Offered by Stéphane Renard Fine Art
Old master paintings and drawings
10” x 7 3/4” (255 x 196 mm) - Framed: 16 5/16” x 14” (41.5 x 35.5 cm)
Provenance: Michel Gaud (stamp lower left L. 3482) - Piasa sale on March 26th, 2010 (lot 5)
Gilded wood frame from the Louis XV period
This spectacular red chalk drawing depicts an elderly woman, her eyes bulging, her hand stretched out towards the sky. This disturbing character, who seems close to dementia, and the elongation of her arm with its Mannerist overtones, plunge us into the Florentine artistic milieu of the first half of the 17th century. The proximity of this drawing to some characters in the fresco in the Pitti Palace representing The Muses, Poets and Philosophers chased from Parnassus, the last masterpiece of Giovanni da San Giovanni, leads us to propose an attribution to this artist and a dating of around 1635-1636.
1. Giovanni da San Giovanni, the painter of contradiction
We take here the title of the monography dedicated to the artist by Anna Banti in 1977, which remains the reference book for this artist. The son of a notary, Giovanni Mannozzi, known as Giovanni da San Giovanni, abandoned his studies to go to Florence at the age of sixteen, where he entered the studio of Matteo Rosselli (1578 - 1650) around 1609 and enrolled in the Academy of Drawing Arts in 1612. Around 1615 he produced his first known works, mainly frescoes for the city's tabernacles. He became famous in Florence for his originality, combining an obsessive application to the study of drawing and the reading of poetry and history with a disheveled appearance. Between 1619 and 1620 he decorated the facade of the Antella Palace in Piazza Santa Croce, a decoration that still partly survives today.
The death of Cosimo II in 1621 put an end to the Florentine building activity and Giovanni da San Giovanni left for Rome to find other sponsors with the painter Francesco Furini. In particular, he made friends with Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio, for whom he decorated several rooms in his palace, which led him to leave Rome in 1628 to decorate the Bentivoglio family's palace in Gualtieri in Emilia Romagna.
After a few years spent on various building sites in the Tuscan countryside, he returned to the Medici orbit around 1633, creating a ceiling for Christine de Lorraine at her villa La Quiete. In 1635 he received his last official commission: on the occasion of his marriage to Vittoria della Rovere, Ferdinand II de' Medici entrusted him with the decoration of a large room, also known as the Salone degli Argenti, in the summer appartment on the ground floor of the Palazzo Pitti.
Giovanni da San Giovanni and his assistants (among them the young and promising Volterrano) decorated the ceiling and the vast wall opposite the windows with frescoes celebrating the glory of the Medici family. However, Giovanni da San Giovanni preferred to accept another project with Lorenzo Pucci before completing the decoration of this room; he was then dismissed by the Grand Duke and deprived of his income. Very affected by his disgrace, he died on December 9th, 1636, aged forty-four, of a badly treated gangrene in his knee.
2. Description of the red chalk drawing
The interpretation of our drawing is difficult: an elderly woman with messy hair and a desperate look in her eyes, her back slightly arched, holds a leaflet in her right hand while her left arm rises in the air, as if to take Heaven to task. The whole character is treated with great elegance and the masterly aspect of this slightly derisory movement is further reinforced by the elongation of the arm in relation to the rest of the body.
The presence of a leaf in her right hand could link this representation to that of Morta (Atropos in Greek), one of the three Fates who is sometimes represented reading the book of life, or cutting the thread of life.
3. Related artworks
We have not found any work directly related to this drawing, but the character seems to us to be quite close to the dishevelled harpy represented behind the poetess Sapho, who flees with a violin in her hand, in the fresco representing The Muses, the Poets and the Philosophers chased from Parnassus take refuge in Tuscany (seventh photo of the Gallery). This fresco was executed between 1635 and 1636 by Giovanni de San Giovanni on the eastern wall of the Salone degli Argenti in the Pitti Palace in Florence.
To be noted is the disproportionate length of the harpy's arm.
The three Fates are also represented on the ceiling of the same room (eighth photo of the Gallery), and this time the terrible Morta appears with her arms outstretched and her terrifying face, cutting an oak branch, under the protection of Juno and Venus, and thus accomplishing the union between the Medici family and that of the della Rovere (whose name means oak in Italian).
We also find in a detached fresco from Palazzo Pucci depicting Night and Dawn (last photo of the Gallery), one of Giovanni da San Giovanni's last works, a figure with her arm outstretched and her bosom bared. Although this is a beautiful young woman and not a terrifying old one, it is interesting to note that this relatively unusual pose recurs very repeatedly in Giovanni da San Giovanni's last works, justifying in our view the attribution of our sanguine to this artist and a proposed dating of around 1635-1636.
4. Provenance and framing
This drawing comes from the collection of Doctor Gaud, a medical doctor born on July 18th, 1940 in Saint-Tropez, who sold most of his collection at Sotheby's in Monaco on June 20th, 1987, and then a few other drawings (which included this drawing) at the Piasa sale on March 26th 2010. He was particularly interested in Italian drawings from the Renaissance to the Baroque period, favouring singular pieces by little known artists.
We have chosen to frame this atypical sanguine in a gilded wooden frame from the Louis XV period.
Main bibliographical references :
Anna Banti - Giovanni da San Giovanni pittore della contraddizione - Sansoni Firenze 1977
Silvia Benassai - Mara Visonà Quiete invenzione e inquietudine - Centro Di Firenze 2011
Delevery information :
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