Lot 27
  • 27

Gian Lorenzo Bernini

150,000 - 200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Gian Lorenzo Bernini
  • Portrait of Ottaviano Castelli
  • Red and black chalk, heightened with white
  • 9 5/8 x 7 1/2 inches


Henry Reveley (L.1356);
C.R. Rudolf,
his sale, London, Sotheby's, 4 July 1977, lot 113


London, Arts Council, Old Master Drawings from the Collection of Mr. C.R. Rudolf, 1962, no. 9


A. Sutherland Harris, Selected Drawings of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, New York 1977, p. xvii, no. 36;
idem., in Master Drawings, exhib. cat., London, Colnaghi, 1993, under no. 30;
A. Weston Lewis, 'Portraits of Bernini, Portrait Drawings and Caricatures', in Effigies and Ecstasies, exhib. cat., Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, 1998, p. 48, reproduced fig. 35, p. 201, note 9;
A. Sutherland Harris, 'I Disegni di ritratto di Gian Lorenzo Bernini', in Bernini pittore, exhib. cat., Rome, Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini, 2007-08, p. 174; p. 175, reproduced fig. 2; p. 180, in note 8

Catalogue Note

This is one of the few portrait drawings by the great sculptor and painter Gian Lorenzo Bernini in which the sitter can be confidently identified.  He is the playwright Ottaviano Castelli, born in Spoleto in 1605, a distinguished librettist and musician attached to the Roman court of Cardinal Antonio Barberini.  Castelli can be recognized here by comparison with an engraved portrait of him, aged 36, by Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi, after a lost drawing by Bernini (fig. 1) which served as the frontispiece to the 1641 publication of Castelli’s libretto for the opera La Sincerità Trionfante.  The opera, for which Grimaldi designed the sets, was performed in Rome in 1638, in honor of the birth of the French Dauphin, later Louis XIV. 

The present portrait can be dated to the early 1640s.  Bernini has used his favourite media, a combination of red and black chalk heightened with white, a technique which he seems to have used for the majority of these rare portrait drawings.  They are often, as here, meticulously drawn with an abundance of short strokes which define and enrich the modulations of light and also enhance the chromatism of the use of the three colors.  The drawing shows both Bernini's discipline of perfected execution and his virtuosity in capturing the character of the sitter.  Castelli and Bernini knew each other because of Bernini's interest in theatrical performances.  Ann Sutherland Harris recounts that on the only known occasion on which Bernini attended one of Castelli's plays, a satire against the Neapolitan painter Salvator Rosa, he walked out before the end.1 This happened in 1639 a few years before Bernini made the present portrait.

Excluding self-portraits, the only other portrait drawings by Bernini whose sitters have been identified are the Portrait of Cardinal Scipione Borghese and the Portrait of Sisinio Poli, both in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, and the Portrait of Pope Clement X, Altieri, in the Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig.2

1.  A. Sutherland Harris, loc. cit., 1977
2.  A. Weston Lewis, op. cit., 1998, p. 48, reproduced fig. 34; p. 47, reproduced, fig. 33; p. 56, reproduced fig. 44; see A. Sutherland Harris, op. cit., 2007-08, p. 174, for lost identifiable portraits by Bernini