Lot 122
  • 122

Girolamo di Benvenuto del Guasta

60,000 - 80,000 USD
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  • Girolamo di Benvenuto del Guasta
  • Cleopatra and the asp
  • 38 by 20 1/2  in.; 96.5 by 51.5 cm.
  • tempera on panel


Chigi Saraceni collection, Siena;
Luigi Grassi, Florence, by 1965;
With Richard Feigen & Co., New York.


B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance - Central Italian and North Italian Schools, 1968, v. I p. 188;
O. Pujmanovà, Arte rinascimentale italiana nelle collezioni ceche, 1997, p. 114;
N. Edwards, in Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, exhibition catalogue, New York 2008, p. 314, under cat. no. 144.


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is in sound condition overall, with the paint layers for the most part in a good state of preservation. The landscape setting is well preserved, with little restoration of note. Wear in the figure of Cleopatra has been addressed with retouching, applied to knit together the modeling in the flesh. Residues of old varnish are perceptible in the lighter passages, but are not visually distracting. Superficial scuffs in the varnish, which is clear and evenly glossy, are visible in the top left and bottom right corners. The vertically grained wood panel support has been thinned and a cradle attached to the reverse. Cracks have developed adjacent vertical cradle members and mild washboarding is visible across the panel. Tiny flake losses are visible along one of the cracks near the top edge, right of center. Structural intervention should be considered to prevent cracks and planar deformations in the support from worsening, but in all other respects the painting may be displayed in its current state.
"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

This panel is one of a set of three formerly in the Chigi Saraceni collection, Siena. The other two panels, one depicting the Vestal Tuccia and the other Portia, are in Sternberk Castle (Czech Republic) and the Musée de Chambéry, respectively.  These particular kinds of panels, comprising sets of allegories of the Virtues or depictions of heroes and heroines of antiquity, were used for a type of interior decoration that flourished in Siena in the later 15th century and throughout the 16th century.1  As with this painting of Cleopatra, these figures were often set against extensive landscape backgrounds, as if viewed through tall windows, and were probably set into the wall of a room and separated by some sort of framing element.

Another such set of panels, depicting the Three Theological Virtues, by an Umbrian painter, circa 1500 (formerly given to the Griselda Master and Pietro di Domenico) is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (acc. no. 1982.177.1-3).


1. See L. Kanter in Painting in Renaissance Siena 1420-1500, exhibition catalogue, New York 1988, p. 346.