Lot 26
  • 26

ANDREA SACCHI | An Allegory of Rome

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
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  • Andrea Sacchi
  • An Allegory of Rome
  • stamped on the reverse with a monogram and with the inventory number: 183
  • oil on canvas
  • 245 x 193.5 cm.; 96 1/2  x 76 1/8  in.


Commissioned in the first half of the 1620s by Cardinal Francesco Maria Bourbon Del Monte, Rome (1549–1626); By descent to his heirs;

Private collection, France. 


Cardinal Del Monte's postumous inventory drawn up in 1627, folio 576, verso, in which the present work is the only painting by Sacchi mentioned: Un quadro di una Roma di mano di Andrea Sacchi con cornice negre con un filetto d'oro di Palmi dodici in circa; Listed in the inventory drawn up on 3 June 1628 for Cardinal del Monte's second heir, Alessandro: Roma, figura intera con il Tevere Romolo Remolo [sic] putti con la lupa quadro grande con cornice un poco indorate, et negra di Andreuccio sacchi;

C.L. Frommel, 'Caravaggios Frühwerk und der Karinal Francesco Maria del Monte', in Storia dell'Arte, 9/10, 1971, p. 31, folio 576v;

A. Sutherland Harris, Andrea Sacchi, Oxford 1977, p. 38, under n. 7;

R. Barbiellini Amidei in Andrea Sacchi, 1599–1661, exh. cat., Rome 1999, p. 35.


The following condition report is provided by Henry Gentle who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Andrea Sacchi Allegory of Rome Oil on canvas, in a period gilt wood frame with some losses. The original canvas is lined. The lining is recent, is stable and secure and provides good tension. Under u-v light a 20cm restored diagonal fracture is visible through the female figure's neck and there has been strengthening to her eyes , there is also a repaired jagged fracture to the river god's left shoulder. Further minor scattered loss can be detected across the surface, particularly along the bottom edge, across the lower section of red robe and down through the upturned urn. The restoration is not excessive but has discoloured. The paint layer, overall, is in a very good preserved state. The paint texture is in good original state and the bravura brushstrokes retain their vigour. Some of the more vulnerable glazing to the darker passages has been slightly compromised but subtle nuances remain and the colours retain their vibrancy. Removal of the dull discoloured varnish will improve the overall tonality.
"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 recently rediscovered work by Andrea Sacchi was commissioned by Cardinal Del Monte (fig. 1) in the early 1620s. It is a hugely important addition to the small corpus of works by the foremost exponent of the classical strand of the Roman Baroque. Until its rediscovery its existence was known only through mention in the Del Monte inventories, though the composition was known through the delightful red chalk drawing in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, and previously owned by Sacchi's student Carlo Maratti.1 Sacchi trained in Rome with Francesco Albani and was much influenced by Raphael. Indeed, one of his earliest known works is a copy after Raphael's Galatea. He developed a highly individual style which has, arguably, not always been sufficiently celebrated. While he was certainly not opposed to the use of rich colours, particularly early in his career, his art betrays a clear rejection of the more exuberant aspects of the Roman High Baroque, as exemplified by figures such as Pietro da Cortona and Gianlorenzo Bernini. Sacchi and Cortona are, in fact, said to have debated furiously in the Accademia di San Luca in 1636 about the relative merit of the number of figures included in their compositions and the value of a more restrained aesthetic. His vision was much more measured, finding parallels in the classicism of Nicholas Poussin, and was perhaps to find its apex in the work of his close pupil, Maratti. 

The painting includes many of the typical attributes of the Città Eterna: the river god of the Tiber, his back turned towards the viewer, leans against his urn, the waters of the river spilling out and forming a stream that fills the lower right foreground; the two infants, lower right, represent the twins Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, as they rest against and suckle from the she-wolf. The female warrior who dominates the scene, her magnificent red cloak bellowing in the wind, is a personification of Rome itself and her martial tendencies – the classical god of war, Mars, was the father of Romulus and Remus, and it is thanks to his bellicose bloodline that Rome's military success was achieved. Rome holds in her right hand a golden statue of a winged female figure who represents Victory. She can be seen leaning forward towards Rome to proffer her palm and to bestow a crown, her two attributes. Piled in the lower left foreground is the armour of a vanquished foe: both figuratively and literally, Rome is the victor. 

Sacchi's drawing at Windsor provides a very clear point of departure for the present painting, but some key changes were made during the evolution of the design. The Tiber retains its position as a fulcrum between the figure of Rome and the twins but Rome itself now dominates the painting in a way which does not happen in the drawing. Romulus and Remus have acquired much greater prominence, almost covering the she-wolf, while in the drawing they were discretely nestled into her warm body. The armour, lower left, is now tidily piled up, in contrast with how it litters the foreground of the drawing, and the tree, centre left, which provides a useful counter-balance to the background, centre right, in which soldiers can be seen, is absent from the drawing.

Sacchi's painting must have been well known, and certainly admired, by his contemporaries. Valentin de Boulogne, for example, was to borrow heavily from the present design in his 1628–29 Allegory of Italy (fig. 2), painted for the papal nephew Cardinal Francesco Barberini. After Del Monte's death, Sacchi had gained employment with the Barberini family and may have kept the drawing with him to show Valentin. The compositions share evident similarities: the victorious female figure is seen once more with a similar red wind-filled cloak. She becomes even more dominant in Valentin's composition, as she towers over both the Tiber, flanked by the twin infants, and Florence's River Arno, seen beside a lion.

Cardinal del Monte's patronage had a profound effect on the course of European art history. He was patron of the Accademia di San Luca and was a pioneering collector of the new wave of artists at the turn of the seventeenth century, including Sacchi, Adam Elsheimer, Simon Vouet, and, of course, Caravaggio. From his home in Palazzo Madama in Rome, today the home of the Italian Senate, Del Monte gave hospitality to numerous artists and built up an extraordinary collection of some 700 paintings, including no less than six works by Caravaggio but also collected works by other major figures, such as the Carracci, Guido Reni, Ribera and Guercino. In 1608 he presented Caravaggio's Medusa (today at the Uffizi) to Grand Duke Ferdinand of Florence and in 1599 had obtained for Caravaggio his first public commission, the Calling of Saint Matthew and the Martyrdom of Saint Mathew, both in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. His intellectual interests also included music, alchemy, science and poetry, and he patronised both Galileo Galilei and Torquato Tasso. By 1620 Sacchi was under the Cardinal's protection and he painted for him a cycle representing the seasons in the loggia of the now-destroyed Ripetta garden, as well as several other untraced works and the present Allegory. It was thanks to Del Monte's influence that Sacchi won the commission in 1622 for the high altar of Saint Isidoro in Rome (in situ), as well as the altarpiece of Saint Gregory and the Miracle of the Corporal in 1625 for the Basilica of Saint Peter's (now in the chapter house of Saint Peter's).

The attribution has been independently endorsed by Arnaud Brejon de Lavergnée and Ann Sutherland Harris, to whom we are grateful.

1 Sutherland Harris 1977, p. 38. At the time of her monograph, the scholar was undecided between attributing the drawing to Camassei or Sacchi, to whom the drawing had been attributed by Blunt by 1960. She subsequently opted for the Sacchi attribution, an opinion she still maintains. 
2 Sutherland Harris 1977, pp. 50–51, no. 6, reproduced pl. 4; p. 52, no. 9, reproduced pl. 8.