The Dealer's Eye | New York

The Dealer's Eye | New York


Property from Robert Simon Fine Art, New York


Lot Closed

June 25, 03:42 PM GMT


20,000 - 30,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from Robert Simon Fine Art, New York


Pistoia 1638 - 1721 Rome


oil on canvas

unframed: 45⅝ x 18¼ in.; 115.9 x 45.7 cm.

framed: 49¾x 22⅛ in.; 126.4 x 56.2 cm.

With Gallery Lasson, London, 1967;

With Frost & Reed, London, 1968;

From whom acquired by Barney A. Ebsworth, Seattle and Saint Louis, 1968-2018;

Thence by descent;

Anonymous sale ("Property from a Private Collection, Seattle, Washington"), Chicago, Hindman, 17 July 2019, lot 138 (as Attributed to Luigi Garzi). 

Apollo, September 1967, p. lvii, reproduced;

B. Nicolson, "Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions," in Burlington Magazine, vol. 109, no. 775, October 1967, pp. liii, 597, 599, reproduced fig. 65;

"Frost & Reed Ltd.," in The Illustrated London News, 7 December 1968, p. 3, reproduced;

T. Poensgen, Die Deckenmalerei in Italienischen Kirchen, Berlin 1969, p. 91;

G. Sestieri, "Per la conoscenza di Luigi Garzi," in Commentari, vol. 23, no. 1-2, XXIII, January - June 1972, pp. 102, 109-110, footnote 31, cat. no. 8;

F. Santarelli, in Iconografia di S. Caterina da Siena, vol. I, Rome 1988, pp. 503-504, cat. no. 567 and under cat. no. 566;

O. Ferrari, Bozzetti Italiani dal Manierismo al Barocco, Naples 1990, p. 127;

M. Bevilacqua, Santa Caterina da Siena a Magnanapoli: Arte e Storia di una Communità Religiosa Romana nell'età della Controriforma, Rome 1993, p. 106, note 43.

"How wonderful to be able to bring a monumental ceiling painting into your own home. That is what we have here, with Garzi’s bozzetto for his ceiling fresco in the Roman Church of Santa Caterina Magnapoli. Garzi was a leading member of the Roman classicism movement which was en vogue in the Eternal City at the onset of the 18th century, and this picture contains all the lyrical, proportioned, and balanced qualities which made that style so revered."

David Pollack

This large and detailed canvas depicting The Virgin Presenting Saint Catherine of Siena to Christ in Glory by Luigi Garzi is a bozzetto for one of the finest projects of his long career: a ceiling fresco datable to the early 1710s in Santa Caterina a Magnanapoli in Rome (fig. 1). Like the final project, the sketch unfolds across several registers with the figures masterfully arranged along a gentle S-shaped curve that draws the eye upward. Christ is shown blessing at the zenith of this swirling mass of clouds and figures, while the Virgin and Saint Catherine are placed prominently below. The protagonists are surrounded by a host of winged angels, flying putti, and other holy figures, including Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Dominic to the left of the Virgin, and Mary Magdalene and Saint Catherine of Alexandria to the right of Saint Catherine of Siena. In the final fresco, Garzi made some subtle changes to the position and description of some of the figures, but the most notable change visible is the movement of Christ’s blessing gesture from his right to his left hand.  

Luigi Garzi was born in Pistoia and had moved to Rome by the age of fifteen, when he entered the workshop of Andrea Sacchi, one of the leading proponents of Baroque classicism in seventeenth-century Rome. It is largely to Sacchi and his most celebrated pupil, Carlo Maratti, that Garzi owes the cool and refined style that characterizes his works. Garzi had a highly successful career in Rome. He was appointed in 1680 as regent of the Congregazione dei Virtuosi al Pantheon, the papal art academy, and in 1682 the director of the Accademia di San Luca, the painter’s guild. He is best known for his large-scale ecclesiastic commissions. In addition to the ceiling fresco for which the present sketch was made, other notable examples can be found throughout Rome in San Carlo al Corso, the chapel of San Francesco in San Silvestro in Capite, the naves of San Giovanni in Laterano, the Oratory of Santa Maria Traspontina, and San Paolo alla Regola. 

A preliminary drawing for Garzi's fresco in Santa Caterina a Magnanapoli is preserved today in the Louvre,1 and in addition to the present sketch, three additional bozzetti are known: one in the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, one formerly with the Heim Gallery in London,3 and a third formerly on the art market in Rome.4 The four bozzetti appear to have been produced at roughly the same moment in the design process, as few compositional differences between them appear. The most salient variation is the choice of palette, with more muted colors in the Copenhagen example and more vibrant and bold colors in the present example. It would seem likely that these repetitions of the composition were executed for the patron or patrons of the fresco, although it is possible that one or more were painted to be sold independently to collectors.  Of the four versions known, the present example appears to be the most highly finished and detailed. In addition to distinguishing features such as Christ's radiant halo, it stands out for the dramatic play of light and shadow across the composition. 

Garzi's final fresco was completed by at least 1713, as attested by Giacomo Pinaroli, who stated in his guidebook of that year that the fresco had only recently been painted. Although the precise dating is uncertain, it is clear that Garzi was engaged on this project between 1700-1712.6  Mario Bevilacqua has proposed that the final fresco was commissioned by Giovanni Patrizi—whose illustrious Sienese family was closely connected with the church of Santa Caterina a Magnanopoli—probably in celebration of his appointment in 1702 as bishop of Seleucia. This commission may have also been auspiciously timed with the renovations of the lateral chapels of the church in 1701-1702.7 Bevilacqua further notes that the choice of Luigi Garzi for this specific project could be explained by the fact that Patrizi had recently served as papal nuncio in Naples, where he undoubtedly would have encountered Garzi's most recent projects, including his notably similar ceiling fresco of The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and the Ecstasy of Saint Catherine of The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and the Ecstasy of Saint Catherine of Siena in the Neapolitan church of Santa Caterina a Formiello.8 



3. Oil on canvas, 114 x 45 cm. This painting was paired at the Heim Gallery with a similar sketch by Garzi from a ceiling fresco project in Naples. It is not known for certain when these paintings were with the Heim Gallery, but it appears to have been circa 1971. See The Heim Gallery Records, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.

4. This untraced bozzetto was sold at the Galleria Borghese auction house in Rome on 6 November 1985, lot 717. See, M. Bevilacqua, Santa Caterina da Siena a Magnanopoli: Arte e Storia di una Communità Religiosa Romana nell'età della Controriforma, Rome 1993, pp. 106, 108, footnote 43, reproduced.  

5. G. Pinaroli, L'antichità di Roma, Rome 1713, p. 61.  

6. It has previously been suggested that the painter Pietro Nelli (1672-1730), about whom little is known may have assisted in executing the final ceiling fresco, as Garzi was at an advanced age with the project was completed. There is no evidence to suggest this beyond the fact that Erasmo Pistolesi erroneously named Nelli as the author of the fresco in his 1841 Descrizioni di Roma e suoi Contorni, p. 332. See Poensgen 1969, pp. 90-91 and E. Waterhouse Roman Baroque Painting: A List of the Principal Painters and their Works in and around Rome, Oxford 1976, p. 78.  

7. Bevilacqua 1993, p. 68. 

8. Bevilaqua 1993, p. 106, footnote 44.