Lot 18
  • 18

Giovanni Bilivert

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • Giovanni Bilivert
  • Venus, Cupid and Pan
  • inscribed on the reverse in an old hand, possibly by the artist himself: originale di Giovanni Biliverti/ Fiorentino
  • oil on copper
  • 18 by 13 in.; 45.7 by 33 cm.


Private U.K. collection, since at least circa 1900;
By whom anonymously sold ("Property from a Private Collection"), London, Sotheby's, 4 July 2012, lot 29;
There acquired.


F. Berti, "Bilivert 'in piccolo' e non solo," in Medicea, no. 12, December 2012, pp. 8-10, 12, reproduced p. 9, fig. 1.


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 on copper is in beautiful condition. The plate is flat, and there has only been a small amount of instability to the paint layer int he tree in the upper left and in the tree trunk in the lower right. The three figures, sky and foreground are in lovely condition. The restoration is good, and the work should be hung as is.
"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

In this intimate painting we see Venus, goddess of love, dipping her feet in a shallow, crystalline pond.  Naked save for her pearl headdress and earrings, she is assisted by Cupid who tenderly washes her left leg.  He is naked as well, wearing only a silk sash that billows up behind him as he bends forward.  Standing in the background is Pan who holds Venus’s crimson cloak and a shepherd’s crook, his attribute as god of the wild and protector of flocks.  The brilliant sheen of the cloak’s fabric contrasts with his rustic fur garb, and his weathered skin offsets the smooth, luminous flesh tones of Venus and Cupid.This work, painted on copper plate, is a variant of an earlier, larger painting on canvas by Bilivert in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden (fig. 1) which Roberto Contini (see Literature) dates to between 1630 and 1633.  There is also a preparatory drawing for the composition in the Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence (fig. 2) which, in format, more closely resembles the present work than that of the squarer Dresden painting.1  Bilivert’s pupil, Orazio Fidani recorded (sometime before 1656) that Bilivert executed a pair of pictures — each measuring four braccia high — for Charles I, King of England: "He painted for the king of England two paintings four braccia high, one showing the council of Psyche and the other Venus with Cupid washing her legs, and the god Pan is also there holding up a cloak. He executed these paintings with extraordinary sweetness, and they were so well liked that he had numerous copies made for various friends of his."2  A number of these contemporary copies are known and attest to the popularity of the composition.3  This beautiful small-scale version was most likely executed for a private patron shortly after the larger painting’s completion.  The inscription scratched into the reverse of the copper plate is very likely done by Bilivert himself to distinguish it from the copies produced by his workshop.  Until recently, only one other painting on copper by the artist was known — The Temptation of Charles and Ubaldo in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (fig. 3).4  In Venus, Cupid and Pan, the copper medium is perfectly suited to Bilivert’s brilliant brushwork and vivid color palette, and the intimate scale enhances the sensual subject matter.

Bilivert was born in Florence into an artistic family of Dutch origin.  His father Jacques, a goldsmith, had left Delft as a young man to supervise the metal workshops of Grand Duke Francesco I de’Medici.  Through his father’s connections with the important Medici family, Giovanni Bilivert secured an apprenticeship with Lodovico Cigoli and accompanied him to Rome between 1604-1608.  After his return to Florence he enrolled in the Academia del Disegno and eventually presided over one of the most successful workshops in the city.  Among his pupils were Orazio Fidani, Baccio del Bianco and Francesco Furini.  Indeed, Furini’s style would greatly influence that of his master from circa 1630 onwards and the younger artist’s more sensual approach to subject matter can be discerned in Venus, Cupid and Pan.



1.  Two other drawings have been associated with this composition. The first, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (Inv. no. 563; black chalk with highlights, 145 by 134 mm.), shows a study for a female head turned in profile and looking slightly downwards, at an angle very similar to that of Venus here, and is likely therefore to have been executed in preparation for this figure ; the second, in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, relates to the whole composition but is certainly a copy (Inv. D 1639; red chalk (arched top), 124 by 223 mm.).
2.  "Fece per il re d'Inghilterra due quadri di quattro braccia, dentrovi in uno il consiglio di Psiche e ne l'altro una Venere che Amore gli lava le gambe e ci è un Dio Pane che li serba il manto. Dipinse questi quadri con una dolcezza straordinaria, e piaqquono sì che ne fu fatte fare molte copie per diversi amici sua," see O. Fidani, in F. Baldinucci, Notizie dei Professori del Disegno da Cimabue in Qua, ed. P. Barocchi, Florence 1975, vol. VII, p. 70. The disparity between the Dresden painting's dimensions (191 cm.) and those recorded by Fidani as four braccia (approx. 232 cm.) may be explained by the fact that the Dresden painting has been reduced, particularly along the top.
3.  Amongst these are the painting sold, New York, Christie's, 9-10 February 2009, lot 58 (as Circle of Bilivert; oil on canvas, 191.7 by 146.1 cm.); and that formerly at Potsdam, Bildergalerie von Sanssouci (inv. no. 7623, destroyed during World War II), almost certainly painted in Bilivert's studio and with possible participation of the master himself (oil on canvas, 207.5 by 168 cm.).
4.  A third painting on copper, in a private collection, depicting Minerva has been identified as a work by Bilivert by Federico Berti, see under Literature, p. 11, reproduced p. 12, fig. 3.