Lot 77
  • 77

Gaetano Gandolfi

700,000 - 900,000 USD
722,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Gaetano Gandolfi
  • Alexander and Diogenes;
    Alexander presenting Campaspe to Apelles

  • both signed with initials and dated on the reverse of the original canvases: G.G.f. 1792 and G.G.f 1793 respectively

  • a pair, both oil on canvas

  • each: 20 5/8  by 25 5/8  in.; 52.4 by 65 cm.


Guido Sonino (1871-1944) and Emma Castelfranco Sonino (1878-1944), Bologna, by 1935;
Thence by descent in the family;
By whom sold ("Paintings from the Castelfranco Sonino Collection"), New York, Christie's, 29 January 1998, lot 35, where acquired by the present collector.


Bologna, Palazzo Comunale, Mostra del '700 Bolognese, 12 May - 31 July 1935, nos. 20 and 22.


A. Zanotti, Brevi cenni della vita di Mauro Gandolfi bolognese pittore, disegnatore ed incisore a taglio reale, Bologna 1925, XI, June, p. 389 (Diogenes only);
R. Longhi and G. Zucchini, Mostra del Settecento Bolognese, exhibition catalogue, Bologna 1935, p. 60, cat. nos. 20 and 22;
L. Bianchi,  I Gandolfi, Rome 1936, pp. 84 and 159;
R. Roli, "G. Gandolfi," in Dizionario Enciclopedico dei Pittori e Degli Incisori Italiani, Turin 1975, vol. V, p. 260;
R. Roli, Pittura Bolognese 1650-1800, Bologna 1977, p. 129, reproduced fig. 282b (Apelles and Campaspe only);
C. Volpe in A. Emiliani, et al.L'Arte del Settecento Emiliano, exhibition catalogue, Bologna 1979, p. 115 (as location unknown);
M. Cazort, "I Gandolfi: I disegni," in L'Arte del Settecento Emiliano, exhibition catalogue, 1979, p. 115, under cat. no. 285 (Apelles and Campaspe only);
D. Biagi Maino, La Pittura a Bologna nel secondo Settecento, I Gandolfi e l'Accademia Clementina, 1989, dissertation, pp. 269-70 (Diogenes only);
D. Biagi Maino, "La Pittura in Emilia Romagna nella seconda metà del Settecento", in La Pittura in Italia, Il Settecento, Milan 1990, p. 296 (Diogenes only)
P. Bagni, I Gandolfi, Bologna 1992, pp. 400-402, cat. no. 376, reproduced (Alexander and Diogenes) but reproduces another version; p. 405, cat. no. 381, reproduced, and p. 435 (Apelles and Campaspe);
A. Cera, La Pittura Bolognese del '700, Milan 1994, cat. no. 33 (Apelles and Campaspe, only);
D. Biagi Maino, Gaetano Gandolfi, Turin 1995, pp. 402-3, cat. nos. 219-220, reproduced figs 254-255 (the Alexander and Diogenes reproduced is another version);
D. Biagi Maino, in Gaetano e Ubaldo Gandolfi: opere scelte, exhibition catalogue, Cento 2002, p. 100, under cat. no. 41;
L. Roversi, "A la bolonaise, Gaetano et Ubaldo Gandolfi à Cento", in Journal des Arts, 147, April - May 2002, reproduced p. 12;
F. Gozzi (ed.), in Ubaldo, Gaetano e Mauro Gandolfi, le incisioni, exhibition catalogue, Turin 2002, under cat. no. 22 (Diogenes only).

Catalogue Note

These charming and well-preserved paintings by Gaetano Gandolfi are initialed and dated on the reverse of the original canvases (see figs. 1 and 2; the canvases have now been relined) and capture perfectly the artist's unique interpretation of the Bolognese rococo style. The frequent excesses of that movement are mitigated by Gaetano's elegance of line and softness of palette so that the affected poses and accentuated gestures, so typical of his peers, are presented with a more studied yet balanced lyricism.  A thoughtful and considered craftsman, we know that Gaetano went to great trouble over the design of Alexander and Diogenes: two preparatory drawings are known, one laying out the finished composition and the other working out several details of the figures.1

A second version of the Alexander and Diogenes, in a private collection in Zurich, has often been confused with the present work.  In their respective catalogues raisonnés on the artist, both Bagni and Biagi Maino (see Literature) reproduce the Zurich version but describe the features of the present Alexander and Diogenes, such as its provenance and the date of 1792 on the reverse of the original canvas. In referring to this other version, neither scholar excludes some participation in the execution  of the work by the artist's son, Mauro. However, in the 2002 exhibition catalogue (see Literature), Biagi Maino subsequently corrected her mistake and separated the two versions, publishing the Zurich work as a second autograph treatment of the subject and attributing all of the present work to Gaetano himself.  We know the composition was enormously successful since Gaetano's son, Mauro, was commissioned by the Venetian Abbot Giovanni Maria Manenti to engrave his father's design (see fig. 3).  A drawing by Mauro, executed in reverse in preparation for the engraving, is kept in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna.2 The success of the design presumably explains why Gaetano produced the second version today in Zurich.

Although their earliest provenance is unkown, the paintings were almost certainly conceived as a pair and work perfectly as such: one is set indoors and the other outdoors and, placed side by side, the movement of the dramatis personae points to a central point.  Moreover, the subjects complement each other since they both focus on the more virtuous aspects of Alexander the Great's personality.  In the first we see that despite his military might, Alexander was prepared to be humbled intellectually by Diogenes and his encounter with the philosopher taught him an important lesson in non-attachment.  In the other work, Gandolfi illustrates Pliny the Elder's tale of how Alexander offered his favourite concubine, Campaspe, to the painter Apelles after he had understood that the latter had fallen in love with her.  Interestingly, Gandolfi has chosen to depict the painter in a deliberately anachronistic manner: with his assistant grinding paints beside him, we see Apelles in 18th century attire rather than in the Classical robes worn by the other figures. The conceit must have amused Gandolfi since he repeated it in his other treatment of the subject from 1797 in a private collection, for which there is a preparatory drawing in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.3

It is not known how these beautiful canvases, which first appeared in public at the 1935 exhibition in Bologna (see Longhi, under Literature), made their way into the Castelfranco Sonino collection which was formed in that city between 1923-30.  At the outbreak of the war, Guido and Emma Castelfranco Sonino were captured escaping from Bologna and subsequently died at Auschwitz.  However, their daughter succeeded in reaching Bilbao and later South America.  We can safely assume that she took these two paintings with her or that they were shipped to her shortly thereafter since, when they were sold in 1998 (see Provenance), they were offered by Guido and Emma's grandchildren.

1. See Bagni, under Literature, pp. 40-02, cat. nos. 377 and 378, both reproduced; both are in private collections.
2. Ibid., p. 403, cat. no. 379, reproduced.
3. Ibid., pp. 434-35, cat. nos. 410-11, both reproduced.