Masterpieces from Italian collections


Masterpieces from Italian collections

Auction, 1010
Palazzo Ramirez-Montalvo


Friday        30 october      10am-6pm
Saturday    31 october      10am-6pm
Sunday       1 november   10am-6pm
Monday       2 november   10am-6pm

Estimate   0 € - 300000 €

All categories

1 - 10  of 10

Venetian sculptor active in the early 15th century


painted wood, 160x143 cm, cross 220x153 cm


Reference Literature

A. Markham Schulz, Woodcarving and Woodcarvers in Venice 1350-1550. Florence 2011.


The extraordinary Crucifix follows the traditional pattern in widespread use in Venice as early as the 14th century. The torso is upright but twisted imperceptibly to its proper right; the proper right leg faces forward and the left is slightly bent; the feet are crossed, forming an ‘X’; the arms are not bent but extended almost perfectly horizontally; the abundant loincloth is gathered and draped across the figure with swathes descending at both the left and right; the skeletal structure of the ribcage is rather pronounced above an abdomen contracted along the transverse umbilical plane: all characteristics which are observable in the early 14th-century example in the church of San Nicolò in Venice Lido (fig. 1).

The greater emphasis given to the musculature, above all of the shoulders, the rich drapery of the cloth at the loins and the intense characterisation of the facial features, contorted in a pathetic grimace of pain with parted lips showing the teeth, would, however, suggest a later dating: to the early 15th century, when Antonio Bonvicino’s carved wooden images of the dead Christ (figs. 2-3) had established a new canon for Venetian sacred art (cf. A. Markham Schulz, ‘Antonio Bonvicino and Venetian Crucifixes of the Early Quattrocento’ in Mitteilungendes Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, 2004, 48, 3, pp. 293-332).

As in Bonvicino’s works, what is most conspicuous in our crucifix is Christ’s powerful expression of heroic resignation, here made even more striking by the polychromy which has come down to us mostly intact.

Our sculptor, unfortunately not identified, stands apart in his less emphatic treatment of the ribs and more fleshed-out rendering of the chest; in his description of the angularities of the face with its almost pyramidal cheekbones and sharp nose; and in his different rendering of the beard and hair.

Other distinctive elements of style – such as sumptuous drapery and markedly realistic expressiveness – characterise his language.


Estimate    40.000 / 60.000
An export licence is available for this lot
Estimate    60.000 / 90.000
An export licence is available for this lot

Benedetto Di Michele Squilli

(active from 1555 to 1588) 

to cartoon by Stradanus

(Jan van der Straet, Bruges 1523 – Florence 1605)


Comparative literature

E. Spinelli Barelli, L’arazzo in Europa. Novara 1963;

M. Viale Ferrero, Arazzi italiani. Venice 1969;

G. Gaeta Bertelà, in Firenze e la Toscana de’ Medici nell’Europa del cinquecento. Palazzo Vecchio: committenza e collezionismo medicei, catalogue of the exhibition. Florence 1980;

L. Meoni, Gli arazzi nei musei fiorentini. La collezione medicea: La manifattura da Cosimo I a Cosimo II (1545-1621). Livorno 1998


Techniques and Materials:

Warp: undyed spun wool, S-twist, three ply, 5 ends/cm.

Wefts: in coloured wool and silk. Wool: Z-twist, three-ply, 7-9 picks/cm. Silk: without appreciable twist, 9 picks/cm.

Overall dimensions: 333 x 410 cm

Upper horizontal border: 71 cm height

Lower horizontal border: 69 cm height

Vertical border: 65 cm width

The borders are trimmed and the horizontal and vertical selvedges are missing.


Backing: the tapestry is backed in strips, five vertical and two horizontal (one at the top and one at the bottom). The horizontal strips are brown linen canvas but do not appear to be original as instead do the vertical strips of hemp canvas. Disassembly of the backing strips from the work revealed numerous letter and number markings. From right to left: the first strip on the right is marked with the lettres couchées C and T, both painted in black; the second, with a sepia-painted number, perhaps 65; the third bears no markings; the fourth bears what appears to be the combination N309 in black and other letters and numbers in sepia ink which are extremely difficult to decipher, perhaps a capital S and a capital B (Squilli Benedetto?) with a double F (?) and N576 below; the fifth bears no markings.

The first series of the Stories of David tapestries date to 1561-1562: nine works woven to cartoons by Stradanus at the workshops of Benedetto Squilli and Giovanni di Bastiano Sconditi. This series includes the tapestry entitled Samuel Anoints David as King, the entry for which was written by Giovanna Gaeta Bertelà (G. Gaeta Bertelà, in Firenze e la Toscana de’ Medici nell’Europa del Cinquecento. Palazzo Vecchio: committenza e collezionismo medicei, catalogue of the exhibition. Florence, 1980, pp. 70-71, no. 115).

In both this and our tapestry, the subject is the same; the reference cartoon would also seem to be the same despite the fact that in our tapestry the woven scene is taller and narrower than in the other. 

There are several analogies between the two. The six figures in our tapestry are the same appearing in the comparison piece, although with slight colour variations; the layout of the scene and the arrangement of the figures is the same in both works; the curtain, the architectural elements, the floor and the candelabrum are also very similar in both.

Certain differences are of note. In our tapestry, which is smaller than the other, the two standing figures on the left side are excluded; the background of our tapestry includes trees, besides a building which appears in both works.

The borders are not identical: although there are analogies in the poses of the cupids, our tapestry border includes sphinxes which do not appear in the other.

Two further series with Stories of David appear later, in 1567-1568, listed in the Guardaroba Medicea in filze (files) 47 and 48. The first comprises scenes depicting David’s preparations to combat the giant Goliath (1567-1568); the other, relative to the ‘second phase’ of the exploit, scenes of the slaying of Goliath and David’s triumph (1568). The latter, once believed to have been irremediably lost (in this connection, see the following documents in the Archivio di Stato of Florence. 13 January 1568 [Florentine calendar 1567 ab incarnatione], Guardaroba Medicea 47, fols. 131d, 134d, 136d, [fol. 134d]; Guardaroba Medicea 48, fol. 136v. Conti, 1875, 53. 18 June 1568 Guardaroba Medicea 47, fols. 139s and d, 148s and d, [fol. 148s]; Guardaroba Medicea 48, fols. 136v, 139r. 18 June 1568, Guardaroba Medicea 47, fols. 148d, 150d; Guardaroba Medicea 48, fol. 139r. 12 October 1568, Guardaroba Medicea 47, fols. 148d, 150d; Guardaroba Medicea 48, fols. 140v to 141r), dates to the period in which management of the tapestry-weaving workshop, Sconditi having completely disappeared from view, fell entirely to Benedetto di Michele Squilli. This is the series, we might conjecture, to which our tapestry belongs.

One element likening our tapestry to the tapestry identified by Giovanna Gaeta Bertelà as David Asks to Fight Goliath (Pisa, Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, inv. 1513) from the above-cited first series of the later works depicting Stories of David are the appearance in the borders of small, slender male figures, shown standing on pedestals, carrying shoulder bags and cloths or slings (?) in their hands, portrayed within scrolled cartouches.

Analysis of the style of the scene depicted in our tapestry and the broad treatment of the characters points up notable analogies with the Stories of Cosimo the Elder, a later series of tapestries woven by Florentine weavers under the supervision of Benedetto di Michele Squilli to cartoons by Stradanus, coordinated by Giorgio Vasari and with the consultancy of scholars Cosimo Batoli and Vincenzo Borghini. The borders also show correspondences at various points. The sphinxes, which in our tapestry have abbreviated headpieces, are not present in Samuel Anoints David as King, from 1561, but instead appear in such tapestries in the Stories of Cosimo the Elder series as Cosimo the Elder Builds the Badia Fiesolana (1570-71) (in this connection and as regards the subjects listed below, see L. Meoni. Gli arazzi nei musei fiorentini. La collezione medicea. La manifattura da Cosimo I a Cosimo II (1545-1621), Livorno, 1998, pp. 238-239; pp. 240-241, no. 64; p. 242, no. 65; p. 243, no. 66), Cosimo the Elder Builds a Library for San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice (1570-1571), Cosimo the Elder Subsidises Francesco Sforza (1570-71), Cosimo the Elder Builds a Pilgrim Hospice in Jerusalem (1570-1571); other analogies with the borders of the above-cited tapestries are the statues in the rectangular niches, treated in exactly the same manner and using the same colours, and the central scrolled cartouches, which in our tapestry are each occupied by a small male figure and in these works by portraits in medallions; one difference resides in the lack, in the fruit and flower compositions, of the ribbon which is instead present in all the others.

In about 1556, Jan van der Straet, known as Stradanus, appeared as a cartoonist at the Arazzeria Medicea. The artist hailed from Bruges, where he received his early instruction in the arts from his father; he then studied in Antwerp with Maximiliaen Francken and Pieter Aertsen; lastly, he came to Italy, to Venice and thence to Florence. Borghini’s observation that ‘from the start of his stay in Florence he collaborated to produce cartoons for the Arazzeria’ is probably true, even though his name does not appear in the accounts before 1557 (by which date he had already been in Florence for nine years).

It is in fact possible that the ‘grotesques’ he produced were, as Borghini suggests for headboard tapestries: he could have collaborated on the transposition of Bachiacca’s designs into large cartoons, since he was a skilled decorator and portrayer of animals. After entering Giorgio Vasari’s orbit, Stradanus’ first ascertained major work at the Arazzeria involved the decoration and refurbishment of Palazzo Vecchio entrusted by Cosimo I to Vasari, who acted as general director and supervisor. The declared aims of the project for the fresco decoration of Palazzo Vecchio were to glorify the Medici house and, not incidentally, to lay an aesthetic, historic and moral framework justifying Cosimo’s absolutism.

Just as transparent, the meanings of the tapestries prepared for the prince’s rooms, depicting the Stories of Cyrus, Jesse and Solomon; among the characters we find only one of the ancient heroes. These last tapestries were not in direct relation to the frescoes.

As production of the tapestries at the Arazzeria Medicea progressed through time, the level of technical excellence declined until by the time the Florentine Stories (1569) were woven for the apartments of Leo X (from 1556 to 1562), the workmanship no longer displayed that sophistication which had marked the Arazzeria’s earlier efforts. Only naturally, it was also necessary to create the cartoons more quickly. Vasari’s involvement no longer went beyond delivery of the subjects or at the most a few suggestions concerning composition; the actual drawing was left to Stradanus, who, in the manner of the Flemish cartoonists, produced sketchy characterisations. The result in Stories of David is not unpleasant; differently, for example, to the Stories of Hercules (1565), in which a Michelangelo-like gigantism, inspired by Vasari, results in rather unfortunate effects.

Not many of the pieces mentioned in the documentary and other sources have come down to us. This is explained by the fact that this production was intended for everyday use at the Medici court and was thus subject to rapid deterioration.  Among the surviving works, The Anointing of David is still in Palazzo Vecchio  along with two other tapestries: one a scene from the series on Roman history (Emperor Trajan and the Widow), the other The Victory of Hercules over the Centaur, on display in the Sala di Ercole, the only piece which has remained in its original location. This being the case, it might be said that the decorative project so studiously planned by Vasari has been totally lost to us.


Lucia Nucci

Estimate    50.000 / 60.000
An export licence is available for this lot


copper, enamelled in blue, white and green, with gilt decoration, circular, coat of arms at centre; plate diam. 25.2 cm, foot diam. 10.4 cm, height 4.2 cm



Collection J. Kugel, Paris

Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé, Paris

Christie’s sale: Paris, 25 February 2009, lot 609

Private collection, Lombardia



F. Barbe, L. Caselli, M-E. Dantan (eds.), I rami smaltati detti veneziani del Rinascimento italiano. II. Corpus delle opere nelle collezioni pubbliche e private. Milan 2018, p. 130, no. 136.


This enamel-on-copper footed plate is circular, prevalently blue in colour and decorated on all surfaces with a number of different concentric gilded motifs encircling a coat of arms inserted in a medallion enamelled in white with two tiny touches of green; according to the classification proposed by Béatrice Beillard[1] and from the outer edge toward the centre, these ornamental motifs are: garlands, surmounted by fleurs-de-lis and centred on dots; five-petalled rosettes; oak leaves; fleurs-de-lis; undulating rays; twisted ribbons. At the centre, enclosed in a white enamelled tondo decorated with gilded plant motifs, crosses and dots, a horsehead shield encloses a gold and black emblem on a blue ground. The reverse side of the plate is also entirely enamelled in cobalt blue with five-pointed gilt rosettes arranged in concentric bands, except in the area at the centre of the foot, where the copper is visible beneath a thin layer of transparent glaze, also decorated with small gilded rosettes.


Attribution of this precious object to Venetian manufacture, while conventionally accepted by the academic world, nevertheless leaves room for some uncertainty: there is as yet no definite proof that the Venice area was the actual production location for an important group of works, enamelled coppers dating to a fifty-year period around the year 1500. This group, distinguished by common characteristics, is essentially made up of objects for everyday use such as vases, dishes, footed plates, salt cellars, pitchers, candlesticks and pax-bredes, all crafted of copper as supports for richly-coloured enamel and gilt decoration – and all displaying motifs which are similar in form to coeval works in precious metals, gold and silver. And while the Cini Collection of Venice is home to an important nucleus of these works, of which we reproduce one of the most outstanding pieces (see fig. 1), their inclusion in major Italian and foreign museum collections and in private collections worldwide provides further testimony to their importance. That interest in these so-called Venetian enamel-on-copper works arose in the mid-19th century was explained by Louis Courajod in an article published in 1885 and by Émile Molinier in his studies of the Venetian decorative arts, published in 1889, and was confirmed by Lionello Venturi in the 1920s. An interesting synthesis of writings on the subject emerged from the international conference held at the Isola di San Giorgio in Venice in 2014; it was followed in 2018 by publication of the conference proceedings (Atti) and the Corpus,[2] which sets forth the results of an attentive review of  334 enamel-on-copper objects, all ascribable to a single homogeneous group on the basis of era, characteristics and manufacturing technique and presents a detailed iconographic apparatus.

Review of the texts which have addressed the subject of enamel-on-copper works over the span of a century and a half confirms that attribution to Venice of this particular category of objects has always been based on the analogy between the technical manufacturing processes involved in enamelling on copper and enamelling on glass – the latter having been a prerogative of Murano from midway through the 15th century until the third decade of the 16th – and on vague resemblances between tableware belonging to the two categories. And if it has been proved that enamels suitable for use on metals were produced in Murano, it is still unknown where the embossed copper items were manufactured and where the enamel decoration was applied. According to Rosa Barovier Mentasti and Cristina Tonini,[3] attribution of these products to Venice and the involvement of Murano’s glassmakers in their manufacture would be supported by a meaningful coincidence between the forms of copper pieces and Venetian blown glass items dating to the late 15th century and the first half of the 16th, but careful analysis does not seem reveal a close formal affinity  between the two categories of products.


Accepting attribution to the Venice area, another interesting consideration arises with regard to the coat of arms in the centre well of the footed plate. If in ceramics the function of inclusion of heraldic devices is to attest and communicate ownership (but also, often, is purely decorative), in the so-called Venetian enamel-on-copper works – much more costly and rarer, in light of the particular manufacturing techniques involved in their creation (very similar to those of the goldsmith) – the coats of arms are above all signs of distinction and social standing. Scholar Luciano Borrelli[4] has pointed out that of the 334 copper items catalogued in the Corpus, fifty-nine bear heraldic emblems: quite a high percentage. The fact that almost all of these are painted on formal tableware and chargers  confirms that they were created for ostentatious show. Another function of the heraldic design was simple ornamentation of the surfaces and the objects to which it was applied; the outcome depended on the skill and aesthetic sense of the decorator, who was nevertheless at times forced to substitute certain colours with other non-original hues because he had exhausted his supply or because a particular pigment was unavailable in his era. In the case of the enamel-on-copper works we note a prevalence of  blue and white, colours presumably also used to render coats of arms originally in different colours, and finishing touches in gold. Consequently, identification of a given coat of arms, difficult in the best of circumstances, becomes impossible or at the very least uncertain and admitting of more than one hypothesis if the device is not clearly characterised by heraldic charges. The study conducted by Luciano Borrelli[5] on occasion of publication of the plate in the above-cited Corpus resulted in tentative identification of the heraldic motif as a device of the Dalla Chiesa family of Modena[6] (see fig. 2). It is interesting to note that the device is analogous to the one found on three other plates published in the Corpus (nos. 132, 135, 137), but while two of these are differentiated by decorative treatment over the entire surface, the plate in the Kremlin Museums (inv. M3-2004) would seem to be, to all effects, the sibling of the plate presented here, exception made for the colour of the eagle, which is painted in black on the Russian plate (see fig. 3).

[1] B. Beillard, ‘Le décor à la feuille d’or des cuivres émaillés dits vénitiens: premier classement’ in F. Barbe, L. Caselli, M-E. Dantan (eds.), I rami smaltati detti veneziani del Rinascimento italiano, Vol. II, Milan 2018, pp. 9-21.

[2] F. Barbe, L. Caselli, M-E. Dantan (eds.), I rami smaltati detti veneziani del Rinascimento italiano. I. Atti del convegno internazionale di studi – II. Corpus delle opere nelle collezioni pubbliche e private. Milan 2018.

[3] R. Barovier Mentasti, C. Tonini, ‘Tra rami smaltati, maioliche e vetri. Firenze o Venezia?’ in F. Barbe, L. Caselli, M-E. Dantan (eds.), I rami smaltati . . ., Vol. I, p. 23-49.

[4] L. Borrelli, ‘L’araldica nei rami smaltati detti veneziani del Rinascimento italiano’ in F. Barbe, L. Caselli, M-E. Dantan (eds.), I rami smaltati . . . , Vol. II, p. 23.

[5] L. Borrelli, ibid., p. 33 no. 136.

[6] D’azzurro, alla chiesa di rosso, la facciata orientata a destra, fondata su una terrazza di verde; al capo d’oro, caricato di un’aquila di nero (Blue, the church in red, the facade facing right, founded on a green terrace; at the head, gold, surmounted by a black eagle)


Estimate    40.000 / 60.000


iron, etched decorations on gold ground depicting grotesques with masks, figures, animals, plant garlands; double lock on the front concealed by plates that open with a snap mechanism; pair of loops on both long sides; 10.2 x 16 x 11.4 cm

Comparative literature

P. Lorenzelli, A. Veca (ed. by), TRA/E. Teche, pissidi, cofani e forzieri dall’Alto Medioevo al Barocco, Bergamo 1984, pp. 254-258;

B. Chiesi, I. Ciseri, B. Paolozzi Strozzi (ed. by), Il Medioevo in viaggio, exhibition catalogue (Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, 20 March - 21 June 2015), Florence 2015, pp. 198-199;

S. Leydi, “Mobili milanesi in acciaio e metalli preziosi nell’età del Manierismo”, in Fatto in Italia, dal Medioevo al Made in Italy, exhibition catalogue (Turin, Venaria Reale, 19 March – 10 July  2016), Milan 2016, pp. 121-137


Caskets of this type were used to hold coins,  jewels or often documents or valuable books of hours, providing protection not only against prying eyes, but mainly risks incurred during travel. The contents were protected by the sturdiness of the material and by particularly complicated locks.

A rope or leather belt was threaded through the loops on the long sides to fasten the casket to a saddle or inside a bigger trunk, or let it be worn cross-body or attached to a belt on long journeys.

This type of casket is often called a “messenger box”. Given the manageable size and the large number of items that have survived, they may have been used by a wide range of people, from clergymen to students, from messengers to merchants without ruling out household use. The reference to church use is supported by the rings on the long sides that were practically made to the specifications set out in Exodus (25:25-28) for the Ark of the Covenant: “And you shall make for it four rings of gold and put the rings on the four corners”. The poles to carry the Ark were passed through the rings.


The style and type of workmanship are exactly what we see on the most beautiful suits of sixteenth-century armour made by famous Milanese armourers such as the Negrolis, Pompeo della Cesa, and Piccinino who worked for the  most important families in Italy and Europe. In addition to the weapons and armour that made them famous, their workshops also produced steel or iron “luxury” goods such as chests and  coin cases, mirrors, candlesticks, reliquaries, coffers, belt fittings, sword hilts, bits, stirrups, saddles and powder flasks. There is no proof that the legendary damascener Martino Ghinelli ever lived, but the existence of two important specialized workshops is documented. One was owned by Giovan Battista Panzeri, called Sarabaglia (Milan, c. 1517-1587); he was Filippo Negroli’s brilliant pupil and made items in gilded iron for Ferdinando Duca d’Alba, Philip II of Spain, and the dukes of Mantua. The other belonged to Giovanni Antonio Polacini called Romerio or Romé (c. 1527- died between 1595 and 1602).

In the middle of the sixteenth century the armourers’ workshops developed extraordinary, intense and splendid creative skills that made their wares highly sought-after throughout the world. Surfaces were entirely decorated, the areas that had previously been left “blank” became filled with damascened or painted floral and legendary motifs in a sort of spasmodic return of the horror vacui that had enchanted artists of the early Middle Ages. This trend was followed by the glorious “all’antica” armour so coveted by princes, kings and emperors for decades which gave way to the style known as heroic. Armourers no longer worked on developing new shapes, rather they used simple ones and covered them with gold. By that time the armourer was no longer a mere craftsman following rather than creating fashions: he was a true artist, on a par with the period’s great painters and sculptors because, by creating excellence, he could impose his ideas. These artists worked closely with the armourers as was the case of Leone Leoni, sculptor to the court of Charles V whose work is clearly evident on some armour commissioned by the emperor; the same can be said for his son, Pompeo, protégé of Philip II, and of Benvenuto Cellini who, working with the Negrolis, designed suits of armour for Cosimo I Grand Duke of Tuscany.

It was not only outstanding works of architecture, sculpture, and painting that made Milan the “luxury capital” of the sixteenth century. There were the extraordinary objets d’art created in the workshops of Milanese craftsmen for an elite international clientele of sovereigns, princes and nobles, courtiers, and other rich and ambitious art enthusiasts. Milanese workmanship was a guarantee for weapons and armour as well as many other applied arts including the manufacture of fine silk damask and lampas fabrics, jewellery, and enamel wares. The art of metalworking was already flourishing in the fifteenth century under the Viscontis: goldsmiths and armourers were turning out the highest quality goods. In particular, Milan was known for magnificent suits of armour that were considered the finest items in men’s fashions. The magnificent wares of famous armourers were desired by all the sovereigns, and all the princely and ducal houses. The items made in Milan during the sixteenth century are characterized by a unique blend of creative power, fine materials and extraordinary workmanship. Indeed they became hallmarks of the elites, and badges of status.

Our casket, in terms of style and form is truly a child of the artistic ferment of mid-sixteenth-century Milan. It is evidence of the Milanese armourers’ technical mastery applied to a “civilian” object that was surely made for a noble client. The lavish decorations, typical of the late Mannerist period make it possible to date this object around the second or third quarter of the century. The variety of the grotesques that differ on each side speak to the artisan’s  consummate skill as he was able to combine raised masks, putti, trumpeting angels, dragons, and vases with flowers amidst plant raceme and overflowing cornucopias, garlands and birds against the gilded background through mastery of the etching technique that had already been used to decorate arms and armour in the Middle Ages.


Estimate    40.000 / 60.000
An export licence is available for this lot


partially gilded steel; engraved with vertical fluting and plant motifs; raised decorations, 19.6 x 9.8 x 7 cm

Comparative literature

S. Leydi, Mobili milanesi in acciaio e metalli preziosi nell’età del Manierismo, in Fatto in Italia, dal Medioevo al Made in Italy, exhibition catalogue (Turin, Venaria Reale, 19 March – 10 July  2016), Milan 2016, pp. 121-137;

Peter Finer. Provenance, London 2016, pp. 10-13 n. 3


This powder flask is a truncated cone; the lower part of the neck is fluted; the upper part is smooth; the device for opening the spout is adjacent to the convex ring around the neck; the  straight tongue on the back with rounded edges is for hooking it to a belt. The whole front is decorated with vertical bands alternating with engraved plant motifs on a gilded ground and smooth or stippled vertical fluting; two pairs of loops on the front for a rope or strap, and in the centre a relief mask. The back is entirely gilded and is decorated with engravings.

Since the Middle Ages, the powder flask, used to load firearms,  was an essential part of a soldier’s kit and, of course for hunters.  Made of different materials – from horn to bone, from leather to metal – starting in the sixteenth century, elaborately decorated powder flasks began to make their appearance.

Scholars agree that this type of powder flask can be dated to the final years of the sixteenth century. However, we should mention that an interesting  recent study published in a 2016 Peter Finer catalogue suggested a dating prior to 1569 for a group of flasks that is similar to ours. The theory is based on the coats of arms (of the Medici and Orsini families) and archive information. In the Medici grand-ducal inventory of 1639 we read: Tre fiasche, che una piccola da polverino, tutte di ferro lavorate a righe, tutte piene, con arme di SAS con lor cordoni a dua” (“Three flasks, there is a small one for powder, all with lines worked in iron all full with arms of SAS [His Serene Highness]  with their cords”) (Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Guardaroba Medicea n. 539, for 32a). A flask that is identical to ours is in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence (n. M1232), while another, which is part of the Odescalchi collection is on display in the Armoury in Palazzo Venezia in Rome (n. 75). Further evidence of the popularity of this type of flask is depicted in a sixteenth-century painting attributed to a follower of David de Coninck (see fig. 1 - David de Coninck (follower) Still Life of Game Birds with a Powder Flask in a Landscape). 

The finely engraved flask with its linear but elegant shapes was certainly made to match an equally beautiful firearm for a high-ranking person. Lombardy and the city of Milan, in particular, were famous for their production of extremely highly quality weapons and armour, usually made for nobles and sovereigns throughout Europe. It is a well-known fact that in the second half of the sixteenth century, the “luxury industry” was centred in the city that was still under Spanish domination. It was home to the workshops of famous armourers such as the Negrolis, Pompeo della Cesa and Piccino. Their style and workmanship created the most beautiful armour of the century. Their creative skills transformed mundane objects and weapons into items of exceptional beauty with decorations that included plant motifs, grotesques, and mythological scenes.


Estimate    10.000 / 15.000
An export licence is available for this lot


hard-paste porcelain and white glaze, 38x25x21 cm

The name ‘Claudio’ is stamped on the porcelain support tab designed to be inserted in the base.



Collezione privata, Londra;

Asta Sotheby’s, Londra, 5 maggio 1970, lotto 15;

Collezione privata, Firenze

Reference Literature

L. Ginori Lisci, La porcellana di Doccia, Milano 1964;

M. Gregori, Cultura e genio di Carlo Ginori, in “Antichità Viva” 4.1965 (2), pp. 18–36;

K. Lankheit, Kunst des Barock in der Toskana, München (1976);

K. Lankheit, Die Modellsammlung der Porzellanmanufaktur Doccia. Ein Dokument italienischer Barockplastick, München 1982;

J. Winter (ed.), Le statue del marchese Ginori. Sculture in porcellana bianca di Doccia, Firenze 2003, pp. 42-45

J. Kraftner, C. Lehner-Jobst, A. d’Agliano (eds.), Baroque Luxury Porcelain, The manufactories of du Paquier in Vienna and of Carlo Ginori in FlorenceMünchen 2005;

R. Balleri (ed.), Carlo Ginori. Documenti e itinerari di un gentiluomo del secolo dei lumi, Firenze 2006;

A. Biancalana, Porcellane e maioliche a Doccia. La Fabbrica del Marchese Ginori. I primi cento anni, Firenze 2009;

A. Alinari, La porcellana dei Medici. Bibliografia ragionata e catalogo essenziale, Ferrara 2009;

T. Wilson, Medici porcelain, in D. Thornton and T. Wilson (eds), Italian Renaissance ceramics. A catalogue of the British Museum collection, London 2009, pp. 694–706;

D. Zikos, On the nature of moulds purchased and commissioned by Carlo Ginori, in “Quaderni Amici di Doccia”, 4. 2010, pp. 18–39;

R. Balleri, Sculpture at Doccia, in “Quaderni Amici di Doccia”, 4.2010, pp. 40–76;

R. Balleri, Modelli della Manifattura Ginori di Doccia. Settecento e gusto antiquario, Roma 2014;

H. Wirta Kinney, Transcribing material values in Doccia’s Porcelain Medici Venus, in A. Putzger, M. Heisterberg, S. Müller-Bechtel De Gruyter, Nichts Neues Schaffen, Creating Nothing New: Perspectives On The Faithful Copy, 1300–1900, Berlin- München 2018


This full-round portrait portrays a mature man, with accentuated expression lines around the mouth and on the cheeks and forehead but idealised nonetheless. The head, turned slightly to its proper right, is crowned by hair cut in a short fringe, as was the fashion in the Julio-Claudian age, leaving uncovered the small and well-proportioned ears. The face is set in a pensive frown, as often in official portraits of the emperor;(1) the thin lips are clamped shut, the nose is large, the bridge wide.

Comparison with two known works of the coeval Ginori production, the busts of Hadrian (1754) and of Trajan (1756), lead us to place this bust of Claudius very close to them in time and in technique: all share the manner in which the hair is drawn and such “imperfections” as reddish spots in the hair, marked firing defects which determine fissuring or flattening, an excess of blue-green glaze in several areas (for example inside the auricle), and finally the greyish tone of the paste with a scarce application of glaze, greenish-white in colour and perhaps still rich in lead. The nearly tenuous connection to the ancient model, the stylistic similarities between this bust and the porcelain bust of Emperor Tiberius and extension of the modelling to the upper chest and inclusion of a support tab lead us to date the piece to ca. 1755, when the manufactory began to supply portrait busts with bases, also in porcelain. Use of life-size models seems to us to be more adherent to the cast in later heads. All this suggests the hand of Gaspero Bruschi with Francesco Lici at work in the modelling of this porcelain work.

Working backwards, we find mention of our bust in the catalogue of an auction held in November 2010,(2) which proposed a head of Emperor Caligula – with the name incised beneath the tunic and matched with a non-coeval base – attributed to a model by Soldani Benzi. The description makes reference to two other porcelain busts which had appeared at auction, one in 1976, the other in 1970;(3)  the latter, described as ‘a rare white Doccia head of Emperor Claudius after Massimiliano Soldani Benzi’,(4) is the bust we are presenting here, the provenance of which at the time was stated as being ‘from a gentleman’s collection’. Today, exactly 50 years later, it has finally resurfaced.

This ‘al naturale’ head of Emperor Claudius might be said to be making its return after a long absence.


The heads of the ‘Twelve Caesars’

Marchese Ginori’s cultural project fell solidly within in a period in history in which a marked intention to recover ancient works, whether original or merely inspired by antiquity, took hold and prospered; a period in which a sober linearity of forms well fit the demands of rationalism in the ‘Age of Enlightenment’.

Marchese Carlo Andrea Ignazio Ginori (1702-1757) founded his manufactory in 1737. With the collaboration of sculptor Gaspero Bruschi and in direct competition with the trade in statuary, he began producing porcelain replicas of ancient sculptures, a genre in great demand by the Grand Tour travellers for whom possession of antiquities and neoclassical works was a fundamental part of their social identity. These works, the majority of which were produced for the foreign markets, aroused a certain interest in Italy as well, due to the erudite significance of identifying with one’s culture of origin. Of interest in this connection, the words of Rita Balleri in the preface to her book: ‘Carlo Ginori behaved like a collector of his time and it is for this reason that his life-size casts should be considered a collection of antiquities and not studied solely as models used by the manufactory.’(5)

The Marchese’s ambition to make a true museum of his Galleria dei Modelli  pushed him to establish contacts with numerous personages of the era whom he felt could aid him to find works to reproduce. The iconographic program for the gallery grew out of the two directions taken by his research: in part, it was directly inspired by original works and in part by copies already manufactured and successfully marketed.

While conducting his research into new models, Marchese Carlo Ginori had acquired from the heirs of sculptors Giovan Battista Foggini (1652-1725) and Massimiliano Soldani Benzi (1658-1740) several exemplars in wax and terracotta together with the casts of several bronzes. The selection of models reflects the taste of Prince Johann Adam Andreas I of Liechtenstein, a patron of Massimiliano Soldani Benzi, for whom the artist made two bronze statues (proposed in porcelain by Carlo Ginori about forty-five years later) as well as eight bronze busts, heads of Roman emperors drawn from originals in Florence with which the sculptor celebrated the Imperial portrait as a symbol of strength and virtue.  

Ginori re-proposed Soldani Benzi’s compositional scheme in the important series of rare Doccia porcelain busts known as the ‘Twelve Caesars’. This assortment of portraits is mentioned in the Inventario dei Modelli published by Lankheit and is also listed in the manufactory’s 1760 price list as among the most costly of the products of the early years of Ginori’s activity (see Lankheit 1982, pp. 17-38; and Darr, Barner and Bostrom 2003, Vol. II, p. 96, nos. 170-171).

While demanding, the marketing of moulds and copies was a lucrative activity – as Bottari recalls a propos of the cast makers (formatori): ‘… ho saputo che questi formatori, gente del tutto simile agli altri artisti di Roma, hanno voglia di guadagnare assai, e di lavorare poco’ [I have learned that these cast makers, in all respects similarly to Rome’s other artists, want to earn much and work little] (AGL 1753, XX, letter 66, Guido Bottari to Carlo Ginori, Rome, 6 January 1753). The originals and the moulds from which copies could be made were well under the control of the owners, who were particularly careful to safeguard the works against damage. What is more, the copies themselves were renowned: a request for one of these works was considered proof of the good taste, wealth and power of the collector, who was generally a prince, a nobleman or a man of the cloth. Additionally, the value of the original was in no way diminished by reproduction but rather translated into a new form of power: in effect, the faculty to authorise production of copies and limit the number of moulds in circulation increased the value of both the copies and the original works.

A fundamental aid to understanding the formation of the iconography of these works is to be found in the Marchese’s epistolary exchanges with Guido Bottari, older brother of Msgr. Giovanni Gaetano Bottari (1689-1775), and with Giovanni Domenico Campiglia, superintendent for models at the Apostolic Camera and author of etchings of works in the Capitoline Museums. Of particular interest, the exchanges between the curators of the collections and Ginori’s chief modeller Gaspero Bruschi (1710-1780), who oversaw production and was ultimately responsible for all the porcelain statuary. Notably, this documentation points up how the parties had recourse to a great number of intermediaries to conclude their negotiations and arrive at actual production of the copies.

Support sought in Rome permitted Marchese Ginori to submit to his modeller Francesco Lici, known as Squarcione, some of the most important sculptures in the Roman collections (and specifically the Capitoline collection) for copying. The results obtained by Squarcione were truly striking, thanks in large part to Bruschi’s profound technical knowledge. A letter from Guido Bottari tells of the presence of a representative of Marchese Ginori as early as 1753: ‘Poco ci volse per farmi credere che non voleva dare la licenza che subito mandasse il Lici che appunto quel giorno aveva terminato di formare il terzo gruppo del signor Valle’ [It took little to convince me that he did not want to grant the licence, so I immediately sent Lici, who on that day had finished his work on Mr Valle’s third group] (AGL, 1753, XX, folio 69). In the summer of that same year, Lici returned to Doccia; afterwards, sculptors Bartolomeo Cavaceppi and Vincenzo Pacetti, and others, supplied Ginori with the models for his porcelains. The Marchese’s correspondence with high-profile personalities in Rome is ample. In 1753-1754, several crates containing plaster casts of models from ancient and newer models arrived from Rome. A letter dated 3 August 1754 documents shipping of 18 crates to the port of Livorno: ‘L’ordinario scorso diedi l’ordine di mandare a V. Ecc. la polizza di carico di cinque statue [...] il suo giovane ha cominciato a formare la sesta statua...’ [In the last order I asked that  your Excellency be sent the bill of lading relative to five statues . . .  his assistant has begun to cast the sixth statue . . .] with a ‘Nota  delle casse che si spediscono di Livorno sulla Tartana del Pron. Fontana e a cura di Francesco Lici sopracarico: cassa n. 1) entrovi parte delle forme di Fauno di campidoglio e altri pezzi di forma; cassa n. 2) entrovi getto d’una statuina rappresentante un Camino comprato; […] n. 8) entrovi gli appositi busti comprati Alessandro Magno, Vergine Vestale, Faustina, Comodo, Messalina e inoltre un busto anonimo regalato da Bartolomeo Cavaceppi; […] cassa n. 12) entrovi forma di busto di Druso ; cassa n. 13) entrovi forma di busto di Settimio Severo; cassa n. 14 ) – ; cassa n. 15 ) entrovi i getti degli otto apostoli comprati ultimamente; cassa n. 16) entrovi le forme de busti di Silla, Zecnocrate, Calligola e della testa d’uno schiavo; cassa n. 17) entrovi il getto della statua di Antinoo; cassa n. 18) Forma di Statua di Alessandro Magno, del Putto col Cigno ed Ercole Fanciullo’ [Note of the crates sent to Livorno aboard Pron. Fontana’s tartana, overseen by Francesco Lici:  crate n. 1) part of the moulds for the Capitol Faun and other parts of moulds; crate no. 2) purchased cast of a small statue of a Camino; […] no. 8) purchased busts of Alexander the Great, a Vestal Virgin, Faustina, Commodus, Messalina and an anonymous bust donated by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi; […] crate no. 12) mould for a bust of Drusus; crate no. 13) mould for a bust of Septimius Severus; crate no. 14 ) – ; crate no. 15 ) casts of last-purchased eight Apostles; crate no. 16) moulds for Sulla, Zecnocrate, Caligula and head of a slave; crate no. 17) cast of the statue of Antinous; crate no. 18) mould for the statues of Alexander the Great, Putto with a Swan and the Child Hercules].(6)

It is in these crates that we first note several Roman busts.

In July of 1754, chief modeller Bruschi informed the Marchese of the difficulties he encountered when using certain of Squarcione’s moulds for large statues: ‘a usare certe forme per le statue grandi [...] ha mandato ancora delle forme, ma se le fo di porcellana le sciupo, e ne perdiam la forma [...] per adesso farò certi busti alla meglio ch’ha mandato il medesimo da Roma’. Finally, a letter from Bruschi, dated 7 September 1754, tells us that from Rome he received twelve examples of ancient sculpture from the Capitoline collections: ‘confermando a V. che questa mattina sono state imbarcate due casse dirette a V. [...] in una di dette casse, cioè nella più grande, sono teste di dodici Cesari avute dal Signor Campiglia, in quella minore sono i getti dei gruppi del Bernino [confirming that this morning two crates addressed to Your Excellency were loaded onboard . . . in the larger of the two are the twelve heads of Caesars received from Mr Campiglia; in the smaller, the casts of the group by Bernino] (AGL,1754, 137,I,c 187r-v).

From these derived the models finished by Bruschi himself, who perfected the technique, again together with the formatore Squarcione: ‘Squarcione forma il Busto a testa di Adriano avendolo rifatto di terra, cosa che non si potrà il sfuggire a tutte quelle forme cavate dal Marmo. Per fare gli Altri busti delle teste che non l’Anno, è necessario avere il libro delle stampe del Mose Capitolino, che me fece tempo a mandare a Firenze, però Lo potrebbe far qua ritornare, per copiare gli altri busti’ [Squarcione shaped the bust of Hadrian, having cast it in clay as he did all those works sculpted in marble. To make the other busts for which we have no mould, we must possess the book of the prints which in its time I had sent to me in Florence, although it could be returned here in order to copy other busts] (AGL, file 137, II, c. 361v.) The head of Hadrian was thus the prototype; the other heads were moulded beginning in 1754 and probably until 1760. (7) We can deduce that the book of etchings of these works, made by Campiglia and sent by Giuseppe Gaetano Bottari to the Marchese, became a source of inspiration on a par with the plaster casts.

According to Lankheit, (8) these sculptures were considered a part of Ginori’s so-called al naturale production; at this point, we can reasonably affirm that ‘Twelve Heads’ – of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian – were among the casts sent from Rome. In a letter dated 27 March 1756, Abbot Bottari wrote to Carlo Ginori about other heads: ‘mi sono abboccato con detto Signor Cavaceppi, e dato che il prezzo de consaputi Busti de Cesari era parso grave, ho procurato di restringerlo quanto ho potuto riducendolo alla pura spesa della fattura, e gesso’ [I spoke with Mr Cavaceppi and given that the price of the well-known Busts of the Caesars seemed high, I attempted to lower it as I could, reducing it to the sole cost of production plus the plaster]; and in an attachment describes the three busts: ‘forma della testa di Marco Aurelio vecchio, Getto di testa con Busto di Antonino Pio, Getto della testa con busto di Traiano’ [cast of the head of Marcus Aurelius as an old man, cast of a head and shoulders portrait of Antoninus Pius, cast of a head and shoulders portrait of Trajan] (AGL, Ginori Sen. Carlo. Miscellaneous letters addressed to him. 1756, file no. 24 XII, 5, c. 111). This assortment also included heads of Commodus, Antoninus Pius and Sulla, listed in the inventory, for a total, therefore, of eighteen ‘life size heads of the Caesars’ (9), later cited in the lists drawn up at the death of Carlo Ginori and in any case included in the 1760 inventory/price list as ‘Teste di Cesari di grandezza naturale modellate dagli originali del Campidoglio colla loro base di porcellana bianca’ [Life-size white porcelain Heads of the Caesars modelled from the originals at the Campidoglio, with bases].

After 1760, French fashion dictated a change in production strategies and the consequent abandonment of the statuary models in favour of smaller figures and bas-reliefs.  We are nevertheless certain that heads of the Caesars were indeed manufactured, since in the 1765 inventory, drawn up to document the works in the Livorno storehouses between 1757 and 1765, there appears the entry: ‘2 Teste di Cesari’.

Porcelain versions of some of the Heads of the Caesars are known today: Julius Caesar (formerly in the Costantini collection, Rome); Augustus (Minneapolis Institute of Art); Tiberius (private collection, Milan); Otho (private collection); Vitellius (recently seen on the market, formerly in the collection of the Edward James Foundation, Chichester); Vespasian (recently seen on the market, formerly in the collection of the Edward James Foundation, Chichester); Caligula (seen on the New York market in 2010). Furthermore, heads of Hadrian (1754) and of Trajan (1756) are known to be currently in private collections; the fates of the heads of Nero, Galba, Domitian, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Antoninus Pius and Sulla are instead unknown.


1) The recent exhibition entitled Claudio Imperatore. Messalina, Agrippina e le ombre di una dinastia, at the Museo dell’Ara Pacis in Rome, is an interesting source as concerns reassessment of the figure of the emperor and his iconography. This bust shows similarities not only to the Capitol portraits but also to official portraiture which depicts an idealised emperor in the guise of Jupiter or triumphally nude, as in the statues at the Pio-Clementino Museum, the Vatican Museums and the Musée du Louvre, but a coincidence which entirely justifies use of the plaster cast is still missing.

2) Sotheby’s, Important French Furniture, Ceramics and Carpets including Property from the Estate of Mrs. Robert Lehman, New York, 18 November 2010, lot 1.

3) Sotheby’s, Catalogue of fine continental porcelain, London, 5 May 1980, lot 15. 

4) The portrait does not seem to match any of the busts of Roman emperors held by the Uffizi and now at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Florence, on which we know the Florentine sculptor drew for his models.

5) R. Balleri, Modelli della manifattura Ginori di Doccia. Settecento e gusto antiquario. Romea 2014, preface.

6) A. Biancalana, 2009, pp. 81-82.

7) D. Zikos, in J. Kraftner, C. Lehner-Jobst, A. d’Agliano, 2005, p. 401.

8) Lankheit 1982, pp. 17-38.

9) Biancalana 2009, pp. 99-100.

Estimate    30.000 / 50.000
An export licence is available for this lot

Giorgio Vasari

(Arezzo, 1511- Firenze, 1574)


olio su tavola, cm 165x117



oil on panel, 165 x 117 cm



Castello di Vincigliata (Fiesole), collezione Graetz



Mostra dei tesori segreti delle case fiorentine, Firenze 1960, n. 47



M. Gregori, Mostra dei tesori segreti delle case fiorentine, Firenze 1960, pp. 24-25, n. 47; P. Barocchi, Vasari pittore, Firenze 1964, p. 22; C. Caneva, in Il primato del disegno. Catalogo della mostra, Firenze 1980, p. 219; L. Corti, Vasari. Catalogo completo, Firenze 1989, pp. 38-39, n. 21, ill.; U. Baldini, Giorgio Vasari Pittore, Firenze 1994, p. 89, p. 150 nota 26, pp. 161-162 pp. 161-62, illustrato a p. 51.


Referenze Fotografiche

Fototeca Federico Zeri, scheda 16929


“Nel medesimo tempo… feci a Messer Ottaviano de’ Medici una Venere et una Leda con i cartoni di Michelagnolo; et in un gran quadro un San Girolamo quanto il vivo, in penitenza, il quale, contemplando la morte di Cristo che ha davanti in sulla croce, si percuote il petto per staccare dalla mente le cose di Venere e le tentazioni della carne che alcune volte il molestavano, ancorché fosse nei boschi e in luoghi solinghi e selvatichi, secondo che egli stesso di sé largamente racconta. Per lo che dimostrare, fece una Venere che con Amore in braccio fugge da quella contemplazione, avendo per mano il Giuoco et essendogli cascate per terra le frecce e il turcasso, senzaché le saette, da Cupido tirate verso quel Santo, tornano rotte verso di lei et alcune che cascano sono riportate col becco dalle colombe di essa Venere”.

Questa notizia contenuta nella autobiografia che conclude l’edizione giuntina delle Vite (1568) è ulteriormente precisata da Giorgio Vasari in un Ricordo del 1541 in cui “… a ultimo dì di agosto … il Magnifico Messer Ottaviano de’ Medici mi fece fare un quadre grande di braccia due e mezzo alto e braccia due largo, drentovi un San Ieronimo in penitenzia che tenendo un Crocifisso in mano si percuote il petto: e mentre Venere abbracciando i suoi amori si fuggie et il giuoco lo strigne per un braccio e Cupido gli tira la freccia, sendo cascati gli arnesi amorosi, l’orazione rompe ogni cosa venerea. Quale si lavorò con diligenzia, montò detto quadro scudi cinquanta, cioè scudi 50”.

Solo recentemente il passo vasariano è stato autorevolmente associato alla tavola, pressoché identica alla nostra anche per dimensioni, conservata alla Galleria Palatina (inv. 1912, n. 393, fig. 1) la cui provenienza dalla collezione di don Lorenzo de’ Medici nella villa della Petraia è documentata dall’inventario del 1649 (E. Borea, La quadreria di don Lorenzo de’ Medici, Firenze 1977, pp. 64-65).

È il Vasari stesso a ricordare, nella propria Vita e nei Ricordi, altre versioni della stessa composizione eseguite, rispettivamente, nel 1545 per Messer Tommaso Cambi, mercante fiorentino attivo a Napoli per il quale l’artista aveva ripetutamente lavorato, e nel 1547 per Monsignor de’ Rossi dei conti di San Secondo, vescovo di Pavia, il quale avrebbe mandato in Francia, forse quale dono diplomatico, il “San Ieronimo in penitenzia quando Venere fugge dalla orazione di detto coi suoi amori…”.

Alla nostra e a quella di Pitti si aggiunge infatti la tavola di uguale soggetto ma variata nella composizione e nello stile ora nell’ Art Institute di Chicago (fig. 2), e quella nella City Art Gallery di Leeds, non del tutto compiuta.

Incerta è dunque la committenza e la data esatta della tavola qui offerta, identificata per la prima volta da Mina Gregori, che per essere la più vicina all’esemplare palatino è lecito ritenere immediatamente contigua anche sotto il profilo della cronologia. Non se ne conoscono le vicende collezionistiche prima della sua comparsa a Roma presso Carlo Sestieri, come riportato da Federico Zeri in una nota alla fotografia, né si può identificare, ad esempio, con la tavola descritta in diversi inventari ottocenteschi in casa dei marchesi Bartolommei a Firenze come raffigurante “S. Girolamo nel deserto con figure simboliche” (1831) e “S. Girolamo con degli amorini, una donna etc….” (1859).

Come segnalato dalla critica, sono palesi i debiti contratti qui da Giorgio Vasari nei confronti del Bandinelli e di Michelangelo dal cui modello, nello stesso periodo e per il medesimo committente, Vasari aveva dipinto le note versioni di Venere e Cupido e Leda e il cigno, sofisticati temi erotici di cui la tentazione di San Girolamo rappresenta, per così dire, l’altra faccia e la risposta cristiana.

Alla figura del santo si riferisce un disegno nell’Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica a Roma (inv. FC 130570; cfr. F. Haerb, The drawings of Giorgio Vasari 1511-1574, Roma 2015, p. 225, n. 78).



Castello di Vincigliata (Fiesole), Graetz Collection

Exhibitions: Mostra dei tesori segreti delle case fiorentine, Florence 1960, n. 47



M. Gregori, Mostra dei tesori segreti delle case fiorentine, Florence 1960, pp. 24-25, n. 47; P. Barocchi, Vasari pittore, Florence 1964, p. 22; C. Caneva, in Il primato del disegno, exhibition catalogue, Florence 1980, p. 219; L. Corti, Vasari. Catalogo completo, Florence 1989, pp. 38-39, n. 21, ill.; U. Baldini, Giorgio Vasari Pittore, Florence 1994, pp. 89, 150, note 26, 161-62

Photo References: Fototeca Federico Zeri, n. 16929


“At the same time ….I executed for M. Ottaviano de’ Medici a Venus and a Leda  from the cartoons of Michelagnolo, and in a large picture a S. Jerome in Penitence of the size of life, who, contemplating the death of Christ, whom he has before him on the Cross, is beating his breast in order to drive from his mind the thoughts of Venus and the temptations of the flesh, which at times tormented him, although he lived in woods and places wild and solitary, as he relates of himself at great length. To demonstrate which I made a Venus who with Love in her arms is flying from that contemplation, and holding Play by the hand, while the quiver and arrows have fallen to the ground; besides which, the shafts shot by Cupid against that Saint return to him all broken, and some that fall are brought back to him by the doves of Venus in their beaks.”

Giorgio Vasari further elaborated on this information which is contained in the autobiography that concludes the Giunti edition of the Lives (1568) in a Ricordo dated 1541 in which he says “… on the last day of August … the magnificent M. Ottaviano de’ Medici had me execute a large painting two and one half braccia high and two braccia wide of a penitent Saint Jerome holding a Crucifix in his hand and beating his breast: and while Venus embracing her loves flees and Play grasps her arm and Cupid shoots his arrow, the tools of love fall to the ground, the prayer breaks up all things of Love. I worked on it diligently, and the painting came to fifty scudi  ”.

This passage was only recently – and authoritatively – associated with the painting in the Galleria Palatina (inv. 1912, n. 393) which is almost identical to the one shown here, even in terms of size. The Palatina painting’s provenance from the collection of Don Lorenzo de’ Medici’s collection in the Villa della Petraia is documented in the 1649 inventory (E. Borea, La quadreria di don Lorenzo de’ Medici, Florence 1977, pp. 64-65).

In both his Lives and the Ricordi Vasari mentions other versions of the same composition executed in 1545 for Messer Tommaso Cambi a Florentine merchant active in Naples for whom the artist worked on several occasions, and another (1547) for Monsignor de’ Rossi dei Conti di San Secondo, Bishop of Pavia, who may have sent the “San Ieronimo in penitenzia quando Venere fugge dalla orazione di detto coi suoi amori…” to France, perhaps as a diplomatic gift..

Our painting, the one in the Galleria Palatina, the Temptation of Saint Jerome in the Art Institute of Chicago, and the unfinished version in the City Art Gallery of Leeds are all similar as to subject, while the latter two differ in both composition and style.

Therefore, both the patron and the exact date – albeit during the 1540s – of the painting offered here are uncertain. Mina Gregori was the first to identify it, and since it is the most similar to the Palatina picture it is legitimate to believe that it is the closest to it in chronological terms as well.

We do not know its history prior to its appearance in Carlo Sestieri’s collection in Rome as Federico Zeri indicated in a note on the back of the photograph. However, it is possible that our painting may be the one described in several nineteenth-century inventories of the Florence home of the Marchesi Bartolommei as “Saint Jerome in the desert with symbolic figures” (S. Girolamo nel deserto con figure simboliche), (1831) and “Saint Jerome with cupids, a woman etc…” (S. Girolamo con degli amorini, una donna etc…. (1859) (The Getty Provenance Index).

As pointed out by scholars, in this painting Giorgio Vasari was clearly indebted to Bandinelli and Michelangelo. Using his model, during the same period and for the same client, Vasari painted his famous versions of Venus and Cupid and Leda and the Swan. The Temptation of Saint Jerome shows the other face of these sophisticated erotic subjects and the Christian response to them.

A drawing in the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica in Rome (FC 130570) refers to the figure of the saint (see F. Haerb, The Drawings of Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), Rome 205, p. 225, n. 78).



Estimate    300.000 / 500.000
An export licence is available for this lot

Antonio Mancini

(Roma 1852 - Roma 1930)


olio su tela, cm 101x126

firmato e iscritto "London" in basso a sinistra

retro: sul telaio cartiglio della mostra alla Royal Academy of Arts di Londra del 1956-1957



oil on canvas, 39" 3/4 x 49" 1/2

signed and inscribed "London" lower left

on the reverse: on the stretcher label of the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, 1956-1957



Mrs Leopold Hirsch, Londra

Mrs Thomas Lowinsky

Collezione Margaret Wilson Llangammarch, Breconshire, Inghilterra

Collezione J.S. Clarke (in deposito al Bristol City Museum Art Gallery, 1958-1983)

Collezione Edward Cohen, Londra

Collezione privata, Milano



Italian Exhibition, Earl's Court, Londra, 1904

British Portraits, Royal Academy of Arts, Londra, 1956-1957

Trafalgar Galleries at the Royal Academy III, Londra, 1983



Italian Exhibition, Earl's Court, London 1904, p. 56

E. Giannelli, Artisti napoletani viventi. Pittori, scultori, incisori, architetti, Napoli 1916, p. 308

A. Schettini, Mancini, Napoli 1953, p. 240

British Portraits, Catalogue 3 - second edition, winter exhibition (Royal Academy of Arts, Londra, 1956-1957), London 1956, p. 149, n. 483 (con datazione erronea 1906 circa)

Bristol Art Gallery Annual Report, 1958

D. Cecchi, Antonio Mancini, Torino 1966, pp. 184, 193-194, 325, ripr. tav. 28

D. Cecchi, Denunciò la propria famiglia l'immortalatore degli "Scugnizzi". Scritti inediti di Antonio Mancini, "o pittore pazzo", in "Giornale d'Italia", 28-29 gennaio 1969, p. 3

Don Riccardo, Artecatalogo dell’Ottocento. “Vesuvio” dei pittori napoletani, vol. II, Roma 1973, p. 289

Trafalgar Galleries at the Royal Academy III, London 1983, pp. 98-99, n. 38 ripr.

Phillips Son and Neale, 18 aprile 1983, n. 173 (da Witt Library)

Le opere pittoriche vendute in Italia e all'estero, a cura de "Il Mercato Dell'Arte" - Prezzi e mercato 2, Como 1984, p. 98 ripr.

E. Kilmurray, R. Ormond, John Singer Sargent. The later portraits. Complete Paintings, vol. III, New Haven and London 2003, p. 74

W. Hiesinger in Antonio Mancini Nineteenth-Century Italian Master Celebrating the Vance N. Jordan Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 20 ottobre 2007 - 20 gennaio 2008, catalogo a cura di U.W. Hiesinger, New Haven 2007

M. Ursino, Ritratti Eccellenti nella pittura di grandi maestri dell'Ottocento e del Novecento, presentazione di M. Calvesi, Roma 2007, p. 54

M. Carrera, Antonio Mancini in Inghilterra. Il rapporto con John Singer Sargent in “Storia dell’arte”, 133, settembre-dicembre 2012, pp. 153-180: 165, ripr. fig. 15

C. Virno, Antonio Mancini. Catalogo ragionato dell'opera, Roma 2019, vol. I, pp. 321-322 n. 530


Nel maggio del 1902, Antonio Mancini partecipa alla prestigiosa esposizione alla Royal Academy di Londra debuttando così ufficialmente tra i ritrattisti contemporanei attivi in terra inglese. Arrivato in Inghilterra l’anno precedente grazie al rapporto di consolidata amicizia con il collega americano John Singer Sargent, il suo impegno nei mesi vissuti a Londra si concentra proprio sulla ritrattistica di commissione, tematica principale della sua ricchissima produzione.

Il dipinto esposto alla Royal Academy con il generico titolo Portrait of a lady, è identificabile con il Ritratto di Mary Hunter, nota collezionista di arte contemporanea, amica di Sargent e principale committente di Mancini nel periodo londinese. La Hunter, già effigiata da Sargent nel 1898 in un dipinto a figura intera custodito alla Tate Gallery di Londra, viene raffigurata da Mancini in abito nero su sfondo scuro in un ambiente della casa di famiglia di Selaby, nel Darlington, luogo in cui l’artista romano ritrae anche il marito e la figlia. Alla sua sinistra c’è un mobile su cui la signora sembra cercare un appoggio con la mano mentre è comodamente adagiata su un divanetto di stoffa gialla che illumina la scena.

Il quadro sembra essere speculare al nostro, realizzato pochi mesi dopo e raffigurante la moglie di Leopold Hirsch, Mathilde, seduta su un sofà dai toni giallo dorato, tra morbidi cuscini colorati che le coprono i piedi. Tiene con una mano un libro aperto, le cui pagine bianche, assieme al tessuto che le ricopre il decolté, diventano una meravigliosa fonte di luce, mentre l’altra è appoggiata a un tavolino alla sua destra. In entrambi i ritratti si nota la generosa pennellata materica, tipica della produzione di Mancini di questo periodo, che tanto colpisce la critica intervenuta all’esposizione della Royal Academy.

La signora, elegantemente vestita con un abito nero che acquista volume grazie alla pastosità della pennellata, guarda con un’espressione curiosa, difficilmente decifrabile, il pittore che la ritrae nella sua dimora, attorniata da vari oggetti, sullo sfondo di un tendone scuro che impedisce alla luce di filtrare e crea un effetto di quinta teatrale. Per un certo periodo, le giornate di posa necessarie per eseguire questo dipinto si sovrappongono a quelle richieste da Sargent impegnato a portare a termine un altro ritratto di Mathilde esposto, proprio nel 1902, alla Royal Academy.

Mentre il quadro di Sargent è impostato con la figura in piedi, seguendo un gusto di tradizione e di ufficialità con dei chiari rimandi, nell’abito rosa e nel pizzo bianco, al Ritratto di Filippo IV di Spagna di Velasquez - allontanandosi quindi dalla scioltezza della posa tipica della sua felice produzione -, in quello di Mancini il contesto è più informale e vicino alcuni insegnamenti attinti proprio dalla ritrattistica dell’amico. Quel gesto della mano, ad esempio, così particolare e anomalo nelle figure effigiate dal pittore romano, si trova frequentemente nelle opere di Sargent già dal decennio precedente. Basti pensare al Ritratto di Mrs Hugh Hammersley del 1892, o a quello delle sorelle Wyndham, del 1899, entrambi al Metropolitan Museum di New York. Nel primo caso la protagonista, seduta senza appoggiare il busto posto di fronte allo spettatore, ruota il braccio sinistro per appoggiarlo allo schienale del divanetto, nel secondo la mano della giovane collocata tra le altre due effigiate, sembra voglia allungarsi sinuosamente fino oltre la tela, incrociando quella della sorella alle sue spalle.

All’epoca dei due ritratti, Frances Mathilde Seligmann, sposatasi nel 1890 con il facoltoso banchiere londinese Leopold Hirsch e apprezzato collezionista di arte antica e contemporanea, ha trentun anni. Si spegnerà nel 1921, undici anni prima del marito, scomparso a 75 anni. L’11 maggio 1934 la raccolta d’arte dei coniugi Hirsch viene battuta all’asta nella sede londinese di Christie, Manson & Woods, accompagnata dal catalogo dal titolo The collection of important pictures drawings and engravings of Leopold Hirsch. Il dipinto di Mancini, però, rimane in famiglia, nella collezione della figlia Ruth, moglie del pittore Thomas Lowinsky.

La gestazione dell’opera manciniana ci viene in parte svelata da Dario Cecchi nella monografia sul pittore del 1966, dove, a pagina 184, leggiamo: “In data 24 febbraio 1902 [Mancini] aveva ricevuto una breve letterina dal ricco e notissimo Leopold Hirsch con la quale gli si richiedeva quale cifra il pittore avrebbe richiesto per fare il ritratto alla di lui moglie Mathilde”. Due mesi dopo Mancini sta ancora lavorando al dipinto quando ottiene, grazie a Lady Hunter, l’incarico di eseguire al più presto un ritratto a Lord Currie, ambasciatore inglese a Roma presso il re d’Italia. Ciò avrebbe significato una repentina partenza per l’Italia con la necessità di rientrare solertemente a Londra per finire, entro i termini di consegna pattuiti, il ritratto di Mathilde.

Mancini entra in agitazione, chiede quindi consiglio a Sargent che minimizza il problema. Si rivolge allora al marchese Giorgio Capranica del Grillo, suo mecenate e protettore, scrivendogli a Roma: “io debbo qui a Londra finire il ritratto di Madama Hirsch a maggio, di cui ho ricevuto cento sterline in anticipo…” (Cecchi, p. 191). Nel frattempo vive con forte frustrazione l’inaugurazione alla Royal Academy a cui non vuole presenziare perché amareggiato dall’accettazione di un suo solo dipinto, per altro mal posizionato, su quattro presentati. Inoltre è deluso dal comportamento di Sargent, molto ben introdotto alla Royal Academy, ma poco disponibile ad appianare le ansie dell’amico, in parte immotivate. La sua risaputa instabilità psichica non gli consente di godere degli ottimi riscontri ottenuti dal quadro esposto, anzi, peggiora a causa dei frequenti snervanti rinvii da parte di Mathilde Hirsch per posare al ritratto e dalle inopportune sollecitazioni del marito che lamenta lentezza nella realizzazione del quadro. Queste frizioni con i signori Hirsch culminano in una lettera di risposta di Mancini a Mr. Leopold nella quale emerge chiaramente che il problema dell’avanzamento rallentato del lavoro, sia imputabile a “l’ennui de Madame à poser”. Proprio per evitare di arrecare ulteriore disturbo alla signora, Mancini propone al marito di farsi restituire la tela incompleta e, in cambio delle 100 sterline già riscosse, di dipingere “une peinture agreable pour le même prix” (Cecchi, p. 194, nota 3). Motivando l’impossibilità di scegliere un supporto di dimensioni maggiori “parce que la grille que je mets devant le model me donne cet grandeur mathematique” - Hirsch ha espresso perplessità riguardo la superficie pittorica? – Mancini ci conferma, anche per questo dipinto, l’utilizzo della graticola, una coppia di telai quadrettati a spago, posti davanti al modello e alla tela per garantire l'esattezza delle proporzioni nell'impianto prospettico. Il quadrettato, si sa, è spesso volutamente lasciato a vista nelle opere manciniane e qui si nota chiaramente in particolare nella zona del cuscino rosa.

Il 30 aprile una comunicazione del segretario di Hirsch pone fine all’impasse. Mancini viene pregato di riprendere il lavoro tanto bene iniziato e finalmente riesce a portarlo a temine con soddisfazione dei committenti che il 24 giugno gli inviano un bigliettino di congratulazioni su cui il pittore annota: “Ricevetti il resto di 60 sterline alle 160 ricevute già” (M. Carrera, Antonio Mancini in Inghilterra. Il rapporto con John Singer Sargent, “Storia dell’Arte”, 133, 2012, n. 33, CAM Editrice, Roma, p. 179, nota 86). Terminato il dipinto, Mancini lascia Londra e torna a Roma da Capranica che ha seguito, seppur da lontano, tutta la vicenda. L’abilità di eccelso pittore gli ha permesso di concludere egregiamente il ritratto di Mathilde senza lasciare trasparire la sofferenza patita nel periodo di realizzazione.

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Giacomo Favretto

(Venezia 1849 - 1887)

MERCATO DI FIORI (1881-1882 circa)




olio su tela, cm 78x52

firmato in basso a destra

retro: iscritto due volte "Alfredo Candida viale Principe Eugenio 16", sul telaio cartiglio della mostra Giacomo Favretto. Venezia, fascino e seduzione del 2010




oil on canvas, 30” 5/8 x 20” 1/2

signed lower right

on the reverse: inscribed twice "Alfredo Candida viale Principe Eugenio 16", on the stretcher label of the exhibition Giacomo Favretto. Venezia, fascino e seduzione, 2010



Collezione G. Masini, Firenze

Galleria F. Ciardiello, Firenze

Collezione G. Jucker, Milano

Collezione privata, Milano



IIIª Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia, Sala B - Mostra retrospettiva del pittore Giacomo Favretto, Venezia, Palazzo dell’Esposizione, 22 aprile-31 ottobre 1899, n. 10

Glorie della Pittura italiana dell’Ottocento, Milano, Galleria dell’Esame, marzo 1946, n. 30

Exhibition of Italian XIX Century Paintings, New York, Metropolitan Museum - Galleria Wildenstein, 1949, n. 45

Vita a Venezia. Colore e sentimento nella pittura veneta dell’800, Milano, Galleria Bottegantica, 13 febbraio-2 aprile 2010,  s.n.

Giacomo Favretto. Venezia, fascino e seduzione, Roma - Venezia, Chiostro del Bramante - Museo Correr, 31 luglio-21 novembre 2010, n. 48

L’incanto dei macchiaioli nella collezione di Giacomo e Ida Jucker, Milano, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, 13 novembre 2015- 29 febbraio 2016, n. 51

Anima Mundi. Il sentimento del colore. 1850-1950, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Mario Rimoldi delle Regole d’Ampezzo, 6 dicembre 2019-2 febbraio 2020, s.n.



A. Centelli, Giacomo Favretto e le sue opere, in “L’Illustrazione Italiana”, a. XIV, nn. 25-26, 19 giugno 1887, p. 437

Catalogo illustrato. Terza Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia, catalogo della mostra (Venezia, Palazzo dell’Esposizione), Venezia 1899, p. 20 (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

U. Fleres, Esposizione Artistica Internazionale di Venezia. Mostra retrospettiva del pittore Giacomo Favretto, Roma 1899, p. 100

S.D. Paoletti, L’Arte alla III Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia 1899, in “L’Alto Adige”, Trento 1899, pp. 83-84

G. Secretant, La III Esposizione Internazionale di Belle Arti a Venezia - I. La sala Favretto, in “L’Illustrazione Italiana”, a. XXVI, n. 20, 14 maggio 1899, p. 319 (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

E. Colasanti, Giacomo Favretto, in Enciclopedia Italiana, vol. XIV, Milano 1932, p. 917

E. Somaré, La pittura italiana dell’Ottocento, Novara 1944, pp. XXI, XLII, tav. 57 (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

E. Somaré, Glorie della Pittura italiana dell’Ottocento, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Galleria dell’Esame), 1946, n. 30

C. Battaglia, Pittori dell’800. Giacomo Favretto veneziano, in “Giornale di Sicilia”, 20 marzo 1949, p. 3

E. Somaré, Pittori Italiani dell’Ottocento, catalogo della mostra (New York, Galleria Wildenstein - Metropolitan Museum), New York 1949, pp. 58-59, tav. 45 (con il titolo La Bottega della fioraia e con le misure 75 x 51 cm)

U. Galetti, E. Camesasca, Enciclopedia della pittura italiana F-O, Milano 1951, p. 906 (con il titolo Bottega della fioraia)

E. Somaré, La Raccolta Giacomo Jucker, Milano 1951, pp. 8, 35-36, 213, tav. 59 (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia e con le misure 76,5 x 58,5 cm)

A.M. Brizio, Giacomo Favretto in Grande Dizionario Enciclopedico, vol. VI, Torino 1956, p. 196, tav. 67

E. Somaré, Pittori Italiani dell’Ottocento, catalogo della mostra (IIª edizione), (New York, Galleria Wildenstein - Metropolitan Museum, 1949), Milano 1957, pp. 58-59, tav. 45 (con i titoli La Bottega della fioraia o The Flower Girl’s Shop o The Florist e con le misure 75 x 51 cm)

M. Emiliani Dalai (scheda), in Pittura italiana dell’Ottocento nella raccolta Giacomo Jucker, a cura di M. Emiliani Dalai, G. Mercandino Jucker, Milano 1968, tav. 67 (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

G. Perocco, R. Trevisan, Giacomo Favretto, Torino 1986, n. 115, p. 132 ill. (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia e con le misure 75 x 51 cm)

F.P. Rusconi, Giacomo Jucker tra collezionismo e ricerca storica, in Jucker collezionisti e mecenati, a cura di A. Negri, Electa, Milano 1998, pp. 48, 51 (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

Jucker collezionisti e mecenati, a cura di A. Negri, Milano 1998, p. 248 (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia e con le misure 76,5 x 58,5 cm)

Giacomo Favretto 1849-1887, a cura di R. Trevisan, La Tipografica, Scorzè 1999, p. 146 ill. (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia e con le misure 75 x 51 cm)

P. Serafini, Per una storia della pittura veneta dell’Ottocento, in Vita a Venezia. Colore e sentimento nella pittura veneta dell’800, catalogo della mostra, a cura di E. Savoia, (Milano, Galleria Bottegantica), Funo di Argelato 2010, pp. 13-14 (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

E. Savoia, L. Savoia (scheda), in Vita a Venezia. Colore e sentimento nella pittura veneta dell’800, catalogo della mostra, a cura di E. Savoia, (Milano, Galleria Bottegantica), Funo di Argelato 2010, pp. 32 ill. - 33 ill. (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

Giacomo Favretto. Venezia, fascino e seduzione, catalogo della mostra, a cura di P. Serafini, (Roma - Venezia, Chiostro del Bramante - Museo Correr), Cinisello Balsamo 2010, p. 147 ill. (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

P. Serafini (scheda), in Giacomo Favretto. Venezia, fascino e seduzione, catalogo della mostra, a cura di P. Serafini, (Roma - Venezia, Chiostro del Bramante - Museo Correr), Cinisello Balsamo 2010, p. 183 (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

E. Querci (scheda), in L’incanto dei macchiaioli nella collezione di Giacomo e Ida Jucker, catalogo della mostra, a cura di A. Di Lorenzo, F. Mazzocca, (Milano, Museo Poldi Pezzoli), Cinisello Balsamo 2015, pp. 160-161 ill. (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)

S. Cecchetto, Anima Mundi. Il sentimento del colore, in Anima Mundi. Il sentimento del colore. 1850-1950, catalogo della mostra, a cura di S. Cecchetto, (Cortina d’Ampezzo, Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Mario Rimoldi delle Regole d’Ampezzo), Crocetta del Montello 2019, p. 27 (con il titolo La bottega del fioraio)

Anima Mundi. Il sentimento del colore. 1850-1950, catalogo della mostra, a cura di S. Cecchetto, (Cortina d’Ampezzo, Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Mario Rimoldi delle Regole d’Ampezzo), Crocetta del Montello 2019, pp. 122 ill. - 123 (con il titolo La bottega del fioraio)

S. Cecchetto (scheda), in Anima Mundi. Il sentimento del colore. 1850-1950, catalogo della mostra, a cura di S. Cecchetto, (Cortina d’Ampezzo, Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Mario Rimoldi delle Regole d’Ampezzo), Crocetta del Montello 2019, pp. 239 ill. - 241 (con il titolo La bottega del fioraio)

E. Somaré, I maestri della pittura italiana dell’Ottocento. Favretto, Milano s.d., tav. XXXV (con il titolo La bottega della fioraia)


La bottega della fioraia è un noto dipinto di Giacomo Favretto legato a una delle più prestigiose raccolte d’arte italiana dell’Ottocento, la collezione di Giacomo Jucker (1883-1966), rivoluzionario raccoglitore di capolavori scelti secondo un attento e studiato criterio, a garanzia di un costante livello qualitativo. Estimatore in particolare dei Macchiaioli, Jucker non trascura altri ambiti artistici lasciando spazio, sulle pareti della sua dimora milanese in via Mauro Macchi, anche a capolavori di altri maestri dell’Ottocento, da De Nittis, al Piccio, a Mancini, a Ranzoni. Di Favretto, oltre a Il micio sulla biancheria, egli sceglie La bottega della fioraia, la raffigurazione di una giovane venditrice e di una sua cliente tra vasi disseminati sul pavimento e gabbiette appese sulla parete in parte nascoste da un intreccio di sottili steli riproposto nella grata della finestra. Lo sfondo della tela, a prima vista scuro e poco leggibile, lascia emergere poco per volta dettagli sempre più nitidi.

Il dipinto rientra nel filone indagato dal pittore veneziano dopo il soggiorno a Parigi in occasione dell’Esposizione Universale del 1878, e legato alla rappresentazione dell’attività commerciale di varie mercanzie, resa con vivaci pennellate che, nel nostro caso, riempiono la superficie pittorica in un continuo rincorrersi di tocchi di colore. Come fanno altri noti collezionisti a lui contemporanei, quali Mario Rossello con Il venditore di uccelli e Giovanni Treccani degli Alfieri con L’imbeccata ai piccioni, anche Jucker predilige un soggetto in cui la narrazione della quotidianità veneziana si svolge lontano dalla luce chiara e calda che inonda i banchetti improvvisati dai negozianti a ridosso dei muri scrostati delle calli e proposta, ad esempio, ne La venditrice di uccelli (1881 circa, già collezione Calisto Tanzi, asta Pandolfini 2019). Protagonisti di questi dipinti sembrano essere gli stessi modelli colti in momenti diversi della loro attività e principali interpreti di un nuovo realismo favrettiano ispirato alla vita popolare, ben lontano dall’eleganza e dalla raffinatezza delle scene settecentesche veneziane antecedenti a questa felice produzione.


L'iscrizione sul retro riporta il nome e l'indirizzo fiorentino di Alfredo Candida, pittore romano e uno dei primi mercanti d’arte a Firenze, che nel 1870 avviò una galleria in piazza Goldoni destinata agli stranieri, passata al segretario Giovanni Masini e poi ai suoi figli. Un ritratto di Alfredo Candida in costume da brigante ottocentesco si conservava all'ingresso della galleria, sopravvissuta fino al 2010 col nome di Galleria Masini.


La bottega della fioraia is a well-known painting by Giacomo Favretto and linked to one of the most prestigious nineteenth-century collections of Italian art which was owned by Giacomo Jucker (1883-1966), a revolutionary collector of masterpieces that he selected according to strict criteria to guarantee a constant level of quality. A great admirer of the Macchiaioli, Jucker did not, however, neglect other schools and left space on the walls of his home in Via Maura Macchi in Milan for masterpieces by great nineteenth-century painters, from De Nittis, to Piccio, to Mancini, and Ranzoni. In addition to the Kitten on the Linen [Il micio sulla biancheria] Jucker purchased Favretto’s La bottega della fioraia, a picture of a young flower-seller and a client amidst flowerpots on the ground and  cages hanging on the wall which is partially concealed by lattice of thin rods that we see on the window grate. The background, which at first glance seems dark and barely legible, releases its ever-clearer details a little at a time.
This painting belongs to the genre he studied after his trip to Paris for the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris. It also ties in with his depictions of various types of shops all  rendered with lively brushstrokes which, in this painting, fill the surface with a continuous parade of touches of colour. Like other collectors of his day, such as Mario Rossello and Giovanni Treccani degli Alfieri who owned The Bird-Seller [male] and Feeding the Pigeons, respectively, Jucker too preferred a subject in which depictions of daily life in Venice are distant from the pale and warm light that floods the improvised market stalls set up along the peeling walls of Venetian alleys and depicted, for example in The Bird-seller [female] (c. 1881, previously with Calisto Tanzi, Pandolfini sale 2019). The figures in these paintings seem to be the same models captured at different moments of their daily activities and the main actors in what we can call Favretto’s new realism inspired by the common people, far from the elegance and refinement of eighteenth-century Venetian scenes that preceded this successful series.

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