Lot 156
  • 156


100,000 - 150,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Donato Creti
  • A Fate
  • oil on canvas, in a painted oval
  • 30 by 24 7/8  in.; 76 by 63 cm.


Count Pietro Ercole Fava (died 1744), Palazzo Fava, Bologna, listed in the Carracci Hall, as either cat. no. L. 20 or L. 25 (“Una femina che fila nella naspa, mezza figura dal vero, con cornice intagliata, del Creti”);
Presumably thence by descent in the collection to Count Carlo Fava, Palazzo Fava, Bologna (died 1790).


Inventory of the collection of Count Pietro Ercole Fava, drawn up in 1745 by Donato Creti, published by G. Campori, Raccolta di cataloghi ed inventari inediti, 1870, p. 610, as either cat. no. L. 20 or cat. no. L. 25.


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 painted on a dark brown ground color. Creti's paint layer is very brushy and loose and while the dark ground color has become more visible over time, the original paint layer retains a good deal of character. The restorations have slightly discolored over time. They are visible immediately to the right of the ear, running down through the jaw into the white blouse. There are other restorations in the temple and beneath the eye. The remainder of the figure shows restorations in her shoulder on the right and left and in a couple of spots in her hand. The background to the right of the head and shoulders and in the upper left and right is quite consistently restored. If the work is cleaned and the retouches are reexamined, the picture will certainly benefit. However, the existing restorations are reasonably effective and the work could also 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

Unknown to scholars until recently, this portrayal of a beautiful and contemplative young woman is an important addition to the corpus of Donati Creti, one of the most poetic artists of the Bolognese school.  Datable to the 1690s, it ranks among the artist’s earliest works and is a testament to his precocious talents so admired by Count Alessandro Fava, one of his most important early patrons. This woman, who has been rendered with a free and lively brush, is one of the three Fates, mysterious sisters from Greek mythology who determined the destiny of men through spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of life.  She is shown here in profile, one of Creti’s favorite compositional devices, as it allowed him to capture idealized and original renderings of feminine elegance.  She wears a simple dress, and her golden hair is adorned with braids and jewels, and with a pensive expression, she casts her eyes downward over her left shoulder.  She sits in front of a simple wooden spinning wheel and holds a thin thread of string with two fingers of her left hand. 

Very likely, this Fate is Clotho, the sister who spins the thread.  Although she is seen here in solitude tending to her work, she probably once formed part of a trio of paintings with her sisters: Lachesis, the one who measures the thread, and Atropis, the one who cuts the thread.  Further supporting this idea is the existence of a closely related composition by Creti of a young woman, probably Lachesis, seen in profile but facing to the left (fig. 1).  Presently unlocated, then, would be Atropis, who would have been placed in the middle.  The downward and reflective glances of her two other sisters suggest they are looking on as she cuts the thread of life. 

Professor Daniele Benati, who has examined this work firsthand, endorses the attribution to Donato Creti and dates the painting to the 1690s.