Lot 8
  • 8

Giovanni Francesco Bezzi, called Il Nosadella

20,000 - 25,000 USD
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  • Giovanni Francesco Bezzi, called Il Nosadella
  • The Virgin and Child with Saints Thomas and Anthony Abbot
  • Pen and brown ink and wash over traces of black chalk


John McGouan (L.1496);
probably Sir William Forbes, 7th Baronet of Pitsligo (1773-1828), of Fettercairn, Kincardineshire,
by descent to his son Sir John Stuart Hepburn-Forbes, 8th Baronet of Pitsligo (1804-1866),
by inheritance to his son-in-law Charles Trefusis, 20th Baron Clinton (1834-1904),
thence by family descent to the present owner


Laid down. A loss on the lower left margin and some small losses along the lower right edge and a few pin point holes along the right edge. Small tears around the left margin and a old fold running vertically to the left and few abrasions. A light water stain at the bottom and on the left corner. Small stains scattered and to the upper left corner a bigger light brown stain. Some surface dirt. The media is still strong
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

A fascinating, previously unattributed early drawing by Nosadella, the present sheet is related to a painting, Madonna and Child with SS. Thomas and Anthony Abbot, published by Winkelmann, executed on paper laid down on panel and sold in these rooms in 1981 (fig. 1).1  The drawing shows a number of small differences from the painting, for example in the position of the head of the Christ Child and the head of St. Thomas, who in the painting looks up towards the Madonna. 

There are only two fully documented works that have survived by this intriguing and rare Bolognese mannerist master, which provide the basis for other attributions.  Both commissioned by the Alamandini family, the first, a Madonna and Child with the Beato Riniero and Saints,2 is, according to Winkelmann, dateable to between 1548 and 1552, a dating which can be also be suggested, stylistically, for the painting related to the present sheet.  The drawing would therefore seem to date from around that moment when, according to Winkelmann, Nosadella shows a strong influence of Raphael, especially detectable here in the figure of the Madonna.  The presence in Bologna of Raphael's Saint Cecilia altarpiece, commissioned circa 1516 for the Bolognese church of San Giovanni in Monte, had an enormous impact on Nosadella and his fellow Bolognese artists, while his later style reflects his strong debt to fellow citizen Pellegrino Tibaldi, with whose drawings his works have often been confused. 

Delicately drawn and washed with a pale brown tint over faint traces of black chalk, this finished compositional study seems to be the only surviving drawing witnessing this moment of Nosadella's career. 

This drawing and the following lot, both fine examples of 16th Century Italian Mannerism, were originally acquired by Sir William Forbes, the 7th Baronet of Pitsligo (1773-1828), before passing by familial descent for close to two centuries to the present vendor. Through a surviving letter, written by Forbes from Florence and dated 2nd May 1827, we know that the idea of forming a picture collection came to the Scottish Baronet very late in life. However the presence of this newly discovered preparatory study by Nosadella, once in the collection of another celebrated Scottish collector, John McGouan, would suggest that Forbes was acquiring Old Master Drawings from a younger age, as McGouan’s three posthumous sales, the most logical venues for the acquisition of this particular work, took place in 1803 and 1804. While the present drawing was in all likelihood acquired in the United Kingdom, the exquisite sheet by Lelio Orsi depicting Apollo driving the chariot of the sun (lot 9) may well have been acquired by Forbes’ agent, James Irvine, who during a short but fruitful spell, acting on Forbes’ behalf in Italy, was responsible for the purchase of many of the highlights of Forbes’ collection, a number of paintings from which were sold at Sotheby’s in London on 7th-8th December 2016.  A single-owner sale of property formerly at Fettercairn, including Old Master Drawings, will be held at Sotheby's in London on 28th March 2017.

1. J. Winkelmann, 'Giovanni Francesco Bezzi, detto il Nosadella', Pittura Bolognese del '500, Bologna 1986, vol. II, p. 458, reproduced p. 465; sold London, Sotheby's, 8 April 1981, lot 42, and again Vienna, Dorotheum, 18 October 2016, lot 11 
2. Winkelmann, op. cit., reproduced p. 464