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THE BARBARA PIASECKA JOHNSON COLLECTION PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT THE BARBARA PIASECKA JOHNSON FOUNDATION

Attributed to Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, THREE-QUARTER LENGTH
JUMP TO LOT
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THE BARBARA PIASECKA JOHNSON COLLECTION PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT THE BARBARA PIASECKA JOHNSON FOUNDATION

Attributed to Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, THREE-QUARTER LENGTH
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale

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London

Attributed to Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
SEVILLE 1599 - 1660 MADRID
PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, THREE-QUARTER LENGTH

Provenance

Ing. L. Bernasconi, Milan, by 1915 (according to Longhi, Literature 1968, below);

Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi (1878–1955), Florence;

With Stanley Moss & Co., New York (according to an old label on the reverse);

With Eugene Victor Thaw, New York, 2 February 1982, where acquired by the present owner.

Exhibited

Madrid, Museo del Prado, September 1920 (according to Longhi, Literature 1968, below);

Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'arte moderna, Gli antichi pittori spoagnoli della Collezione Contini-Bonacossi, May–July 1930, no. 57;

Madrid, Museo del Prado, Velásquez y los Velasqueros, 10 December 1960 – 23 February 1961, no 82.

Literature

J. Allende-Salazar, Velásquez, Des Meisters Gemälde, Berlin 1925, p. 275, reproduced pp. 35, 36, as a very characteristic work datable 1627–28;

A. L. Mayer and R. Longhi, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Gli antichi pittori spoagnoli della Collezione Contini-Bonacossi, Rome 1930, pp. 35–36, cat. no. 57 (as by Velázquez, possibly datable to 1630);

H. Voss, Jarburch Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, 1932, pp. 38–56 (as possibly by Carlo Ceresa);

A. L. Mayer, Velázquez. A Catalogue Raisonnée of the Pictures and Drawings, London 1936, p. 92, no. 393, reproduced plate 129 (as by Velázquez);

E. Lafuente Ferrari, Velázquez, Barcelona 1944, under cat. no. 39, as possibly by Velazquez circa 1629;

F. J. Sánchez Cantón, 'Review of Enrique Lafuente's Velazquez', in Archivo Español de Arte, 1944, p. 136 (as by Velázquez);

B. de Pantorba, La Vida y la Obra de Velásquez, Madrid 1955, pp. 220–21, cat. no. 142, reproduced (as not by Velázquez);

J. López-Rey, Velázquez, a Catalogue Raisonné of his Oeuvre, London 1963, pp. 312–13, cat. no. 557, plate 44 (as by Velázquez, datable 1626–28, possibly reduced in size);

R. Longhi, Me Pinxit e quesito Caravaggeschi, Florence 1968, pp. 162–63, plates 241, 242 (as Velázquez in Italy, circa 1629);

P.M. Bardi, L'opera completa di Velázquez, Milan 1969, p. 111, no. 147 (under doubtful works);

J. López-Rey, Velázquez. The Artist as a Maker with a Catalogue Raisonné of his Exant Works, London 1979, p. 260, cat. no. 34, reproduced plate 96 (as by Velázquez datable circa 1626–28, possibly reduced from a full length);

J. Gudiol, Velázquez, Barcelona 1979 English edition, p. 328, cat. no. 49, reproduced p. 106, fig. 72 (as a fragment);

J. López-Rey, Velásquez. Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, Cologne 1996, pp. 80–81, cat. no. 34 (as datable circa 1626–28, attribution problematic because of condition).

Catalogue Note

The attribution to Velázquez was first made by Roberto Longhi at the end of 1915, when he saw the painting in the Bernasconi collection in Milan, shortly before it was acquired by Count Contini Bonacossi. In the 1920s Allende-Salazar published the portrait for the first time, recognising it as an early work by the painter and suggesting a dating around 1627–28, just prior to Velázquez's departure from Madrid for his first Italian trip in 1629. At the time of the exhibition of Spanish paintings from the Contini Bonacossi collection in Rome in 1930, Longhi advanced the theory that the portrait was in fact painted in Italy in or around 1629, citing the 'freer and more atmospheric rendering', and the 'fluid and more harmonic modelling of the face' by comparison to Velázquez's portraits painted in Madrid in the mid 1620s. He continued to defend this date in a much later publication in 1968. By this time most scholars were in agreement with this dating, including August Mayer, who included it in his major monograph in 1936 as a work of the Italian period, and Lafuente in his in 1944 as a work of around 1629. Pantorba, however, rejected the attribution, following Herrman Voss, who as early as 1932 had rather curiously suggested a tentative alternative attribution to the Lombard painter Carlo Ceresa (1609–79). Among more modern scholars, the portrait was listed under doubtful works by Bardi (1969) but omitted altogether from the catalogues of Jonathan Brown (1986)  and F. Checa (2008). Despite this, the attribution to Velázquez himself was supported by José Gudiol, who was also the first to point out the possibility that the portrait might have been reduced from a larger, three-quarter or even full-length format. This view was echoed by the late José Lopez-Rey, who published the painting as an autograph Velázquez in his successive monographs of 1963, 1979 and most recently in 1996. The idea that the portrait dated from the Italian period of 1629–30, however, lost ground. Both Gudiol and Lopez-Rey disagreed with the proposition that the canvas dated from Velázquez's trip to Italy, suggesting instead that it was painted in Spain in the later 1620s prior to his departure. The latter acknowledged that the attribution to Velázquez was to a degree 'problematical' because of the relatively poor condition of the canvas.

Critical disagreement about the dating of this portrait is not helped by the fact that only one certain portrait by Velázquez survives from his stay in Italy in 1629–30. According to his father-in-law and biographer Pacheco, Velázquez made a 'famous self-portrait', but this is now lost. After his stay in Rome Velázquez left for Madrid by way of Naples, where he painted the portrait of Philip IV's sister Maria, who was staying there en route for her wedding in Hungary, and the half-length survives today in the Prado.1 Arguments for the dating of this painting if it was executed in Spain rather than Italy have therefore revolved around its relation to those works painted by Velázquez in Madrid in the 1620s. Gudiol, for example, argued for a date in the middle of the decade, but nearly all other writers have followed Allende-Salazar, who was the first to posit a date of execution in the late 1620s, probably around 1627–28. Lopez-Rey, for example, compares the modelling of the hands to those in the Portait of the Infante Don Carlos, the son of Philip III and Margaret of Austria, of 1628 today in the Prado.2 Certainly the pose of the unknown sitter recalls that in the full length of Philip IV, begun in 1623 but probably rewoked around 1628,3 and if the present canvas was indeed originally a full length its format, with its hint of red table top, may well have been quite similar. Certainly the technical aspects of the present canvas match what we know of Velázquez's working methods at this date: the use of the red-orange pigment known as tierra de Esquivias, for example, was the favoured technique of his first Madrid period (1623–29) and distinct from the darker grounds used by him in Seville and the later grounds used after his return from Italy.4 The presence of cusping along the edges of the canvas would suggest that it has not been much reduced if at all, and its original format may therefore be analogous to another half-length portrait of this period, the unfinished Portrait of a young man in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.5

 

1. See J. Lopez-Rey, Literature, 1996, vol. II, pp. 114–15, no. 48.
2. Inv. 1188, canvas, 210.5 x 126.5 cm. Lopez-Rey, op. cit., 1996, p. 88, no. 37.
3. Inv. no. 1182, canvas, 198 x 101.5 cm. Ibid., p. 84, no. 36.
4. A full technical bulletin on the painting, prepared by Art Access and Research, dated 31 March 2014, accompanies this painting. The use of smalt in the flesh tones is also typical. Examination under X-ray has not revealed any significant changes in the design.
5. Inv. no. 518. Reproduced in R. an der Heiden, Die Alte Pinakothek, Munich 1998, p. 460.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale

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