decamerone (The Decameron) oil on canvas, cm 45.5 x 88.7 cm, 1876.


The Arno River has always played a central role in the life of the city of Florence, as the innumerable views of Florence by artists who have worked in Tuscany since the Middle Ages clearly attest. It is thanks in part to this legacy of art that we are able to reconstruct the history of the relationship between the city and its watercourse. The Arno was perfectly integrated into city life, as the fulcrum of Florentine economic activity and as an identifying element, a mirror reflecting the image of the city. Beginning in 1250, the Palio de’ Navicelli (or ‘delle Barchette’) boat race was held every year on 25 July in honour of ‘San Jacopo’ (as the Florentines called the apostle Saint James the Greater). The starting line for this city regatta was the bank over which the apse of the church of San Jacopo Soprarno still juts on its supports – and in fact, the burden of paying the expenses of the Palio fell to the prior of the Cappellanìa (chapel) attached to the church. For centuries, it was an important event in Florence, hotly contested by the crews of small wooden boats of the type used by the renaioli, the ‘sand diggers’ who provided the sand used by the city’s construction workers. Each of the four city districts – Santo Spirito, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce and San Giovanni – competed with a boat of this type, which remained unchanged for centuries. In the painting, in fact, we note four boats, in four colours, one for each of the four neighbourhoods: white, red, blue and green. In the late 1700s, even the regatta fell prey to the reforms instituted by Grand Duke Peter Leopold I of Lorraine, and the ancient regatta was abandoned. The tradition has, however, recently been revived by the City of Florence in other guises.
It would seem that the idea of celebrating the Apostle’s feast day with a regatta derives from a legend having to do with the relics of the decapitated saint: as the story goes, following his martyrdom, James’ disciples placed his remains in a sail-less, rudderless vessel (like those used in the Palio), which nevertheless miraculously made its way to the coast of Galicia, in Spain, where they were interred at the locality which later became Santiago de Compostela. Another version recounts that the race on the river was instituted to imitate the naumachie of ancient Rome, just as the Palio or Corsa dei Cocchi race, which was run in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, was in truth nothing more than a version of the chariot races held in the Circus Maximus in ancient Rome.
The slow and stately progress of the boats toward the finish line left ample time for the spectators to place bets while urging on their favourites with deafening cries. The quanters, in turn, worked furiously to cross the finish line in first place and thus win the ‘palio’, the painted banner awarded to the winner.

Estimate    60.000 / 80.000
Price realized  Registration

Plinio Nomellini

(Livorno 1866 - Firenze 1943)
oil on canvas, 166x129 cm
signed lower left
on the reverse: label of the exhibition of the Gruppo Labronico and of the exhibition I colori del sogno


Galleria Pesaro, Milano

Private Collection


XVIII Mostra del Gruppo Labronico, Milano, Galleria Pesaro 23 aprile - 4 maggio 1932

IV Mostra Sindacale Livornese, Livorno, Bottega d'Arte, ottobre - novembre 1932

Mostra personale, Genova, Galleria d'Arte, gennaio 1934

V Esposizione d'Arte, 88a Mostra Sociale Società delle Belle Arti, Montecatini Terme, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, giugno - ottobre 1934

Mostra di artisti toscani, Cesena, Biblioteca Malatestiana, 3 - 24 settembre 1939

Plinio Nomellini. I colori del sogno, Livorno, Museo Civico G. Fattori - Firenze, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, luglio - ottobre




XVIII Mostra del Gruppo Labronico, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Galleria Pesaro 23 aprile - 4 maggio 1932), Livorno 1932, n. 89

IV Mostra Sindacale Livornese, catalogo della mostra (Livorno, Bottega d'Arte, ottobre - novembre 1932), in "Bollettino di Bottega d'Arte", XI, 10, n. 12

Mostra personale, catalogo della mostra (Genova, Galleria d'Arte, gennaio 1934), Genova 1934, n. 4

V Esposizione d'Arte, 88a Mostra Sociale Società delle Belle Arti, catalogo della mostra (Montecatini Terme, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, giugno - ottobre 1934), Firenze 1934, n. 115

Mostra di artisti toscani, catalogo della mostra, (Cesena, Biblioteca Malatestiana, 3 - 24 settembre 1939), Cesena 1939, n. 7

Plinio Nomellini. I colori del sogno, catalogo della mostra (Livorno, Museo Civico G. Fattori - Firenze, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, luglio - ottobre 1998) a cura di E.B. Nomellini, Torino 1998, n. 66




The painting  Il polledro we present in this sale was exhibited for the first time at the Labronico Group exhibition in Milan in 1932 at the Pesaro Gallery. Nomellini wrote the preface to the catalog which we report here:

 In our day, developments in art are happening so quickly, one after the other, so that comparing them with those that occurred prior to our era they seem enormously delayed. Certainly, much of what we celebrate today will soon become short-lived; since there is no use in belonging to a movement to move art ahead if the values and intentions are not sufficient for bringing new expressivity of language suited to reflecting images unusual for the customs that we develop ourselves and, the heights to which we aspired.
On the other hand, it is wrong to relegate concepts that are no longer suited to our ways of feeling to the past. If anything, it will be an impetus to see how, in the past art moved ahead when it turned to new frontiers. Remaining motionless in the memory of past glories means withering and decay.
This applies to the fact that the Livornese artists gathered here in the Galleria Pesaro, prove with their works that they are not inclined to listen to distant echoes. Livorno, in fact, is not a city with a great and old artistic tradition. The memory of remains of the Etruscan tradition that emerged from the land where Livorno was established in 600 [seventeenth century] soon disappeared; and from the rebirth the Medici did not draw anything if not eloquent imitators , not initiators: Vasari, Buontalenti, Tacca, Bandinelli, Cantagallina. Except for [Giuseppe Maria] Terreni, successful fresco artist, between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Livorno, from the Romantics [Giuseppe] Baldini to [Enrico] Pollastrini, did not make any strong statement in art if not for Giovanni Fattori’s valid stimulus.
However, it is right that the warning be addressed to those who are making their names, because in order for art to be ennobled they must faithful to the teachings of the great Master and that poor habit not be perpetuated especially on the part of those who had not known the man and incorrectly interpret his art, saying that they are the pupils and standard bearers of his glory. The first to disapprove would be Fattori himself, the man who incited to go beyond, saying that we must create new words to expound sensations not yet experienced.
To be truthful, in this exhibition it is obvious that we Livornese work without permitting any dogmatic dictates to dull and weaken [our] inspiration and effort. If we remove the loving influence of Fattori and the Macchiaioli,  no foreign lymph mixes with and clouds the pure water springing from a fresh vein. Not even Modigliani, with tormented thoughts directed toward visions in which madness, vice, and pain transfigured the soul, was touch by the mad desire of not appearing himself when, especially in moments of tranquility he conceived images of purity.
Therefore, simple and delayed art? No. Pure and serene, appropriate for telling of the charm of the district that surrounds our beloved city: the maquis, the hills, the vast expanses of wheat; the olive groves made green by the salty wind; the bustling port, the rocks perfumed by the algae.
But sooner or later, these restful  musings will give rise to one who sings of the feats of this bold seafaring people whose blood exuberantly mixed with different races which, from the entire Mediterranean brought the gifts of the Eastern civilizations to Livorno.
If this were not to happen, we will sadly have to think of what the coming generations could say of the paintings – and rightly so – that in these years, our country imported huge amounts of bananas and coconuts. 


Plinio Nomellini

The colors of dreams

Plinio Nomellini often painted outdoors in his pine grove with strutting peacocks, and graced by the exotic plants he received from his anarchist friend, the agricultural expert Giovanni Rossi, and enlivened by his wife Griselda, and children Vittorio, Aurora and Laura, who are featured in many delightful paintings set in Torre del Lago, or in Versilia “Prime letture”, 1906; “Baci di sole”, 1908; “Mezzogiorno”, 1912; “Bambine al mare”, 1912/1913. The canvas could be on an easel or nailed to two posts driven into the ground, in the shade of the pines, or with supports lapped by the sea. The tree trunks glistened with touches of yellow, of crimson, of cobalt [blue], Nomellini said, “I make them sing”. Many friends paid him visits Eleonora Duse, Gabriele d’Annunzio, Giosuè Borsi, Giacomo Puccini, Grazia Deledda, Isadora Duncan, Moses Levy. For a “first time” visitor, for journalists, for critics, leaving his studio filled with works from the present and the past, Jean Genet’s words when he left Alberto Giacometti’s atelier in Paris, “Outside nothing seems real” could have been equally true.

Many of the paintings from his years in Versilia were shown at the Secessione in Rome, born to contrast the early exhibitions of the Amatori e Cultori, that were not very innovative in reality, but put the Italian artist close to Matisse, Cézanne, Klimt, Rodin, Schiele, Munch, Signac, Vuillard, and Zuloaga.

The interventionist episode of D’Annunzio’s speech at the unveiling of the monument by Eugenio Baroni at Quarto dei Mille (Genoa), for which Nomellini had designed the poster, the war, the patriotic paintings, “Alle porte d’Italia”, “Vittorio Veneto” from 1918, were followed by public works related to Italy’s new political tide. But in these paintings Nomellini did not reach the tension of “Orda” or “Migrazione d’uomini”, executed in the early years of the century. The advancing crowd is practically one, almost faceless, a single spirit reaching out to create a new, ideal world. The crowds in the paintings that glorify fascism such as “Ignoto militi” (1922). “Incipit nova aetas” (1924) are group of figures in the foreground with well-defined faces as if giving them identities could provide powerful motivation.

However, the public paintings are just one aspect of Nomellini’s life and oeuvre. His work from the 1920s on was neglected by the critics who, being more and more interested in studying painting movements did not see him as participating in the twentieth century movements. But looking at paintings such as “I corsari” (1924), the landscapes of Capri, Quercianella, Ischia, Elba, the island where the artist decided to build a house in the then deserted gulf of Marina di Campo, with fresh eyes we can see the vitality and creative power he always maintained. The small landscape impressions are closest to our hearts, but perhaps the paintings in which Nomellini captured fantasies that always guided him are the ones that acquired greater importance. This exhibition concludes with two paintings chosen because they are emblematic of this: “Scena piratesca” and “Corsaresca” from 1940. They are parallel in theme and manner of interpretation. It is surprising that up to the end the artist never abandoned his desire to transform reality. The pirates who seem to become one with the rock like a Daphne being transformed into a laurel tree, or the waves that become horses as painted by Walter Crane show us a Nomellini who had the good fortune of never losing the desire to transform images of the world into images dreamt.

Nomellini became a very famous artist. He had a solo show of forty-three paintings at the 1920 Venice Biennale and he showed at all of the most important exhibitions in Italy and abroad. He was very close to the painters from Livorno and in 1928 became president of the Gruppo Labronico and with his influence furthered the success of their exhibitions. He enjoyed writing the introductions for the group’s exhibitions and reminiscences of his and his friends’ lives in the press. In 1934 he traveled to Tripolitania. They were neither the times nor the places of Matisse’s early twentieth-century journeys to Morocco, but his spirit, always ready to descend into the realm of the fantastic, was touched by the vibrant traces of ancient ruins and by the swarming Arab markets. Nomellini, who was so opposed to fossilization in the academies also taught. The time had come for him to be a teacher, not to try new things but to think of what his life had been and to delve ever deeper into the study of the inner world he had tried to imprison and at the same time reveal in his paintings.

In 1934, preparing for his solo show in Livorno, he wrote some notes about himself for Riccardo Marchi who was to write the presentation. They can be considered the farewell of a man who was trying to understand himself and look at his work and life with humility.

 Out of principle, my faculties were always driven so that the expression of my art be considered – in the past, present and in the future - as springing from my character which by nature and instinct is tumultuous. That is why I yielded to others’ ideologies, especially when they reflected fleeting transitions from one mode and to another; which for those who look into the essence of things, have nothing to do with art that evolves, in the periods in which the sense of hope, the predictions of the race proceed with just one reason: to bring humanity the joyful comfort of beauty. Beauty which can, according to the times and customs, change its face, on which all cast their eyes to lighten the spirit. Therefore, in my case, it is not the case of aesthetic updating and embellishments unsuited to my way of being. Destiny forced me to lend my voice. This voice has to have the sound that echoes in my heart, because otherwise it would be a voice that does not match the workings of my spirit. As time passes, my painting will seem distinct from what was usually done by others during the period that I executed many works which, upon now looking back, surprise me by their numbers. And yet, it seems that I have not yet composed that song of color that I long for and dream. And it will never come to pass that I be satisfied with the fact that, perhaps beyond, in a new life, far from the wretched circumstance of having to live in the human community, in the deep abysses where the phosphorescence and glimmering of the stars compose music in the endless silence, I find the calm to create in unison with the slow growth of the stars and of new lives, the way and feeling to express the beautiful poem and ringing song with solemn words.

Eleonora Barbara Nomellini (a cura di), Plinio Nomellini. I colori del sogno, Livorno 1988, pp. 18-19


Estimate    65.000 / 80.000
Price realized  Registration

Eleuterio Pagliano

(Casale Monferrato 1826 - Milano 1903)
a pair of oil paintings on canvas, 106x81 cm
signed and dated "1876" lower left

An export licence is available for this lot


Collezione Carraro Rizzoli, Milano
Collezione privata


The two paintings of equal dimensions we are presenting here, from the Carraro Rizzoli collection of Milan and now in another private collection, depict two coquettish young women posing with badminton racquets.
The two works were painted to hang side-by-side in such a manner as to simulate – both in composition and in gesture – an actual badminton match played outdoors, leaving the observer with the impression of being a real spectator at a real game between two (real) smiling young ladies. The charming evocation of the pastime orchestrated by Eleuterio Pagliano in these two lovely companion pieces proposes the minute descriptions, ‘at brush point’ as it were, generally associated with such costumed genre scenes. The rendering of the players’ 18th-century costume, their laces, rustling silks and velvet ribbons attest to Pagliani’s intention to exhibit his calligraphic virtuosity and his attention to every detail. The background landscape, the bushes, the sea and the sails on the horizon, painted with a less controlled brushstroke, call into play the naturalistic solutions with which the artist experimented en plein air in Griffa on Lago Maggiore.
The politely mischievous tone of the two costumed compositions speaks to a generous sensuality with the plunging necklines of the girls’ bodices which highlight their fresh, provocative beauty. Most surely, this joyous comeliness constituted one of the major attractions of this pair of canvases. To the point that the painter replicated them several times, introducing variants in response to the increasingly frequent requests for similar works by his well-to-do upper middle class clientele, both Italian and international. One example is a work entitled Giocando a cerchietti (Ring Toss), now in a private collection, which was documented in the past by Florentine art dealer Luigi Pisani. The two paintings presented at this sale fall neatly into the period which began in the early 1870s, in which Pagliani favoured a neo-eighteenth century style, as did two other eminent painters active in Milan at the same time: Gerolamo Induno and Mosè Bianchi. In that same period, Pagliano garnered considerable success with his 1875 painting L’estate di San Martino (Saint Martin’s Summer or Indian Summer), now at Milan’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna and with his La lezione di geografia (The Geography Lesson), painted in 1880 and held by Fondazione Cariplo, Milan.


The game of badminton, a variant of earlier jeux de volant, has ancient roots and is considered the first modern racquet sport ever played. The earliest mentions of a similar game appear on Chinese vases dating to circa 500 BCE: depictions of young women playing with wooden racquets and a ball-like object to which a tuft of feathers is attached on one side. The name of that game (in which use of the feet was permitted) was ti jian zi and from China, it spread to Japan, Siam and India and eventually to the Sumerians and the Greeks. The oldest evidence of the arrival of the ‘birdie’ in modern Europe takes the form of English woodcut illustrations, dating to the 14th and 15th centuries, showing village dwellers using wooden paddles (battledores) to send a projectile (the shuttlecock) flying back and forth. By the late 16th century, the game had become a popular children’s pastime; painters and writers included it as a motif in their works, and even Shakespeare refers to tennis-like sports in several plays. During the French Revolution, it was in great vogue amongst broad swaths of the bourgeoisie and became a popular lawn game. There is evidence that the game was played at the major courts; by King Francis I of France, Queen Christina of Sweden, Frederick II of Prussia and even Catherine the Great of Russia.  At these levels, the shuttlecock was placed in play by a servant; hence the term ‘to serve’ which later came into use in tennis as well. The transition toward the modern sport of badminton came in about 1860 in England and more precisely at the Duke of Beaufort’s Badminton House in Gloucestershire. Legend has it that several English officers, home on leave from Poona, India, suggested to the duke’s young daughters, who were playing battledore and shuttlecock in the great hall, to string a cord from wall to wall and to hit the birdie inside the half-court thus created but outside of their opponent’s reach to win a point.

A great number of works from past centuries, by artists from all over Europe, depict scenes of versions of the sport. One of the earliest is a miniature in a Book of Hours  dated circa 1400 at the Bodleian Library in Oxford: it depicts two young women playing a version of the game, with wooden racquets and a feathered ball. A very similar scene appears in a watercolour by Dutch artist Adriaen van de Venne (1589-1662), but this time the players are two high-ranking ladies – evidence of how popular the game of battledore and shuttlecock had become at the courts. A series of etchings by French artist Nicolas Arnoult (ca. 1650 – ca. 1722) contains one work depicting the game – by that time quite fashionable – in which particular attention is paid to the clothing of the figures shown holding the racquets. That the sport was a worldwide phenomenon is shown by a woodcut, by Japanese artist Okumura Masanobu (ca. 1686 – 1764), of a courtesan dressed in an elegant kimono, caught at the moment she strikes the shuttlecock with her racquet.




Estimate    80.000 / 100.000
Price realized  Registration

Ignazio and Luigi Ravelli

(Vercelli 1756-1836 / 1776-1858)


rosewood veneer, painted wood inlays, Verde Alpi (green) marble top, 96x117x56 cm



Auctores varii, Genio e maestria. Mobili ed ebanisti alla corte sabauda tra Settecento e Ottocento. Exhibition catalogue (Venaria Reale, 17 March -15 July 2018), Turin 2018, p. 288 cat. 67


This elegant marquetry commode, an outstanding example of the Italian neoclassical style (1700-1800), was created by two renowned Piedmontese cabinetmakers, Ignazio Ravelli (1756-1836) and his son, Luigi (1776-1858), who were active in Vercelli between the second half of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth. During that period, cabinetmaking and furnishings in general were strongly influenced by the Louis XVI style and the return to the values of beauty, purity, simplicity, order and rationality typical of classical antiquity. According to their creative talents, artists assimilated similar features through various ornamental motifs: rosettes, trophies, friezes, acanthus leaves, frets, decorated ovals, architectural caprices and mythological scenes. In Habsburg-controlled Lombardy, the art of intarsia or marquetry reached a peak in Giuseppe Maggiolini’s elegant and meticulously executed works. Ignazio Ravelli belongs in this context: he took Maggiolini’s work to a new level while, however, favoring scenes with architectural fantasies such as caprices of ruins, drawing inspiration from engravings by Giambattista Piranesi, Ferdinando Galli di Bibbiena and Vincenzo Mazzi. Ignazio Ravelli was born in Vercelli in 1756, and began manifesting a marked talent for drawing and architecture while still a child. Some document sources confirm that in 1789 he was already enjoying the patronage of the King and by 1791 was receiving a royal stipend with the permission to display the royal coat of arms in his workshop. There is a interesting anecdote about his decision, made at a young age, to devote himself to art: during the king’s visit to his hometown, the sovereign’s admiration for Paolo Sacca’s work on the Basilica of Sant’Andrea led Ravelli to embark on a career in cabinetmaking and marquetry to equal, if not surpass his predecessor. In fact, in 1829 he was commissioned to restore the wooden choir stalls that had so greatly impressed the king. Over the ensuing years, his intarsia pictures spread his fame to many European countries. Writing around forty years after the master’s death, the words of Count Finocchietti, a Tuscan nobleman with French origins, bear witness to the fame and skill Ravelli attained over the years: his works could be found in the most fashionable salons of Vienna, Paris and Madrid.

The master’s distinctive chiaroscuro style is evident in this demi-lune commode. Here too, there is a central door that conceals two inlaid drawers and two side doors each decorated with an oval containing a scene and framed by “three-dimensional” Greek key motifs, on a pale-green tinted wood background, with the same number of vertical and horizontal frets. His son used the same arrangement on a commode now in the Museo Civico di Palazzo Madama in Turin (see R. Antonetto, 2010, p. 332 fig. 14 A). In the commode presented here, the central medallion is dominated by an unusual figure viewed from the back and standing decidedly in an architectural setting. The figure, that can be identified as a soldier or god because of the spear in his right hand, is gazing at a group of mysterious buildings beneath a dazzling sky. This same figure can be seen on the right door of a commode in a private collection (see R. Antonetto, 2010, p. 331 fig. 11) and could be a harbinger of De Chirico’s metaphysical style. The side doors are decorated with coastal scenes that are much simpler in terms of rendering and subjects: with a fortress and a large tower on the left and right, respectively. Completed by a green Verde Alpi marble top, the piece is an example of incomparable mastery not only in the chiaroscuros punctuated by elegant passages using different shades in the inlays, but mainly by the compositional arrangements of the wood species Ravelli used.




V. Viale, Mostra del Barocco piemontese, Turin 1963, vol. III, Mobili e intagli, plates 217-218;

R. Antonetto, Minusieri ed ebanisti del Piemonte, Turin 1985, 350-352;

E. Quaglino, Il mobile piemontese, Novara 1997, p. 156;

R. Antonetto, Il mobile piemontese nel Settecento, Turin 2010, pp. 330-333

Estimate    30.000 / 50.000

Manufactory of Jan Raes the Elder

(Brussels 1574-1651)

Cartoon by Jean II Tons (Brussels, c. 1500-1569/1570), c. 1550


Tapestry. Warp: silk (9 threads/cm); weft: silk

478 cm wide x 445 high

Jan I Raes mark on the right selvedge

An export licence is available for this lot


For the early history of tapestry and the series that had belonged to Cardinal Alessandro Peretti Montalto, Prince Michele Peretti Montalto, Cardinal Francesco Peretti Montalto and to Paolo Savelli in Rome, see below. Lastly, the Lioness in the River/ Leonessa nel fiume was in the hands of a Roman noble family.



Unpublished; but on the series of Landscapes with Animals, see: G. J. Hoogewerff, “Prelaten en Brusselsche tapijtwevers. III”, in Mededeelingen van het Nederlandsch Historisch Instituut te Rome, V, 1925, pp. 140, 144-148; N. Forti Grazzini, Paesaggio con cervo, Galleria Rabel, Montecarlo/San Marino 2004; P.-F. Bertrand, Les tapisseries des Barberini et la décoration d’intérieur dans la Rome baroque, Turnhout 2005, pp. 76, 230; N. Forti Grazzini, “Brussels Tapestries for Italian Customers: Cardinal Montalto’s Landscapes with Animals Made by Jan II Raes and Catherine van den Eynde”, in Cultural Exchange between the Netherlands and Italy (1400-1600), ed. by I. Alexander-Skipnes Turnhout 2007, pp. 239-266; N. Forti Grazzini, “Leopard over a Pond”, in Tapestry in the Baroque. Threads of Splendor, ed. by T. P. Campbell,  exhibition catalogue, New York – New Haven/London 2007, pp. 87-94, n. 9; I. Jedzinskaitė-Kuizinienė, Lietuvos didiosios kunigaikštystės valdovų rūmų gobelenai, Vilnius 2011, pp. 140-143.


This is a great masterpiece tapestry. Even though it is obscured by widespread losses of weft and faded colors; there are no modern repairs, it is well legible having been consolidated during a recent restoration and the colors on the upper half are quite vivid. It presents an exotic zoological scene set in a spectacular and realistically rendered landscape. A lioness is crossing a river, the ripples on the water create luminescence and reflections. The river, flowing between wooded banks is framed by plants and trees that include a date palm and an oak with parrots perched on their branches. On the left bank, a leopard is drawing away; up in the sky to the right are ducks and herons; in the foreground one snake is drinking, another is shedding its skin by going through the cavity of a root and an eel is writhing between the land and water. The border is decorated with gold foliate scrolls of artichokes, pomegranates  and vines on a red ground, with heads of Bacchus and lions in the upper and lower corners, respectively. The image  refers to zoological concepts handed down from Antiquity to the Middle Ages and to the Modern Era. Pliny the Elder (1) wrote that the lioness washes herself in water after mating with a leopard in order not to incur the wrath of the jealous lion; and in both the Greek and Latin versions of the Physiologus (2), describe how the serpent drinks after having rid himself of his poison and squeezes through a crack in a rock or tree to cast off its skin, as a metaphor of purification that the Christian needs to attain eternal salvation.

The up to now unknown tapestry is part of a an extraordinarily fine series Landscapes with Animals woven by the greatest early seventeenth-century weaver in Brussels, Jan Raes the Elder (Brussels, 1574-1651) (3), in collaboration with the workshop of Catherina van den Eynde’s (Brussels, known since 1613, d. in 1620/1629), for Cardinal Alessandro Peretti Montalto (1571-1623), nephew of Pope Sixtus V, Vice-Chancellor of the Church,  and lavish Roman patron of the arts [fig. 1] (4). There is abundant documentation on the making of the series, in particular early seventeenth century letters from the apostolic nuncios to the cardinals in Rome containing information and tapestries and weavers in the Flemish capital. The nuncio, Guido Bentivoglio signed the contract with Raes for the execution of the series in Brussels on 17 December 1611 (5). On 19 July 1614 the set was finished and sent to Rome (“a parament of two rooms of new tapestries, not yet displayed with forest verdures and animals drawn from nature” - un paramento di due stanze di razzi nuovi, non già messi in mostra, di verdura boscareccia con animali ritrati dal naturale); Cardinal Montalto displayed it in the church of San Lorenzo in Damaso for the saint’s feast day (6), and then moved it to his magnificent home - Palazzo Termini, on the Esquiline Hill. Further information about the series, starting from the twelve cartoons Raes had and of which Montalto had him weave eleven in sizes suited to his needs, is contained in a letter from the nuncio Ascanio Gesualdi to cardinal Scipione Borghese (Montalto’s friend who had wanted to purchase a replica of the Landscapes) on 14 January 1617: Montalto had paid the high price of 28 florins for per square ell (1 ell = cm 70) for his very fine and all silk tapestry. Of the cartoons totaling 728 square ells  he chose a series of 507 ells, trimming the widths, but not the heights of the scenes in order not to sacrifice the beautiful leafy branches in the upper parts of the compositions (7). When Montalto died in 1623, the series went to his brother, Prince Michele Peretti Montalto and in 1631, to the prince’s son, Cardinal Francesco Peretti Montalto. The 1655 inventory of the cardinal’s estate includes the still complete series (8). Then, again by descent, it went to his nephew Cardinal Paolo Savelli; the breakup of the still intact series began after Savelli’s death in 1685.

The other surviving tapestries of the series, in the same figurative style, of equal height and finished with the same borders are: Rhinoceros (475 x 505 cm, with by Raes with the Van den Eynde mark), in Italy until 1978, and since in a private collection in Belgium (9); Leopard over a Pond (467 x 587 cm; with the Van den Eynde mark) owned by the Sovereign Order of Malta in Palazzo Savelli Orsini, Rome (10); Ostriches (470 x 592 cm, with the Raes mark and signature) in the same collection (11); Stag (473 x 340 cm) in the Galleria Rabel,  San Marino [fig. 2] (12);  Dragon Eats the Eggs  (455 x 315 cm) in the National Museum Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in Vilnius (13);  Leopard Biting a Lion, divided into two parts that were sold on the market and are in unknown locations (14). There are other known but less sumptuous versions with different borders of the Landscapes with Animals by Raes, including a replica of the Lioness in the River (344 x 451 cm), that appeared at the Sotheby’s, Zurich sale, on 10 December 1996, lot 230, and was later in Florence, owned by Nathan Levi (15).

            Eleven of the twelve cartoons of the Landscapes with Animals that Raes had were models for tapestries that had been painted around the middle of the sixteenth century and had already been used in Brussels to weave sets on that theme that was brought into fashion by the late fifteenth-century geographic discoveries, by renewed interest in non-European animals and Ancient and Medieval descriptions of them, as well as the trend in collecting exotic mirabilia that were put into the Wunderkammers of princes. The cartoons were probably done by Jean Tons II, a Flemish artist specialized in nature images who around 1530 had painted the landscape backgrounds and animals on the cartoons of the Hunts of Maximilan by Bernard van Orley (see the complete set of tapestries in the Louvre) and later designed the first animal series woven in Brussels. A sketch for a tapestry cartoon depicting a Landscape with Rhinoceros and Other Animals is in the British Museum, London (16). The two oldest Brussels series of Landscapes with Animals, from 1550-1560, are: one woven for Sigismund Augustus of Poland, in Wawel Castle, Krakow (17), and the one called Unicorn, woven perhaps for Cardinal Charles de Guise later property of Cardinal Mazarin, now in the Borromeo Collection at Isola Bella (Novara) on Lake Maggiore (18). It is this latter set that includes the oldest known version of the Lioness in the River (412 x 528) (19), enriched with gold weft threads, decorated with a border that includes Bible verses and moral mottos that must have prompted the viewer to interpret the animals as Christian symbols and ethical models [fig. 3] (20). It is probable that Cardinal Montalto admired the possible allegorical interpretation of his animal tapestries. According to Physiologus, the serpent drinking and that sheds its skin, as well as the lioness washing herself depicted in the tapestry presented here could have been interpreted as urging to moderation of the senses and purification, or as an allusion to the sacrament of baptism. But the cardinal who was also an enthusiastic student of zoology, must have admired the tapestry and the series it was part of also, or mainly, for the great naturalistic scenes. In fact, the cardinal owned the most important sixteenth-century books on zoology (by Gessner, Belon, Aldrovrandi) and he had decorations with animals painted in the Palazzo della Cancelleria and in Villa Lante at Bagnaia (21); he had placed statues of big exotic animals (leopards, tigers, rhinoceroses) in the gardens of Villa Termini (22); and in that same park he kept two caged lions that he fed with meat from Lazio buffalos (23).


Document 1

The Landscapes with Animals woven by Jan Raes for Cardinal Montalto and the cartoons for the series that the weaver had (including the one of “Lione nell’acqua” – Lion in Water), are mentioned in a 4 January 1617 letter written by the nuncio Ascanio Gesualdi in Brussels to Cardinal Scipione Borghese in Rome and in an attachment to the letter:

“…Raes has the drawings or patterns for the tapestries that were woven in silk for Cardinal Montalto, that consist of twelve landscapes with big animals, as your Illustrious Eminence will see from the bill for each piece enclosed as are the patterns […]. The price is stated to be 28 florins per ell, as it also appears on the contract prepared for Cardinal Montalto […]. Some of these twelve pieces can also be divided or decreased to make them suitable for the walls of the room where they will be. Therefore if your Illustrious Eminence will kindly advise [us] which pieces you would like to have decreased or divided, that [we] will ordered done as [we] did for the Cardinal, which however, are only 507 ells. It will take 15 months to make them, and the payment shall be made in the above manner in three installments …”

“Memorandum of the dimensions of the tapestries of big animals as they were made for Cardinal Montalto, all with their borders: the first of the Elephant 10 ells wide, 10 high. The second with the Leopard looking at its reflection, 9 ells h. The third of the Rhinoceros, 9 ells h. The fourth of the Lion in the water, 8 ells h. The fifth of the  battle of the Leopard with the Unicorn, 9 ells h. The sixth, the Ostrich, 10 ells h. The seventh, where the Elephant goes to drink with the Unicorn, 9 ells h. The eighth, Leopard Biting a Lion, 7 ells h. The ninth, where the Dragon Eats the Eggs, 7  ells h.   The tenth, battle of the Elephant with the Dragon, 11 ells h. The eleventh, of the Leopard and the monkeys, 8 ells h. The twelfth were the Dragon flies up to the tree, 6 ells h. With their borders they are all 104 ells wide. In all 728 [square] ells.”.

 (from Hoogewerff, Prelaten…1925, pp. 145-148)


Document 2

The Landscapes with Animals of Cardinal Alessandro Montalto described in the inventory of his nephew Cardinal Francesco Montalto’s estate (Rome, Archivio di Stato, Archivio Notarile Urbano, sez. V, prot. 4, fs. 69, fols. 955-957, notary Simonelli, 30 May – 30 July 1655):

“Tapestries numbering eleven of silk in capicciola [a kind of silk] done with Woods, different animals that is elephants, lions, panthers, tigers, unicorn, dragons with yellow friezes all around with leaves and pomegranates and great roses in the middle [of each side], heads of Bacchus in the upper corners and heads of lions in the lower corners, they are 7 ells high about 76 ells long which is, for all of them, 532 [square] ells, I say 532  ells used”.

 (from Bertrand, Les tapisseries…2005, p. 230)



1) Naturalis Historia, VIII, 17.

2) F. Zambon, ed., Bestiari tardoantichi e medievali. I testi fondamentali della zoologia sacra cristiana, Florence-Milan 2018, pp. 25, 143.

3) Important biographical information on this weaver who had previously been considered two figures (Jan I and Jan II Raes), is provided by K. Brosens, New Light on the Raes Workshop in Brussels and Rubens’s Achilles Series, and in Tapestry in the Baroque. New Aspects of Production and Patronage, ed. by T. P. Campbell, E. A. H. Cleland Conference Proceedings, New York – New Haven/London 2010, pp. 20-33.

4) Fond of music, owner of palazzos and villas, Montalto was a client of Rubens and Bernini, Lanfranco, Domenichino, Albani and Reni, and purchased many sets of tapestries, see B. Granata, Le passioni virtuose. Collezionismo e committenze artistiche a Roma del cardinale Alessandro Peretti Montalto (1571-1623), Rome 2012, with bibliography; on Montalto’s tapestries, see Forti Grazzini, Leopard…2007, pp. 92-93, with previous bibliography.

5) Hoogewerff, Prelaten…1925, p. 147, doc. IV.

6) Z. Waźbiński, Il cardinale Francesco Maria del Monte, 1549-1626, Florence 1994, II, pp. 362, 632.

7) Hoogewerff, Prelaten…1925, pp. 145-146.

8) Forti Grazzini, Leopard…2007, p. 87; for the description in the 1655 inventory, see Bertrand, Les tapisseries…2005, p. 230; Forti Grazzini, Brussels2007, p. 262.

9) M. Roethlisberger, “La Tenture de la Licorne dans la Collection Borromée”, in Oud Holland, 82, 1967, p. 109, fig. 11 ; T. H. Clarke, The Rhinoceros from Dürer to Stubbs, 1515-1799, New York 1986, p. 85, fig. 86; Forti Grazzini, Leopard…2007, p. 90, fig. 43.

10) Forti Grazzini, Leopard…2007.

11) Forti Grazzini, Brussels…2007, p. 247, figs. 15-16.

12) Forti Grazzini, Paesaggio…2004.

13) Jedzinskaitė-Kuizinienė, Lietuvos…2011, pp. 140-143.

14) Roethlisberger, La Tenture…1967, p. 109.

15) Forti Grazzini, Brussels…2007, p. 248, fig. 18.

16) N. Forti Grazzini, “Verdures with animals”, Grand Design. Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry, ed. by E. Cleland, exhibition catalogue, New York – New Haven/London 2014, pp. 338-341, fig. 243.

17) Ibid., pp. 336-345, with previous bibliography.

18) Roethlisberger, La Tenture…1967, pp. 85-115; M. Viale Ferrero, “Quelques nouvelles données sur les tapisseries de l’Isola Bella”, in Bulletin des Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, 45, 1973, pp. 77-142.

19) Ibid., pp. 77-81, fig. 1-2. There is a complete reproduction of the tapestry in C. Pezzana, Arazzi novaresi, Novara 1990, pp. 76-77.

20) Mercedes Viale Ferrero gave the subject the title “La natura originariamente buona” and sees it as a sort of Paradisiacal  depiction that precedes the struggle between good and evil, with the final victory of the former, played out allegorically in the other panels of the set. This interpretation is forced and cannot be shared.

21) Granata, Le passioni…2012, pp. 70-73

22) C. Benocci, “Lo sviluppo seicentesco delle ville romane di età sistina: Il giardino della Villa Peretti Montalto e gli interventi nelle altre ville familiari del cardinale Alessandro Peretti Montalto, 1615 – fine sec. XVII, in L’Urbe. Rivista romana, 56, n. 3, May-June 1996, p. 122.

23) Granata, Le passioni…2012, p. 73.

Estimate    30.000 / 50.000


carved and patinated walnut with rectangular alabaster-veneered top. Supports consisting of two carved scrolls and decorated with large heraldic insignias of a crowned eagle, cm 88x131x97



Rome, Palazzo Mattei (up to the 1930s);

Rome, Private collection;

Rome, Private collection


“For those who want to study Roman furnishings – meaning examples of artistry that, to our current knowledge, have distinctive and unmistakable features – the period warranting more careful examination covers approximately one hundred fifty years, that is from about 1620 and the beginning of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s astounding career, to 1769 when Giovanni Battista Piranesi published his famous suite of sixty-seven etchings entitled “Diverse maniere di adornare i cammini”. Before and after those dates Roman furniture production, albeit often of high quality and not lacking in elegance, was not outstanding for creative originality” (Per chi voglia studiare la mobilia romana – intendendo con ciò quelle espressioni artistiche che, allo stato attuale delle nostre conoscenza, si presentano con caratteri propri e inconfondibili – il periodo da prendere, con più cura, in esame abbraccia all’incirca centocinquant’anni, si estende cioè dal 1620 circa, quando ha inizio la prorompente attività di Gian Lorenzo Bernini, al 1769 quando Giovanni Battista Piranesi pubblica il suo famoso in folio Diverse maniere di adornare i cammini. Prima e dopo queste date, ciò che si fa a Roma nel campo che qui ci occupa è, spesso, di alta qualità e di non scarsa eleganza, ma non spicca per originalità creative). These, the opening lines of the introduction “Avvio allo studio della mobilia romana” that Alvar Gonzales-Palacios wrote for Goffredo Lizzani’s book Il Mobile Romano (1970), can lead us back to early seventeenth century Rome – the period and place where this important table was made.


The table’s noble provenance – the Mattei family - provides an interesting starting point that could also be significant for identifying the maker or at least the milieu in which it was created. It is important to know that the Mattei family reportedly descended from a certain Matteo de' Papareschi and that they built their first small palazzo – which still stands today with the checkered shield with a bend – overlooking the Piazza in Piscinula, not far from the Tiber near the Pons Cestius (Ponte Cestio) – the bridge connecting the Tiber Island to the right bank of the river. The building played an important protective role: from 1271 until they died out, the Gens Mattheia guarded the bridges of Rome during papal interregnums ; whenever a pope died they had to recruit one hundred men from their own fiefs, dress them in red uniforms and arm them to guard the Porta Portese, which gave direct access to the Vatican, and the Ripa Grande river port; they also had to control transit on all the bridges and demand a toll. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, other branches of the family, together with Giacomo di Matteo and his son Ludovico, who ran successful mercantile and banking businesses, moved to the Sant’Angelo district (rione) on a large tract which became known as the Insula Mattheorum, consisting of the Piazza Mattei with the famous Turtle Fountain, Via Paganica, Via delle Botteghe Oscure, Via Michelangelo Caetani and Via dei Funari: all the buildings on those streets belonged to various branches of the family. Known for their bitter infighting and for their loyalty to the papacy, the Matteis reached the apex of power and wealth at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The outstanding members of the family at that time were the renowned art collectors Ciriaco Mattei and his brother Asdrubale; they were great supporters of the painter Caravaggio who stayed with them starting in 1601 and contributed to the decorations of the palazzo then under construction.


In 1595, Asdrubale Mattei, Marchese di Giove, wed Costanza Gonzaga daughter of Alfonso I Gonzaga, Count of Novellara. She was his second wife and bore him three children. It was around that time that he commissioned the architect Carlo Maderno to build a new palazzo. This was the last of the five Mattei palazzos that comprise the architectural complex known as the “"Isola dei Mattei", between Via Caetani, Via delle Botteghe Oscure, Piazza and Via Paganica, Piazza Mattei and Via dei Funari. As we can see from maps of Rome drawn by Bufalini (1550), Dupérac (1577) and Tempesta (1593), there already was a Mattei palazzo in the sixteenth century at the corner of what are now Via Caetani and Via dei Funari. Maderno had to overcome the problem of fitting the new building into a limited and difficult-to-use space. We know from archive documents that construction was started in 1598, that the cornice was finished in 1611 and that work to extend the side of the building to connect it to Alessandro Mattei’s (now Caetani) palazzo was begun in 1631. The simple and stark façade is characterized by horizontal lines and tapering upwards to compensate for the difficult conditions; the only decorative element is the cornice, the lintel, corbels and coffering decorated with the heraldic symbols of the Mattei (checky – or checkerboard) and Gonzaga (eagle) families (see photo 1). The interior, contrasts markedly with the simplicity of the outside. Perspective effects and a wealth of decorations - statues, busts, sarcophagi and fragments of ancient buildings blend with Baroque stuccowork frames creating a perfect, almost painterly whole (see photo 2).


Carlo Maderno, one of the key figures in the transition from Late Renaissance to Baroque architecture, was architect to Pope Paul V and is also known for his work designing furniture. In fact, he countersigned the receipt for the final payment (5 December 1627) for the creation of the choir stalls in the Choir Chapel in Saint Peter’s Basilica (see photo 3), perhaps the most beautiful example of church furnishings in Baroque Rome. Two thirds of the work was done by Giovanni Battista Soria, the same carver (he was also an architect) who had worked for the Borghese family in 1615. Soria is constantly mentioned as one of the finest carvers in the service of popes – first Urban VIII and then Alexander VII, as one of Bernini’s assistant. His name comes up frequently in lists of payments made by the Roman nobility and the clergy during those years (see the book by O. Pollak). Alvar Gonzales-Palacios also attributed an item for home use to Soria. He called it “one of the most important examples of wood [carving] in early seventeenth century Rome (uno dei più significativi esempi dell’arte del legno a Roma ai primi del Seicento) (A. González-Palacios, Arredi..., cit., p. 55). It is a carved walnut washstand comprising three supports on lion feet joined by a carved triangular piece, and it was made for the Barberini family (see photo 4). Comparing the washstand and the wooden choir stalls in the Vatican lead us to suggest that Soria also worked on our table which, on the one hand has the same imposing lion feet as the Barberini washstand and on the other, like the choir in Saint Peter’s Basilica, scrolls on the base with deep grooves and the masterful carving that is particularly evident in the two eagles – clear references to the Gonzaga coat of arms – and we must remember that Asdrubale Mattei’s wife Costanza was a Gonzaga. However, the carved continuous wave motif along the band beneath the marble top, is a direct reference to the decoration on the outside of Palazzo Caetani (see photo 5), which was designed by Carlo Maderno.


If the exceptional quality of the table and stylistic similarities suggest that it was made by a famous carver such as Giovanni Battista Soria or, in any event, someone close to him at the time like Bartolomeo de Rossi, with whom he worked on the choir in St. Peter’s Basilica, or Innocenzo Stoppa, Alessandro Nave or Pietro Paolo Giorgetti, all highly renowned craftsmen active in Rome during the first half of the seventeenth century, the table’s “noble provenance” also points in the same direction. It is logical to think that the client, maybe Asdrubale Mattei himself, a most prominent person, great collector as well as patron of artists turned to one of the most outstanding figures of the day to commission this center table, a kind of furniture usually meant to support a mosaic top made of ancient marbles and semiprecious stones or an antique marble-veneered top in the finest tradition of the day. Several similar items are mentioned in the inventories of several period collections. Although many tabletops have come down to us and can be found in public and private collections, there are but few surviving bases. One of these is the exceptional walnut table with gilding and the oval top that belonged to Cardinal Medici, now in the Treasury of the Grand Dukes (formerly the Silver Museum) in Palazzo Pitti, Florence.



O. Pollak, Die Kunsttatigkeit unter Urban VIII, Vienna 1928;

G. Lizzani, Il mobile romano, Milan 1970, pp. VII-IX, XVI;

A. González-Palacios, Il tempio del gusto. Le arti decorative in Italia fra classicismi e barocco. Roma e il Regno delle Due Sicilie, Milan 1984, pl. I p. 58, pl. II p. 58 nos. 97-98, p. 61 n. 100;

A. González-Palacios, Arredi e ornamenti alla corte di Roma. 1560-1795, Milan 2004, p. 55;

A. González-Palacios, E. Bassett, “Concerning furniture. Roman documents and inventories. Part I, 1600-1720”, in Furniture History, vol. 46, London 2010, pp. 1-135


Estimate    30.000 / 50.000


in patinated bronze on triangular base. The lower part has three rectangular sides each decorated with the Frescobaldi coat of arms in a laurel wreath flanked by a pair of winged putti, embellished at the three corners by full-round climbing lionesses; around the central vase are three kneeling male nudes, with their left arms raised to support the upper level, on which there are three kneeling cupids with bent arms raised above their heads, set around a central baluster surmounted by a round disk, 36 x 25 x 25 cm



Florence, Marchesi Frescobaldi (?);

Florence, Collection of Carlo De Carlo;

Brescia, private Collection



Eredi Carlo De Carlo. Parte seconda. Importanti sculture dal Medioevo al Rinascimento, mobili, bronzi, oggetti d’arte, maioliche, rari dipinti di maestri primitivi, Semenzato Casa d’Aste, Florence 2001, lot 59


The success and diffusion of the bronze statuette [bronzetto] in Italy during the Renaissance is a topic that has been widely documented and studied from the many viewpoints that comprise this important cultural and, we can say, “fashion” phenomenon. The earliest small bronzes date from around 1450. The first piece is generally considered the 35 centimeter high statuette of the equestrian monument to Marcus Aurelius which, at the time was near the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome, made by Antonio Averlino called Filarete who gave it to Piero de’ Medici in 1465. The term bronzetto applies to a small statue of not more than 40 centimeters in height, cast in bronze with the lost wax method, depicting a religious or profane subject and conceived as an autonomous piece for a private home. For a better understanding of the history of these small masterpieces, we must mention two essential conditions that developed during those years. On the one hand, there was the Humanists rediscovery of Classical Antiquity and on the other the retrieval of bronze (and casting techniques) as a noble material for making statues. Both are related to Florence in the first half of the fifteenth century and to the name of the period’s greatest sculptor - Donatello.

But Donatello moved to Padua around 1444 and, with him, the city returned to the same vitality triggered by Giotto’s presence one hundred forty years earlier: construction sites reopened, workshops resumed activities  and foundries burgeoned. Summoned by the Franciscans to make the altar of Saint Anthony, the greatest undertaking in bronze since Antiquity, Donatello outdid himself in the Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata, completed in 1453, that triggered a great cultural euphoria in Padua. It  projected the city’s image as a vital center placing it, among other things, at the center of a trade and patronage network that also reached abroad. Once he had pointed the way, Donatello left room for independent work and research on the part of other masters, starting from Bartolomeo Bellano, beginning the long season of Paduan bronzetto, through which the artists seemed to want to interpret Donatello’s teachings in every possible way. This enormous success and popularity were grounded in the market and in collecting.


Alongside of Bellano was Andrea Briosco called Riccio (1470-1532), a sculptor who found his artistic fulfillment in bronze casting, seeking a synthesis between Mantegna’s classicism and Late Roman statuary. Among other masterpieces, he made the extraordinary Paschal Candelabrum (completed in 1516) for the Basilica del Santo of Padua.  For a very long time Riccio was considered the maker of a large part of the pieces produced by one of his “colleagues” - Severo Calzetta da Ravenna (1465/1475 - ante 1538). Severo was quickly forgotten by his contemporaries and later generations only to be “rediscovered” in 1935 by Leo Planiscig who identified his signature on a sea monster in the Frick Collection (New York). Severo, who probably trained with the Lombardos who were active in Ravenna in the 1480s, first appeared in Padua in 1500. Engaged to work on the saint’s tomb in the Basilica del Santo of Padua, he was appointed to produce a marble statue of Saint John the Baptist. During those years he was certainly in contact with the Neapolitan humanist Pomponio Gaurico, who praised him in his treatise De Sculptura, considering him one of the most “complete” artists on the Paduan scene. According to Gaurico, Severo da Ravenna combined all the qualities of statuary: excellent  painter and modeler, bronze caster, marble sculptor, engraver, and wood carver. He went on to say that if asked what a sculptor should be like that he would say exactly like Severo” (1). During his years in Padua, Severo developed a series of bronze typologies that met with great success in educated circles and were repeated at length in the large workshop he established upon his return to Ravenna. His son Niccolò carried on the workshop and continued using his father’s models for years. It has been suggested that Severo was the first artist in the Paduan milieu to make figures of satyrs, hydras, chimeras and other monsters mainly for use on practical, or household, objects such as lamps, candelabrums, and inkwells and that he also had a profound influence on Riccio. His figures were characterized by powerful muscles, meticulously finished beards and hair that could be recognized by their “vermicelli” shape, and long, tense fingers. Severo left Padua between 1509 and 1511 to return to his hometown, Ravenna where he remained until his death pursuing a career that probably was not particularly brilliant even though his clients in 1527 included Isabella d’Este, duchess of Mantua who, in the those years was a catalyst for art and culture in Central-Northern Italy. Contemporary scholars unanimously agree that Severo headed the biggest and most productive workshop in the Po Valley which cast a far greater number of bronzes than Riccio. Over the years he collected many ancient models, including some large pieces, on which he made variations thanks to his vivid imagination. Severo was clearly interested in the usefulness of the items made in his workshop and was remarkably skilled in creating complex and at times bizarre pieces in which each part had a specific practical purpose.

The attribution of the items presented here to Severo da Ravenna and his workshop is based on a series of iconographic and stylistic comparisons that leave little room for doubt. This attribution is also confirmed by the importance of the client, borne out by the several repetitions of the Frescobaldi coat of arms (2)(see photo 1). The Frescobaldis were one of the key families in the political, economic and social history of Florence: they were active in trade, banking – i.e. lending, and were among the first of the noble families to farm their vast holdings in the countryside. Furthermore, we know that in addition to his work for Isabella d’Este, Severo’s workshop received commissions from other noble families such as a Siren Candelabra with the arms of the Chigi family and the inkwell with the Spinario (Boy Pulling a Thorn from his Foot) on a table in the portrait of the Major Penitentiary Cardinal Antonio Pucci (3).

The  decorative arrangement of our bases is fully matched by a candlestick in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence (see photo 2), that is widely attributed to Severo da Ravenna and workshop (1510-1540) (4). They share the original three-part composition, the central vase-shaped supports, and above all, the triangular arrangement of the full-round figures that are not only similar to, but actually identical when it comes to the section with the kneeling cupids.

The rectangular plates forming the base, with the centered Frescobaldi coat of arms are directly related to Severo’s oeuvre, as he often used them – especially on caskets such as the one in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello (5), where the model of our plaques was used to make the lid (see photo 3). Since that casket has had a long attribution history – Donatello, Bramante, Desiderio da Firenze, and Riccio – before being ascribed to the artist from Ravenna – we must remember that there are at least thirty-five known versions in addition to “isolated” plaque of the same or only slightly varied design, where the head of Medusa may be replaced by a classical bust, a female bust wearing a tunic, or a coat of arms of the patron or client.

Just above the triangular bases are three kneeling male nudes, figures that are a clear reference to Severo’s famous bronze of Atlas Supporting the Globe of Heaven, of which there is an example in the Frick Collection (New York) (6) as well as a variation comparable to our items in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (7), where Atlas has his left hand on his knee and not on the ground (see photo 4).

Yet another factor confirming the attribution of our bases to Severo comes from what are perhaps the least visible parts, that is the baluster-shaped supports that comprise the core of the entire composition. Here we can make an interesting comparison with the Section of a Candlestick (see photo 5) in the  Museo Stefano Bardini, Florence (inv. 904). Even though Stefano Bardini believed it to be a penholder or inkwell, it has correctly been recognized as the lower portion of a candlestick that originally comprised several parts that were cast separately and then joined together, after the model of the piece in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, consisting of three parts, one atop the other. Even though it is apparently a secondary part, there are several features that connect it with Severo’s definitely attributed works such as the circular base, the stippling effect on the upper part of the surface,  and mainly the incised acanthus leaves with sharp tips.


1) Pomponio Gaurico, De Sculptura, Florence 1504, ed. 1999, pp. 130-131.

2) Troncato d’oro e di rosso, a tre rocchi di scacchiere d’argento, 2.1 nel secondo.

3) See J. Warren, “Severo Calzetta detto Severo da Ravenna”, in “Donatello e il suo tempo. Il bronzetto a Padova nel Quattrocento e nel Cinquecento”, Milan 2001, p. 140.

4) Three-part candlestick (Provenance Carrand Collection, Inv. n. 266).

5) Casket (Provenance Carrand Collection, Inv. n. 251).

6) J. Pope-Hennessy, The Frick Collection. Vol. III. Sculpture. Italian, New York 1970, pp. 106-110 (inv. 15.2.24).

7) New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lehman Collection, 1975.1.1399.



E. Fahy, Severo Calzetta called, Severo da Ravenna. Late Fifteenth Century-Early Sixteenth Century, The Frick Collection, New York 1978;

R.E. Stone, “Antico and the Development of Bronze Casting in Italy at the End of the Quattrocento”, in Metropolitan Museum Journal, 16, 1982, pp. 94-102;

P. Lorenzelli, A. Veca (ed. by), TRA/E. Teche, pissidi, cofani e forzieri dall’Alto Medioevo al Barocco, Bergamo 1984, pp. 288-295;

P.M. de Winter, “Recent Accessions of Italian Renaissance Decorative Arts. Part I: Incorporating Notes on the Sculptor Severo da Ravenna”, in The Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art, Vol. 73, n. 2, March 1986, pp. 75-138;

G. Toderi, F. Vannel Toderi, Placchette. Secolo XV-XVIII nel Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence 1996, pp. 116-117;

C. Avery, Museo Civico Amedeo Lia. Sculture, Bronzetti, Placchette, Medaglie, Milan 1998, pp. 90-113;

J. Warren, “Severo Calzetta detto Severo da Ravenna”, in Donatello e il suo tempo. Il bronzetto a Padova nel Quattrocento e nel Cinquecento, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2001, pp. 131-167;

R.E. Stone, “Severo Calzetta da Ravenna and the Indirectly Cast Bronze”, in The Burlington Magazine”, n. 148, 2006, pp. 810-819;

D. Smith, “I bronzi di Severo da Ravenna: un approccio tecnologico per la cronologia”, in M. Ceriana, V. Avery (ed. by), L’industria artistica del bronzo del Rinascimento a Venezia e nell’Italia settentrionalee, (conference proceedings), Verona 2008, pp. 49-80;

T. Rago, I bronzetti e gli oggetti d’uso in bronzo, cat. Museo Stefano Bardini, Florence;

C. Kryza-Gersch, “The Production of Multiple Small Bronzes in the Italian Renaissance: When, Where and Why”, in Ricche Minere, Anno I, n. 1, March 2014, pp. 20-41;

T. Rago, “Calzettiana tarda. I bronzetti della bottega ravennate di Severo Calzetta del Museo Nazionale del Bargello e del Museo Stefano Bardini a Firenze”, in Proporzioni XI-XII (2010-2011), Florence 2015, pp. 5-37



Estimate    30.000 / 50.000
Price realized  Registration

Guido Reni

(Bologna, 1575 – 1642)
oil on canvas, cm 62x74,5
in a gilded “Salvator Rosa” frame

An export licence is available for this lot

Coming from an old, aristocratic collection, still unexplored, this fine, unpublished work by Guido Reni is the autograph version of a painting documented, so far, through two ancient, little-known copies recording the subject and its composition, but far removed in quality from the original.

An 18th century copy in the collection of the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, Rome (n. 32; oil on canvas, cm 75x98; fig. 1) coming from the Monte di Pietà, has been catalogued in the late 19th century as from Guido Reni’s school. In the recent catalogue of the collection (La collezione d’arte della Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, Rome 2008, n. 113) Vittorio Casale described this painting as a copy after a lost original of the Bolognese artist. A second, unpublished version, formerly in Prince del Drago collection, Rome, is documented thanks to a photograph in the Fototeca Federico Zeri, Bologna (fig. 2). It has an oval shape and seems superior in quality to the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti painting, but inferior to ours.

This specific subject – the Virgin feeding the Child – seldom appears in 17th and 18thcentury inventories documenting Reni’s works in Italian collections, which certifies its exceptional position in his catalogue. Only one painting from the collection of the Roman banker Paolo Falconieri catalogued in 1704 actually corresponds to our subject; it is described as oval in shape, and would thus appear to match the del Drago version rather than our painting: “Una Madonna ovata di Guido Reno (sic) in tela, cioè la Madonna il Bambino che zinna e un Angelo, con cornice dorata e intagliata”.  (“An oval Virgin by Guido Reni on canvas, i.e. the Virgin with the suckling Child and an Angel in a gilded frame”).

As a sophisticated and knowledgeable collector, Paolo Falconieri held in very high place his painting by Guido Reni, and advised his heirs to keep it in the family: it was in fact included in the Nota di quadri… che desidero restino invenduti per lustro della famiglia… (List of the paintings which I do not want to be sold and should remain in the Family for its honour) (cfr. Dalma Frascarelli, “Per lustro della famiglia”: la nuova collezione di Paolo Falconieri 1634 – 1704, in “Rivista d’arte” 2011, pp. 205-253).

Different versions of this subject, quite exceptional in the artist’s catalogue, are the Virgin and Child in Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art (fig. 3), where the Virgin’s face is similar to ours, but the mother-and-child group stands out against fully Baroque draperies, and the so-called Madonna Tanari, a lost painting formerly in Bologna, currently known thanks to an etching by Mauro Gandolfi. In the latter, the Virgin appears in full figure with St. John the Baptist standing at her side; her draperies are similar to ours, as seen in a preparatory drawing for her left arm in Milan, Brera (n. 166; fig. 5).

Even the Christ Child in our painting is rather unusual in Reni’s work, as the artist generally represents him as a toddler, but somehow conscious of his divine nature.

In our painting, he is just a newborn suckling, falling asleep after his feed but still searching his mother’s face with half-closed, contented eyes. The red cloth covering him is held in place by bandages, according to an ancient custom, as can be seen in Reni’s Flight into Egypt in the Gerolamini, Naples. On the left, the angel who leans out looking at the Child might be an elder brother, possibly jealous for being left out of the mother-and child-embrace.

Overall, an intimate painting for private devotion: we might suppose it was commissioned to the artist by an aristocratic or a bourgeois family celebrating a longed-for newborn child.

Its very informality and simplicity of design sets off Guido’s sophisticated technique in the use of the dominant colour, a pink hue subtly graduating from near orange to cyclamen, hardly appearing over the cheeks and earlobe of the Virgin but strengthening over her hands, in the shade. Silver brushstrokes outline her veil and highlight folds in her sleeve and close to her blue cloak.

All works comparable to our painting come from the late Twenties or early Thirties, when Guido Reni, acknowledged as the “prince of painters”, was at the highest point of his career and his reputation. We can also cite for comparison the Virgin from the Annunciation in the altarpiece in the Pinacoteca of Ascoli Piceno, close to our Madonna in face and draperies, and the Virgin with the sleeping Child in Bologna, San Bartolomeo (fig. 4), from the early Thirties, and the Circumcision altarpiece, now in the Louvre: the young boy looking at the doves in the foreground, in his green dress and unruly hair is quite similar to the angel in our painting.


We are extremely grateful to Professor Daniele Benati who inspected this work in the flesh and confirmed the traditional attribution to Guido Reni.







Estimate    250.000 / 350.000


gilded and polychrome porcelain, 62 x 45 x 13 cm; white enamel dial with Roman and Arabic numerals for the hours and minutes, respectively; and winding hole at 6 o’clock

An export licence is available for this lot



A. Caròla-Perrotti, Le porcellane del Marchese della Sambuca, in Gli amici per Nicola Spinosa, Roma 2019, pp. 217-229


The porcelain case is a lovely example of the Neapolitan Late Baroque style. The naturalistic scrolls that elegantly and asymmetrically frame the face are inspired by the plant world. At the top are two putti in a large leaf that recalls a seashell. One is firmly seated and affectionately holds the other who is leaning out, as if to see the time, with his left leg dangerously dangling in the air. To either side of the face, at three and nine o’clock, two outwardly turned curls support two other putti sitting on fluttering drapery – one yellow and the other purple. The polychrome decorations accentuate the lightness of the embracing motion through the iridescent blue in the recesses and the gold which enhances the projections on the milk-white ground of the soft paste porcelain produced in the early years of the Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea. The curl at the bottom encloses a prince’s crest with the arms of the Marchese della Sambuca, already alluding to his future title of Principe di Camporeale.


This elegant Ferdinandea object is one of the most beautiful examples of modeling attributable to Francesco Celebrano, the court painter and sculptor during the reign of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon. Celebrano was greatly admired by Raimondo de Sangro Principe di San Severo for whom he carved the high relief marble altarpiece for his famous chapel. The king also appointed him Artistic Director of the royal porcelain factory, where he also held the dual position of Director of Painters and Sculptors starting in 1771, and thus also during the “underground” years at Portici (1), and up to 1780, when, to his surprise, he was dismissed and his responsibilities divided between Domenico Venuti, who became Artistic Director and Filippo Tagliolini who was put in charge of sculpture. There can be no doubts about the attribution to Celebrano both for the similarities with his major and definitely known works and for the compositional arrangement of our clock that seems like a three-dimensional version of a fresco, almost a model, for one of his famous ceilings – such as the one he painted for the residence of Principe di Casacalenda on piazza San Domenico Maggiore – and for the more than striking similarities of modeling between our four porcelain putti and the little angels for the Nativity Scenes he made for Advent.

To these stylistic analyses we must add logical and appropriate considerations related to the importance of the recipient who may have ordered it or whether he received it as a royal gift. In 1780, Sambuca, who was appointed Secretary of State in 1776 immediately after Bernardo Tanucci’s fall from favor, was considered one of the most important and best-known figures in the Bourbon government, the man who monitored and directed the ministries essential to the kingdom’s policies. In the general framework of the reorganization of the Bourbon administrations he also dealt with the management of the alodial estates that included the Manifatture Reali, entrusting their management in 1777 to Ferdinando Galiani, [known as l’Abbé Galiani], a famous economist and man who enjoyed his trust. Further to a recently published personal study we were able to discover that the move was essential for the development of the Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea della Porcellana, and more. Starting in 1780, the factory made an enormous quality leap because Sambuca had earmarked diverse financial resources for it and using his excellent personal relations established at the Court of Vienna during his stay in Austria as Plenipotentiary Envoy between 1770 and 1775, he succeeded in obtaining the “loan” of Filippo Tagliolini and the kiln master Magnus Fessler bringing them from the Vienna factory to Naples to modernize the old kilns and reorganize production.

We have said “and more” because among the many innovations introduced by Sambuca and forgotten up to now, we cannot overlook his brilliant idea of creating the great Museo Farnesiano, later called the Real Museo Borbonico and now known as the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. The grandiose and farsighted project called for transferring the university from the Palazzo degli Studi to the Palazzo del Salvatore where it is still located today – in order to bring together the Farnese antiquities, the archeological Vesuvian finds and the two libraries – Farnesiana and Palatina – that were all scattered in various locations. It is important to mention that the Farnese marbles were in Rome and that to carry out the project Sambuca, together with Venuti organized a major restoration project of the statues, involving the most famous sculptors in Rome, Albacini in primis, prior to shipping them from Rome to Naples. The shipment itself was so extraordinary that it was immortalized in a famous engraving. Unfortunately, immortalato per la sua straordinarietà in una celebre incisione. Unfortunately for Sambuca, the move was made in 1790, four years after his fall from grace and forced resignation. This led to his major role in the conception of the Real Museo Borbonico having been – probably deliberately - forgotten (2). Although this complex undertaking is not strictly pertinent to the history of the cartel clock, we mention it because it was celebrated in two important projects of Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea: the famous Farnese Service – the first porcelain service decorated with views of the kingdom – which, as we now know – was created expressly for Sambuca, and his “life size” half bust biscuit portrait (dated 1781) made, we believe out of gratitude, by Filippo Tagliolini with the gold inscription BONARUM ARTIUM RESTITUTORI, that explicitly honors him as a promoter of the arts (3).


The clock presented here, that has been in the hands of his direct descendants up to the present, is a clear example of the passage of the baton from Francesco Celebrano to Domenico Venuti, stylistically marking the end of Neapolitan Late Baroque, and the beginnings of Neoclassicism in the wake of enthusiasm about the discovery of the Bourbon excavations. Such a refined object, created for such a distinguished recipient could only have been conceived and made by the director of the factory – that is Celebrano, who is also known to have made other noteworthy table clocks for royal clients between 1778 and 1780. Indeed, two of them are so unusual that they are mentioned in songs. They are cited in documents, but unfortunately have not survived. The only specimen known to us is the extraordinary “Pendola del Tempo”, that recently entered the collection of the Museo Duca di Martina in Villa Floridiana, (Naples) thanks to a generous bequest (4).

We believe that Celebrano, perhaps already feeling that he would soon fall from grace, may have tried to “conquer” or ingratiate himself with the powerful nobleman with an example of what he could do best – a clock, an extremely elegant item which, in our opinion, is his last porcelain masterpiece. It is a symbolic piece that concluded a productive cycle, breaking the thread that still tied porcelain from the period of Ferdinand IV to the previous Capodimonte output.


Angela Caròla-Perrotti


1) On the “clandestine” years at Portici see A. Caròla-Perrotti, Le Reali Manifatture Borboniche, in La Storia del Mezzogiorno, Naples 1993, v.XI, pp. 669-671.

2) For the history of the shipment of the Farnese statues, see A. Gonzàlez Palacios, “Il trasporto delle statue farnesiane da Roma a Napoli”, in Antologia di Belle Arti, n.6, 1978; and F. Rausa, Le statue Farnese storia e documenti, Naples 2007.

3) For the research on Sambuca, see A. Caròla-Perrotti, “Le porcellane del Marchese della Sambuca”, in Gli amici per Nicola Spinosa, Rome 2019, pp. 217-229 (the essay in which the cartel clock presented here is also described).

4) See Christie’s sale, Rome 29/11/1989, lot 293.


Estimate    40.000 / 60.000


A baluster-shaped vase with an elegantly tapering neck with two applied archaistic dragon handles. The ruby-red ground of the neck is decorated on both sides with large bats and coins over a flowering lotus amidst stylised chrysanthemums in light-coloured glazes. Two bands run around the shoulder, the first composed of tiny flowers and branches in a rose hue; the second, above, composed of stylised petals and flowers. The ovoid body is finely painted with a continuous landscape depicting a procession of female figures playing musical instruments, framed by two bands of ruyi sceptre heads. The lip is gilded; the foot ring is glazed in iron-red and decorated with meander motifs, also gilded. The interior and the bottom of the vase are glazed in monochrome turquoises. Height: 75 cm. Diameter: ca. 40 cm 

清乾隆 胭脂红地粉彩仕女奏乐纹双螭耳撇口瓶《大清乾隆年制》款 

An export licence is available for this lot

This magnificent vase combines a wealth of traditional symbols of luck and good fortune with the allure of the Imperial porcelains. The large size and the exceptional quality of the painting mark it as a piece of particular importance; it would not be mistaken to imagine that it was commissioned for a special occasion. The style, the form, the size and the sophisticated quality of the painting of the flowers, the ramages and the symbols of good fortune are very similar to those of an important Imperial vase sold by Pandolfini Casa d’Aste on 28 October 2014 (lot 31). In both cases, the quality of the famille-rose decoration is outstanding. 

The vase is adorned with several auspicious symbols such as bats, lotus flowers and coins, as well as finely-drawn plant volutes.

Upside-down bats are depicted on both sides of the neck. The bat symbolises happiness and joy, while the Chinese word for ‘turned upside down’ is homophonous with ‘arrive’. The motif therefore symbolises the arrival of happiness – and to  reinforce the message, the bats hold the  symbol for longevity in their mouths.

On this vase, happiness and longevity are accompanied by golden coins. The best-known form of ancient Chinese money is the copper coin with a square hole at the centre, a form which refers to the idea of a circular universe containing a quadrangular Earth. The form was chosen during the reign of the first emperor of the Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE) to standardize coinage throughout the Empire. The form is an emblem of wellbeing and high social standing and as such strengthens the meaning of abundance and wealth.

The two handles attached to the neck are in the form of kui dragons. The archaic form of the blue dragon handles, as of the vase itself, was common on the porcelains of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Another detail that frequently marks works from this period is use of glazes in the pink colour family; here, these shades are used in the lively decoration that encircles the body of the vase, composed of figures in a continuous landscape scene.

Thanks to the size of the vase, the painter had a huge ‘canvas’ on which to work – and he exploited it to the full, painting a complex and interesting scene. In the background, the magical Kunlun mountain to the west, beyond the mythological Moving Sands (Liúshā [流沙]) desert, which was said to lie between the Tian Shan (‘Mountains of Heaven’) in central Asia and the source of the Yellow River. In popular Chinese culture, Kunlun was a mystical place, out of time, where there was no pain nor death, where all the pleasures abounded and the arts flourished: joyous music, dance, poetry and divine festivals.

The legendary mountain is inhabited by fantastical beings and shamanic emissaries, among whom are the Jade Maidens and Xiwangmu, goddess of ancient Chinese religion, dispenser of prosperity, long life and eternal happiness. The Jade Maidens act as the goddess’ messengers; they communicate mystical revelations and present divine foods to those who, blessed by the goddess, are invited to attend her banquets. Tang-dynasty poet Wei Ying-wu  describes them as ‘bevies of sublime beings flying to the Queen Mother of the West’. In this representation, the Jade Maidens are entertaining Xiwangmu with music and dance: players of bells, flutes and mouth-organs intertwine with bearers of vases and lanterns, in an ongoing celebration.

During the Tang period, when music had attained a primary role in culture, it was in Kunlun that the Chinese began fabricating different types of bamboo flutes intended to reproduce a ‘fundamental’ tuning. Kunlun was also the location of music schools for girls who became players at court.

The painting around the body of the vase is framed by flowers and ruyi sceptres on a ground that is ruby red below and yellow in the upper portion. The head of the ruyi (literally, ‘as [you] wish') is often associated with the iconography of the lingzhi mushroom which, according to popular belief, grew when a virtuous ruler sat on the throne and the Empire enjoyed peace and prosperity. Their inclusion in the decoration thus represented a compliment to the reigning emperor.

The Famille Rose Chinese Porcelains
The Famille Rose represents for technical perfection and decorative ability the crucial moment of Chinese ceramic production. Pink enamels were introduced to Chinese artistic porcelain manufacture only in about 1720, when new colourings obtained using a mix of auric chloride and tin appeared on some objects made in both the Imperial manufactories of Peking and in the artistic crafts workshops in Canton, debuting in decorative details on enamelled metals and porcelains.

The characteristic pink color is obtained from an enamel acquired from ‘Purple of Cassius’, introduced in China by the European Jesuits. Numerous western missionaries worked in the court of the emperor Kangxi (reign 1662-1722). They were much appreciated by the sovereign for their knowledge in the scientific and artistic field. The Cassio purple was discovered in 1650 by the Dutch physicist Andreas Cassius of Leiden. Nevertheless, the discovery, in Europe, that gold dust could be transformed to produce a red colouring actually predates Cassius’ find: in about 1560, no other than Benvenuto Cellini wrote of the phenomenon in his Treatises on goldsmithing and sculpture. The introduction of pink to the palettes of the Jingdezhen ceramists changed taste and fashions. Not only in China: in Europe, the new tones – softer and more opaque with respect to the brilliant famille verte enamels – were very popular and perfectly adapted to the frivolity – which extended to colour – of the nascent rococo style. The new colouring, known to the Chinese alternately as fencai or ruancai (both of which may be translated as ‘soft colour’) or yangcai (‘foreign colours’, pointing up the non-Chinese origin of this palette), adapted perfectly to use on all the vase sizes manufactured in Jingdezhen for sale on the domestic Chinese market and for shipment to Europe, intermediated by one of the many European trading companies operating along the coasts of southern China. Famille rose enamel decoration remained popular through the 1700s and was in constant use even in the 19th century and into the 20th. Like the term ‘famille verte’, the ‘famille rose’ denomination was coined in 1862 by Albert Jacquemart and Edmond Le Blant in their book entitled Histoire artistique, industrielle et commerciale de la porcelaine. It goes without saying that the ‘definition’ inherent in the name is actually rather generic, embracing as it does an extraordinary variety of porcelains and polychrome decorations on which pink enamel nevertheless always appears. What is certain is that famille rose decoration is highly variable, although the porcelain itself was in all cases of excellent quality.

The Famille rose production ranges from pieces for everyday use (plates of various forms and sizes, cups, bowls and other wares for use at the table), particularly requested by European customers but characterized by a polychrome ornament, to the extraordinary pieces reserved for the emperor’s court in Peking, which almost always bear the Imperial mark (nianhao). Among these, perhaps the most successful in terms of the delicacy of the colour combinations and the sophistication of the drawing are the pieces manufactured during the reign of the Yongzheng emperor (1723-1735).

The Qianlong Era
The 18th century, the ‘golden century’ of the Celestial Empire, was ushered in during the reign of the grandfather of the Qianlong emperor, the Kangxi emperor (1662-1723), continued through the reign of his son the Yongzheng emperor (1723-1735) and closed with the reign of the Qianlong emperor (1735-1795). All three merited the appellative of ‘enlightened despot’, a title also accorded to several Western rulers.

Several significant happenings marked the course of this prosperous era in Chinese history – such as an incredible increase in the population, expansion of the Imperial lands, great strides in intellectual and cultural life and a significant upturn in exchanges with the Western world.

Qianlong was not just the Son of Heaven for his Chinese subjects; he was also the Khan of Khans for the Mongols, the Chakravarti (‘ruler whose wheel is always turning’, absolute ruler) for the Tibetans, and so on: he was the supreme ruler of a multiethnic empire, the unity of which rested within his person. 

The Qianlong emperor is strongly characterised as a warrior ruler is strong; the image was in fact promoted by the emperor himself for the express propose of creating a link with the memory of his grandfather, the Kangxi emperor, a great military leader whose achievements included ‘completing’ establishment of Manchu rule. But it was not the only image the emperor sought to project.

Again like his ancestor Kangxi, who at his court brought together illustrious intellectuals and scientists (among whom Jesuits in China on evangelical missions), Qianlong played an important role in Chinese culture. Himself a poet, he encouraged studies and works that drew on the Manchu traditions in language, history and religion: he worried that excessive integration with the majority ethnicity han could in some manner ‘pollute’ the legitimacy of the ruling class.

The emperor’s victories contributed to increasing knowledge of geography and Qianlong was committed to spreading news of new territorial acquisitions throughout the empire. He promoted local gazettes but above all he gave his blessing to production of new maps which comprehended recent conquests – and for this task he exploited the Jesuit scholars at court. Thanks to the missionaries’ contacts with Europe, these maps were available in Europe almost as soon as they were drawn up. 

But the most important of the cultural undertakings during the reign of the Qianlong emperor was indubitably the production of the Siku Quanshu, the ‘Complete Library of the Four Treasuries’, an anthology uniting all the works ever written in Chinese up until that time, with no distinction as to genre, era or length. The term ‘Four Treasuries’ refers to the four series or sections of the Siku Quanshu into which the texts are classified: Classics, Histories, ‘Masters’ (art, science and philosophy) and Collections; that is, Chinese literature. Hand-copied between 1773 and 1782 with the collaboration of 361 scholars, this massive collection comprised 36,000 volumes for a total of 4,7 million pages reproducing about 3,500 works in their entirety. Qianlong hoped that by sponsoring this work he would be included in the pantheon of great men of letters, like his grandfather.

The last years of the reign of the Qianlong emperor coincided with the end of China’s ‘golden’ 18th century and the beginning of the decline of the Empire. After Qianlong’s death, in the wake of aggressive English trade policies and China’s defeats in the resulting Opium Wars (among other debacles on the international stage), the millenary Empire wound down to its definitive end.


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