Lot 4
  • 4

Giacinto Diano

30,000 - 50,000 USD
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  • Giacinto Diano
  • The Massacre of the Innocents
  • oil on canvas
  • 20 by 16 1/2  in.; 50.8 by 41.3 cm.


Private collection, Turin;
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie's, 29 January 2014, lot 35;
There acquired.


European Paintings from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, New York 1971, p. 411, under cat. no. 239;
European Paintings from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 
New York 1980, p. 449, under cat. no. 239.


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 is in lovely condition. The canvas has a thin Italian lining. The surface is lightly cracked but is very attractive. There are no retouches in the figure group at all. There are a few spots of retouching on the left, right and bottom edges. Retouches are more concentrated on the upper right edge and in the center of the top edge, where a 4 by 1/2 inch area has been consistently retouched.
"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 lively work is a preparatory sketch by Giacinto Diano for his large-scale altarpiece in the Santa Maria della Pietà dei Turchini in Naples.  Diano was born in Pozzuoli and studied under both Francesca de Mura and Anton Mengs before settling in Naples in 1752.  A prolific and prominent artist, Diano painted dynamic compositions filled with color and light, combining both Rococo and Neoclassical elements. 

Santa Maria della Pietà dei Turchini was originally constructed in the late 16th century but after a fire in 1638 was rebuilt with a large dome.  In 1780, a new marble altar was added to the large chapel on the left side of the transept, and Diano was commissioned to paint a cycle of scenes from the Christ's youth to decorate the sanctuary.  The resulting canvases along the altar and walls of the chapel include compositions of The Adoration of the Shepherds, The Presentation of Christ at the Temple, The Adoration of the Magi, The Dream of Joseph, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, The Deposition and The Massacre of the Innocents, which was set into the frieze above the altar.1 

The present bozzetto depicts the three central figures on the left side of the Massacre of the Innocents, the largest painting of the cycle. Diano has carefully constructed the triangular composition and is working out the poses of and interactions between the soldier and the women beneath him.  His brushwork is fluid and he builds up the dimensions of the figures in some areas while quickly filling in others with blocks of color or shadow.  The tone is cooler and overall color scheme more neutral than the finished mural; it is clear that this sketch was a study of the corporal dimensions and composition rather than a color exercise.  In the final composition, the figure on the lower right of our sketch has changed positions; she is seen on her stomach, facing out to the viewer and directly underneath the central figure. 

Another sketch for Diano's Massacre of the Innocents is in the Minneapolis Institute of Art (fig. 1).  This preparatory study includes the full composition of the frieze and must  have been a later study than the present work as the change in position of the woman at the bottom reflects that of the final painting. 

1. See L. Donadio et. al, Santa Maria della Pietà dei Turchini: chiesa e Real Conservatorio, Naples 2005, p. 96.