Almost certainly the picture listed in the inventory of the artist's son Giulio in 1761 (see note);
In a Family collection from at least 1950;
Anonymous sale ("Property from a Private Collection") Sotheby's, London July 7, 2004, lot 48;
There acquired by the present collector.
G. Sestieri, Michele Rocca e la pittura rococo a Roma, Rome 2004, p. 232, reproduced plate LXXVII;
D. Graf, "Gaulli, Giovanni Battista," in Saur Algemeines Künstlerlexicon, 50, Munich-Leipzig 2006, p. 242;
F. Petrucci, "Novità sulla pittura di Bernini, Pietro da Cortona e Baciccio," in M. Fagiolo, P. Portoghesi (eds), Roma Barocca, Bernini, Borromini, Pietro da Cortona e Baciccio, exhibition catalogue, Rome and Milan 2006, pp. 121-123;
F. Petrucci, Baciccio, Rome 2009, p. 606, cat. no. D56a, reproduced.
This painting, which has only recently come to light, appears to be one of two recorded preparatory oil sketches for a large canvas representing The Continence of Scipio, commissioned from Baciccio by the Marchese Niccolò Maria Pallavicini in around 1687. Although the final painting is now lost, the composition is known through a preparatory drawing by the artist in the Künstmuseum, Düsseldorf (see fig. 1; Giovan Battista Gaulli, Il Baciccio, exhibition catalogue, Ariccia, Palazzo Chigi, 11 December 1999 - 12 March 2000, pp. 296-7, cat. no. 71, reproduced p. 271, fig. 18); an oil sketch (36 by 48 cm.) in the Musée Fesch, Ajaccio (op. cit., reproduced p. 296); and a later variant of vertical format (162 by 137 cm.), in a private collection, Genoa.
Baciccio's first idea for the composition is set out in his preparatory drawing (see fig. 1). The present work (which is far more spirited and free than the Ajaccio version) was almost certainly the artist's first oil sketch for the project, and although the overall mise-en-scène broadly reflects that of the preparatory drawing, Baccicio has made a number of significant developments to the composition: most notably in the introduction of the bearded figure with his back to the viewer on the right of the scene (absent in the drawing); the repositioning of the kneeling figure holding an urn further to the right of the scene, to frame the right side of the composition; and the inclusion of the classical arches providing the architectural backdrop to the scene.
The Ajaccio sketch (which almost directly repeats the present sketch in composition) is believed to be identifiable with a bozzetto of the subject recorded in the inventory (no. 58) of the house of the artist's son Giulio in 1761, valued at fifteen scudi and described as 'Bozzetto di Scipione che consegna la Sposa al P.n.pe Lucejo'. A description of a second painting in the same inventory (no. 131), listed as 'Bozzetto di Scipione', may well refer to the present sketch.
Baciccio's final painting of The Continence of Scipio formed part of a series of large works (each measuring 16 by 12 palmi, or around 260 by 350 cm.) commissioned by the Marchese Niccolò Maria Pallavicini from Baciccio, Ciro Ferri (Vittoria and Volumnia before Coriolanus), Domenico Piola (Timoclea before Alexander) and Carlo Maratta (Larenzia nurturing Romulus and Remus). The final work was seen by Nicodemus Tessin in Baciccio's studio in December 1687, providing a likely date of execution for the present work circa 1686.
We are grateful to Dr. Erich Schleier, Dr. Dieter Graf and Mr. Francesco Petrucci for independently confirming the attribution to Baciccio on the basis of colour transparencies (written communications).
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