Lot 533
  • 533

Pietro Antonio Rotari

150,000 - 200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pietro Antonio Rotari
  • The meeting of Alexander the Great and Roxana, behind a trompe-l'oeil curtain
  • oil on canvas


The Royal Painting Gallery, Dresden, by 1754 (their red wax seal on the reverse of the stretcher);
By whom sold, Bautzmann, Dresden, 16 April 1860, lot 46 (without attribution);
Bader collection, USA, by 1987;
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie's, 3 October 2001, lot 57, where acquired.


West Lafayette, Indianapolis, Purdue University Gallery, Italian Baroque Paintings: selections from the Bader Collection, 30 March - 3 May 1987, no. 12 (as Bolognese School);
Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum, The Detective's Eye. Investigating the Old Masters, 19 January - 19 March 1989, no. 49A (as Bolognese school);
Washington, National Gallery of Art, Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting, 13 October 2002 - 2 March 2003, no. 11.


M. Oesterreich, Inventarium von der Königlischen Bilder-Galerie zu Dresden, Dresden 1754, vol. III, cat. no. 519;
J.A. Riedel and C.F. Wenzel, Catalogue des Tableaux de la Galerie Electorale à Dresde, supplement, Dresden 1765, p. 244;
J.A. Riedel, Verzeichnis der Königlich-Sächsischen Bildergalerie zu Dresden, neu gefertigt und vollendet im Jahr 1809, Dresden 1809, vol. II, cat. no. 1767, (erroneously described in reverse and as depicting Alexander and the wife of Darius);
Verzeichnis der Gemälde im Doubletten-Saal 1821, Dresden 1821, cat. no. 382;
Verzeichnis der im Vorrat befindlichen Gemälde, Dresden before 1841, cat. no. 165;
G.J.M. Weber, in Pietro Graf Rotari in Dresden; ein italienischer maler am hof Konig
August III, exhibition catalogue, Dresden 1999, pp. 48-50 and 128;
P. Conisbee, in S. Ebert-Schifferer (ed.), Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting, exhibition catalogue, Washington 2002, pp. 132-133, cat. no. 11, reproduced and in detail p. 122;
Y. Yapou, "Trompe l'oeil in Washington", in Apollo, March 2003, p. 46.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work may not have been restored recently, but it looks well nonetheless. The paint layer is very healthy. The canvas has an old lining that has slightly pressed the impasto, but there is a lot of rather thick varnish on the surface robbing the paint layer of some of its texture. When viewed under ultraviolet light, the opaque varnish does not allow for the identification of any retouches, but the condition does seem to be very good. If the work were cleaned, more depth and brightness would be acquired, and the visual drama of the work would be greatly improved.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The execution of this humorous trompe l’oeil by Pietro Antonio Rotari can be traced to his brief sojourn in Dresden, between his arrival in 1753 and the painting’s citation in the first inventory of the Royal Painting Gallery in 1754 (see Provenance and Literature).  During that period Rotari was employed at the court of King Frederick Augustus II, Elector of Saxony in the Holy Roman Empire, and painted the imposing portrait of the monarch, now in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.  The present painting remained in Dresden’s Royal Painting Gallery for over a century until it was eventually sold in 1860 (see Provenance). 

As Gregor J.M. Weber notes, the painting reprises the composition of the artist’s Meeting of Alexander the Great and Roxana, unobscured by the trompe l’oeil curtain, now in the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (inv. no. 2223, fig. 1). The painting depicts an episode from the life of Alexander the Great, during a siege of a fortress in Bactria.  In an attempt to garner support from the Persian aristocracy, Alexander resolves to marry Roxana, the recently captured daughter of a local Bactrian nobleman.  Rotari here depicts the moment in which Roxana appears demurely before the startled Alexander who is astounded by her beauty. Whereas in the Hermitage version Rotari sets the stage with the viewer in plain sight of the seductive story as it unfolds, here the artist imbues the scene with a theatrical and rather playful dynamic as he paints a delicately embroidered trompe l’oeil lace curtain between the viewer and the protagonists. Alexander’s attendant in the lower right corner gathers the emperors armor as he gazes curiously at the strategic courtship taking place before him. Only he is afforded an unobstructed view of the scene, whilst the viewers behind the curtain catch merely a tantalizing yet fleeting glimpse of the power play in action.