95
95

PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Giovanni Paolo Panini
THE ABDUCTION OF HELEN
Estimate
150,000200,000
LOT SOLD. 161,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
95

PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Giovanni Paolo Panini
THE ABDUCTION OF HELEN
Estimate
150,000200,000
LOT SOLD. 161,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Master Paintings: Part I

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New York

Giovanni Paolo Panini
PIACENZA 1691 - 1765 ROME
THE ABDUCTION OF HELEN
signed on the plinth, lower left corner, G. P. P.
oil on canvas
39 by 53 7/8  in.; 99 by 136.7 cm.
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Provenance

With Julius Weitzner (according to Witt Library Archive, London);
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 8 July 1959, lot 143 (with its pendant, the Arrival of Helen in Troy, for 750 gns.);
With Luciano Funghini, Florence, 1973 (with pendant);
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 1 November 1978, lot 46 (pendant sold lot 45).

Exhibited

Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, VIII Mostra dell'Antiquariato, September - October 1973.

Literature

E. Brunetti, 'Il Panini e la monografia di F. Arisi', in Arte Antica e Moderna, 1964, no. 26, pp. 188 and 199, notes 80-1, reproduced plate 65c; (reprinted in E. Brunetti, Scritti d'arte (1950-1970), Urbino, 1976);
F. Arisi, Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del '700, Rome 1986, pp. 53 and 259, cat. no. 79, reproduced plate 51 and p. 259.

Catalogue Note

Until its sale in 1978 (see Provenance), Giovanni Paolo Panini’s  Abduction of Helen was accompanied by a pendant, depicting the Arrival of Paris and Helen at Troy, which came to the market recently in 2012.1  Nocturnal scenes are particularly rare in Panini's oeuvre and Giancarlo Sestieri considers this painting to be of fundamental importance to the understanding of Panini’s early career in Rome, being representative of the moment in which his style evolved from its youthful phase to the initial stages of maturity.2  Publishing it in 1986, Ferdinando Arisi noted the influence of Veronese, particularly in the treatment of the figures looking on from the terraces, comparing them to the those in Panini’s Courtyard Concert, now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (inv. no. 407/1404).3  In a drawing now in the British Museum, London (inv. no. P.p.5-140, fig. 1), the artist shows the central group of figures, including Helen, alongside a the detail of Paris’ ship, which would eventually be included in reverse at the left side of the pendant.

Married to King Menelaus of Sparta, the demi-goddess Helen was the daughter of Zeus and Leda, and according to Greek mythology, the most beautiful woman in the world.  Panini here depicts the moment in which Helen is abducted by Paris, the episode that would trigger the Trojan War.  The artist exploits his subject, using it as an opportunity to contrast the dramatic, nocturnal abduction depicted here, with the peaceful, daylight arrival of the pair in Troy.  The scene is bathed in a cool light from the full moon which is surrounded by dense, whirling cloud formations.  The darkness is interrupted by the flaming torches, illuminating the dynamic group of group of figures in the foreground; the soldiers race with Helen in their arms, still fighting their way down the steps of the palace while the Spartans look on from its balustrades in horror. 

We are grateful to David Marshall and Giancarlo Sestieri for endorsing the attribution.

1.  Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 4 December 2012, lot 51.
2.  Private written communication with Giancarlo Sestieri, dated 6 December 2014. 
3.  F. Arisi, under Literature, p. 255, cat. no. 73, reproduced.

Master Paintings: Part I

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New York