Giovanni Domenico Molinari (1721-1793)
Pair of paintings, the Hagar and Ishmael in the desert, saved by the angel
and Jacob and Rachel at the well
Oil on canvas, H 46 x W 38 cm (without frame) each
The fine paintings presented here shows two biblical episodes: Agar and Ishmael in the desert saved by the angel and Jacob and Rachel at the well. With an original frame, they’re works of Piedmontese (north of Italy) area by an artist belonging to the school of the famous Claudio Francesco Beaumont (1694-1766), first court painter. Stylistically they are attributable to the hand of his best pupil, Giovanni Domenico Molinari (1721-1793).
The paintings are part of a wider series, dispersed on the antiquarian market, coming from a prestigious italian family. On the back there’s a label of the collection of “Ill.mo sig. cav. Rambaudi Felice di Sanfrè”. Felice Rambaudi was born by Alessio Rambaudi and Luisa Pastoris and, like his father, he became a knight and commander of the SS. Maurizio and Lazzaro.
With him one of the two lines of the important Rambaudi family became extinct, the one that became the honor of distinguished public offices. The lines were created in 1706, with the death of the founder, Giovanni Guglielmo Rambaudi. The first descended from Giovanni Matteo, born of Giovanni Guglielmo in 1690. He became a master auditor of the Real Chamber, a counselor to His Majesty and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Alessio, Felice's father, was born from his marriage to Teresa Maria Bogetti.
Felice died unmarried, at Sanfrè, on 10 January 1872. Wishing that his noble heritage would not be lost, he adopted his cousin Tommaso with a will dated January 1872, naming him his universal heir.
Some of these works were studied by Dr. Arabella Cifani, who attributed them to Molinari. Others were recently sold at the auction house of Vercelli Meeting Art (Italy) with the same attribution. On the auction catalogue it’s indicated that some canvases of the series have a signature on the back and, in bibliographic note, that were published by Polish and Martini as works of Beaumont.
If compared, the Galanti Scenes of the Meeting Art with the works studied, the same hand of the artist appears evident, as well as analogous frame.
Giovanni Domenico Molinari was born in Caresana (Vercelli - Italy) in 1721. Very young, he enter in the Beaumon’s studio, where he will continue to work even after the master’s death. Since 1745 him has been documented at the service of the Savoy court. Giovanni Domenico Molinari is today considered one of the most representative painters of the second half of the eighteenth century in Piedmont (north Italy).
In recent years, many of his paintings, both sacred and profane, have re-emerged, allowing him to outline with discreet precision his stylistic evolution.
The comparison between the works of Molinari and the works in question is clear. We can observe how the treatment of human figures and landscapes, inspired by those of Cignaroli, are comparable. The chromatic choice also returns in many of his works: the characteristic use of scarlet red and blue combined with almost iridescent pink. In addition, the use of saturated and bright colors are used by Molinari for the main subjects and in the foreground, so that the landscape or the secondary decorative elements, for which it proposes a more delicate color, are in the background, increasing the depth of the compositions.
The painter in these fine paintings represents two biblical episodes.
The first is the episode of Agar and Ismaele saved by the angel. The story, narrated in Genesis 16:21, is a page in the Old Testament of great emotional tension.
The other painting represents the episode of Jacob and Rachel and not Rebecca at the well as was erroneously indicated in the past. The scene depicts the encounter of a woman with a man sitting next to a stone well. Behind another male character, he rests his right arm on the edge of the well, uncovered, and with his left he holds a walking stick. In fact, there are no camels and gifts that Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, took with him to give to Rebecca, Isaac’s future wife. Nor is the girl in the process of offering water; she indicates a direction to follow, talking with the young man who sits, with humble attitude, before her. In the foreground, on the right, some sheep of a flock rest. The characters are therefore to be identified in Jacob and Rachel during their meeting at the well in the land of Carran, narrated in Genesis 29:9-12.
The couple of paintings, in an excellent state of conservation, adds further confirmation of the pictorial quality of the works of Giovanni Domenico Molinari, increasing the corpus of paintings attributed to him, and is evidence of the collector’s taste in the noble Piedmontese families of the mid-eighteenth century.
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