Cassiano dal Pozzo,
by descent to his brother, Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo,
by descent to his son, Gabriele dal Pozzo,
by descent to his son, Cosimo Antonio dal Pozzo,
by whom sold in 1703 to Pope Clement XI,
thence by descent to Cardinal Alessandro Albani;
from whom acquired in 1762 by James Adam for King George III;
presumably his sale, London, Greenwood, 7 May 1791;
Charles Townley (his pencil inscription on the old album page: The Urn of Cecilia Metella from the Mausoleum of the Same Cecilia Metella - Now in the Farnese Palace at Rome),
by descent to John Townley,
his sale, London, Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge, 10-11 May 1865, lot 406, to Thorpe;
William Stirling Maxwell;
sale, London, Phillips, 12 December 1990, lot 222 (with another drawing), purchased by the present owner
This beautiful drawing was among the best of those which were bound into two volumes by William Stirling Maxwell in 1871, and which were an important rediscovery when they appeared on the London art market in 1990. The fascinating provenance of the two volumes was recognised by John Gere at that time. In 1758 the Royal Librarian Richard Dalton, who was in Italy looking for works of art to purchase for the King, noted the important collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani which included the seventeenth century collection called the Museo Cartaceo of Cassiano dal Pozzo and his brother Carlo Antonio. Ultimately through the efforts of Robert and James Adam the Albani collection was acquired for George III. On their arrival in London, the Pozzo/Albani volumes became part of George III's library in Buckingham House. Unfortunately they were not kept together but dismembered by Dalton and split according to subject matter, school or artist. At this point he seems to have extracted and kept a large number of sheets from the Bassi Relievi group, from which the present sheet originated.
The sarcophagus is said to be of Cecilia Metella because it was reputedly found during the pontificate of Pope Paul III Farnese (1534-1549) in her imposing mausoleum at Capo di Bove on the via Appia Antica. Since at least the late 17th century it has stood in the courtyard of Palazzo Farnese. It is one of the largest Roman examples in existence, and quite unique in its shape and in the combination of its decorative elements. This drawing appears to be the earliest record of it, the product of the comprehensive and encyclopedic, as well as aesthetic, approach Cassiano took to his 'Paper Museum'. As Nicholas Turner noted in the British Museum catalogue (see Literature), this belongs stylistically with a large group in the dal Pozzo Collection which may be attributed to Pietro Testa. Early in his career he contributed a large number of studies after the antique to Cassiano's collection, like this executed in pen and ink and wash, several of which are in the department of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum. Testa, and the other artists such as Ruggeri and Capitelli who were working for Cassiano, must have been instructed to copy the antique objects in the most realistic way, without taking artistic liberties, but still this drawing has a strong individuality.
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