ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI | PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, PROBABLY ANTOINE DE VILLE, FULL-LENGTH, RESTING HIS HAND ON A SWORD AND WITH HIS ARM AKIMBO
Property of a Private California Collector
Property of a Private California Collector
Rome 1593 - 1654 Naples
PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, PROBABLY ANTOINE DE VILLE, FULL-LENGTH, RESTING HIS HAND ON A SWORD AND WITH HIS ARM AKIMBO
signed with monogram in the lace on the collar: A G
oil on canvas
80 by 43 in.; 203.2 by 109.2 cm.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work is in unusually good condition and should be hung in its current state. The canvas has an old lining which is still nicely stabilizing the paint layer. There is an original join in the canvas running vertically on the right side through the index finger of the left hand. In the lower right corner, there is an original section of canvas, joined horizontally through his left foot connecting to the aforementioned vertical join. The surface is attractive, although there is a very slight pattern of raised cracking in some areas. The paint layer is in beautiful condition. It is clean and varnished, with very few retouches at all. There are a few retouches around the edges, and to the original joins. The only real concentration of retouches is in the floor beneath and to the left of the figure's right foot.
"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."
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 26 January 2007, lot 378 (as Genoese School, 17th Century);
There acquired by Old and Modern Masters, Ltd., London;
Koelliker Collection, Milan;
With Robilant + Voena / Sperone Westwater, 2010 - 2011;
Where acquired, 2011.
J. Mann in Italian Paintings from the 17th & 18th Centuries, exhibition catalogue, New York 2011, pp. 30-32, reproduced in color front cover, p. 31 and p. 33 (detail);
R. Contini and F. Solinas, eds., Artemisia Gentileschi: The Story of a Passion, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2011, pp. 186-89, cat. no. 24, reproduced in color p. 187 and 189 (detail);
J. Mann in Artemisia Gentileschi e il sui tempo, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2016, pp. 208-09, cat. no. 61, reproduced in color p. 209;
A. Grassi, Artemisia Gentileschi, Pisa 2017, pp. 167, 169-172, reproduced in color pp. 170-71 (detail) and 172.
New York, Sperone Westwater, Italian Paintings from the 17th & 18th Centuries, 7 January – 19 February 2011, no cat. no;
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Artemisia Gentileschi: The Story of a Passion, 22 September 2011 - 29 January 2012, no. 24;
Rome, Palazzo Braschi, Artemisia Gentileschi e il sui tempo, 30 November 2016 - 7 May 2017, no. 61.
This impressive portrait of a gentleman is a recent addition to the oeuvre of celebrated female artist Artemisia Gentileschi. She cleverly added her initials AG to the elegant Genoese lace on the sitter’s collar, a detail so subtle that it went unnoticed for many years. The sitter is likely the French military engineer Antoine de Ville, whose likeness is known through an engraving and who Artemisia may have met in Rome through the Accademia dei Desiosi. Though she is better known today for her history paintings, early sources claim her real specialty was portraiture, and the present lot, dated to circa 1626-27, adds to our understanding of this part of her career.
Before Judith Mann attributed the present lot to Artemisia, the only surviving portrait (other than several possible self-portraits) securely attributed to the artist was the Portrait of a Papal Gonfaloniere dated 1622 in the Pinacoteca, Bologna (fig. 1). One other Portrait of a Lady, circa 1620-25 was previously misattributed to Orazio Gentileschi but has been given to Artemisia, possibly with the collaboration of others, in the last few decades.1 Yet primary sources praise Artemisia as a portraitist, beginning in 1612 during the artist’s rape trial, which referenced a portrait she made.2 Filippo Baldinucci wrote in the late 17th century that Artemisia “dedicated herself to making portraits, of which she made very many in Rome,” while the Neapolitan historiagrapher Bernardo de Dominici claimed in 1742 that her fame was due to “portraits of important personages that she had so excellently painted.”3 18th-century British critic Horace Walpole touted that Artemisia bested her own father in portraiture while in England, where she “drew some of the royal family and many of the nobility.”4 With only one surviving portrait, art historians previously believed these references were evidence of male writers playing to the assumption that female artists were forced to specialize in portraiture as they were unable to study the male nude, considered a requirement for history painting. Now that three portraits have emerged, the historical sources are supported, and more portraits may yet surface to confirm Artemisia's mastery of the genre.
The most important evidence for Artemisia’s work as a portraitist as it concerns this painting is an engraving by Jerome David depicting French military engineer Antoine de Ville and inscribed with the date 1627 and the name Artemisia Gentileschi (fig. 2). The features of De Ville match those of our sitter, in particular the arch of the eyebrows and long nose. The engraved portrait appeared as the frontispiece of De Ville’s engineering treatise, Les fortifications du chevalier Antoine de Ville, published in Lyon in 1628. The date 1627 in the engraving can therefore be read as the date of Artemisia’s portrait or at least the date of the engraving design after the painted portrait. Artemisia would therefore have painted De Ville while in Rome, where she stayed from 1622 until at least 1627, and where she, as Baldinucci noted, painted many portraits.
A native of Toulouse, De Ville entered the service of the French crown and supervised the construction and improvement of strategic fortifications, in which role he served in some campaigns against the Huguenots. Beginning in 1626, he was in the service of Duke Carlo Emmanuele I of Savoy and worked also for his son, Prince Thomas of Carignano, ambassador to Paris. De Ville was made a condottiero of the Savoy Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, and sent to Rome to continue his scientific education. There he enjoyed the patronage of Cardinal Maurizio of Savoy, another of Carlo Emmanuele I’s sons, and was active in the Accademia dei Desiosi, headed by the Cardinal. It is through this latter association that he probably met Artemisia, as she was also connected to the erudite Accademia dei Desiosi. The anonymous man in her earlier Portrait of a Papal Gonfaloniere (fig. 1) wears the cross on his chest and green sash indicating his membership in the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus. De Ville remained in Rome until 1630, when he was sent to Venice to design new fortifications. In 1635 he returned to France where he participated in the reconquest of Corbie during the Thirty Years’ War.5
The Portrait of Antoine de Ville fits into the tradition of full-length military or political portraiture developed by Titian and used by every 17th-century court painter. The vertical format and low viewpoint increase the sitter’s height and his confident pose with right arm akimbo and left arm resting on his hilt convey authority. Gestural manuals at the time, utilized especially by those in public speaking roles, listed these positions of the arm as ones that communicate aggressiveness and pride, qualities suited to De Ville’s military role.6 While in her earlier portrait (see fig. 1), she created more of an interior setting with a table holding a decorated helmet and a standard jutting into the picture plane at upper right, in the present portrait the sitter is set against a nondescript background. In its sparse setting as well as in the strong shadows cast by the figure, she was inspired by Caravaggio’s Portrait of Alof de Wignacourt with a Page, circa 1607-08, Louvre.7 Comparisons can also be drawn with the work of Artemisia’s contemporary and friend, Simon Vouet, who was also working in Rome and Venice in the 1620s and whose portraits feature uninhibited poses.
1. Gentileschi, Portrait of a Lady, c. 1620-25, oil on canvas, 127 by 95.3 cm. Private collection. See R. Contini and F. Solinas, eds. in Literature, cat. no. 23, pp. 184-185.
2. See M.D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art, Princeton 1989, p. 62 and Appendix B
3. See K. Christiansen and J.W. Mann, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, exhibition catalogue, New Haven 2001, p. 360.
4. See M.D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art, Princeton 1989, p. 62.
5. See A. Grassi in Literature, p. 188.
6. Ibid., p. 186.
7. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Portrait of Alof de Wignacourt with a Page, circa 1607-08, oil on canvas, 194 by 134 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris.