PROPERTY FROM AN ENGLISH PRIVATE COLLECTION
John Bligh (1767-1831), 4th Earl of Darnley, Cobham Hall, Kent, by whom almost certainly acquired;
Thence by family descent at Cobham Hall, until acquired directly from the above by the father of the present owner in the 1960s.
Inventory of the household furniture, books, paintings, plates, linen, china & glass, wines, horses, carriages and effects, late the property of the Right Hon. Earl Darnley, at Cobham Hall in the county of Kent: taken and valued for the purpose of probate, June 10th and following days, 1831, unpublished manuscript (1831), listed amongst Paintings in the Picture Gallery (as “Guercino – Head of St. Peter”);
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions 1813-1912, London 1913, p. 456.
This sensitive study of Saint Peter is a previously unrecorded work by Guercino. The painting appears to be unpublished but its style and painting technique are entirely characteristic of the artist, and are consistent with other works dating from the mid- to late 1640s. The softness of the modelling and distinctive colouring may be compared to those in The Denial of Saint Peter of 1646, painted by Guercino for Cardinal Mazarin and today in a private collection.1 The saint’s position within the picture space, with the body emphatically facing left, might suggest that it was originally conceived as a pair, its pendant perhaps showing Saint Paul. A pair of paintings of this subject are recorded in the artist’s Libro dei Conti in 1654, but their description is too generic to confirm any sort of identification.2 Although no possible candidate for a pendant Saint Paul is yet known, its appearance may have been close in conception to the painting of the same subject in Paris, Musée du Louvre, of larger dimensions and datable to 1644.3
It is not known when the present painting entered Cobham Hall but it was almost certainly acquired by John Bligh (1767-1831), 4th Earl of Darnley, in whose posthumous inventory of 1831 it is listed as hanging in the Picture Gallery. The painting is not mentioned in the 1844 pictorial guide to Cobham Hall nor is it listed by Gustav Waagen who wrote about his visit to Cobham Hall in his Treasures of Art in Great Britain in 1854.4 Cobham Hall first came into the possession of the de Cobhams in the early 13th century, remaining in their family until 1603, shortly after the completion of the building project undertaken by William Brooke, Lord Cobham, in transforming the old manor-house into a splendid Tudor mansion. Cobham Hall was left to Henry Brooke but, being the last in line and having been sentenced to life imprisonment after his involvement in the abortive plot to place Arabella Stuart on the throne in place of James VI of Scotland, the estate was forfeited to the Crown. In 1613 Cobham Hall was given by James I to his second cousin Ludovic Stuart, 2nd Duke of Lenox and later 1st Duke of Richmond, in whose family it remained until 1672. Through the female line, it passed through the Barons and Baronesses Clifton of Leighton Bromswold to Lady Theodosa Hyde, who in 1713 married John Bligh of Rathmore, Co. Meath, Ireland, who was created Earl of Darnley in 1725. It was his grandson, the 4th Earl, who modernised and decorated Cobham Hall, building a picture gallery along a corridor and adapting the Tudor Gallery in the North Wing in 1806-9 in order to display his growing collection of Dutch and Italian old masters. Amongst the many works he owned were three masterpieces by Titian; his Portrait of a Man with a Blue Sleeve, formerly thought to be a Portrait of Ariosto (London, National Gallery), Rape of Europa (Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), and Venus and Adonis (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art); Tintoretto’s The Origin of the Milky Way (London, National Gallery); and Rubens’ Queen Tomyris before the head of Cyrus (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts). The 4th Earl also amassed a fine collection of books and was a friend and patron to Reynolds, Gainsborough and Hoppner.
1. 137.5 by 175.6 cm.; sold, London, Sotheby’s, 11 December 1985, lot 8. Reproduced in L. Salerno, I dipinti del Guercino, Rome 1988, p. 306, cat. no. 231, and more recently in colour in D. Stone, Guercino. Catalogo completo dei dipinti, Florence 1991, p. 225, cat. no. 214.
2. See B. Ghelfi, Il libro dei conti del Guercino 1629-1666, Venice 1997, p. 165, no. 481 (“…si e riceuto ductoni n:o quaranta per le due Teste Cioue S: Pietro e S: Paolo li quali denari furono pagate dal Sig:r Domenico Vanuci..”).
3. Inv. 80; oil on canvas, 75.8 by 61 cm. (although its original size was 68 by 58 cm.); Salerno, op. cit., p. 288, cat. no. 210, reproduced.
4. The 1844 guide lists only the highlights of the picture gallery and when Waagen went round Cobham Hall the painting could have been hanging in the private apartments, out of public view.
A Retro Racing Watch for the Modern Man
First Look: A Nearly Impossible Collection of the Most Legendary Wines
10 Dazzling Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family Collection
First Look: Relive the 1990s Through the Collection of Damien Hirst’s Legendary Manager
Market-leading Contemporary Art Sales in Asia
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Vedi L'Asta In Diretta