The Dealer's Eye | New York

The Dealer's Eye | New York

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 141. PIETRO BENVENUTI  |  BACCHUS AND ARIADNE.

Property from Robert Simon Fine Art, New York


Lot Closed

June 25, 03:41 PM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from Robert Simon Fine Art, New York


Arezzo 1769-1844 Firenze


signed and dated lower right: P. Benvenuti / 1819

oil on canvas

unframed: 55¾ x 39¼ in.; 143 x 100 cm.

framed: 62¾ x 45¾ in.; 159.4 x 116.2 cm.

Colonel Wilson, England;

Private collection, Rome;

Anonymous sale, Copenhagen, Bruun Rasmussen, 29 February 2000, lot 308;

With Galleria W. Appoloni, Rome;

From whom acquired by a private collection, New York, September 2004 - 2018.  

U. Viviani, Arezzo e gli Aretini; pagine raccolte, Arezzo 1921, pp. 183-185;

Pietro Benvenuti, 1769-1844: Mostra di opere inedite nel secondo centenario della nascita, exhibition catalogue, Arezzo 1969, pp. 48, 91-92, reproduced plate 14;

L. Fornasari, "Dipinte e disegni rintracciati. Aggiunte al catalogo di Salvi Castellucci, Giovanni Battista Biondi, Domenico Sozzini, Gian Lorenzo Zagli, Pier Dandini, Mattia de Mare, Francesco Curradi, Pietro Benvenuti e altro, II," in Bolletino d'Informazione. Brigata Aretina degli Amici dei Monumenti, 70, pp. 54-56, reproduced fig. 1;

L. Fornarsari, in Ottocento ad Arezzo; La Collezione Bartolini, exhibition catalogue, Arezzo 2003-2004, cat. no. 23, pp. 131-132, reproduced;

L. Fornasari, Pietro Benvenuti, Florence 2004, pp. 327-330, reproduced fig. 275;

A. Imbelloni, in L'Officina Neoclassica; Dall'Accademia de'Pensieri al Accademia d'Italia, exhibition catalogue, Faenza 2009, p. 168;

L. Fornasari, "Da giovane sussidiato dalla Fraternita dei Laici di Arezzo a 'Principe dei Pittori Toscani,'" in Pittore Imperiale; Pietro Benvenuti alla corte di Napoleone e dei Lorena, exhibition catalogue, Florence 2009, pp. 20-21, reproduced fig. 5. 


Giovanni Battista Balestra, after a design by Vincenzo Gozzini (published in N. Palmerini, Pitture del Cavaliere Pietro Benvenuti, Pisa 1821). 

"The enduring appeal of the story of Bacchus and Ariadne is told here by Benvenuti, one of the leading Italian Neoclassical painters in Tuscany and the eventual Director of the Accademia in Florence. Benvenuti’s solid forms and extreme attention to the details of musculature and surface illustrate his direct awareness of the sculptor Canova, who was also a personal friend."

David Pollack

This impressive depiction of Bacchus and Ariadne was painted by Pietro Benvenuti, one of the leading figures of the Italian Neoclassical movement. It remains a notable example of his work for private patrons, completed in 1819 for "Colonello" Wilson, as confirmed by the dedication on the 1823 engraving after this painting.1 Here, the beautiful Ariadne, disconsolate after her beloved Theseus abandoned her on the island of Naxos, has fallen asleep on rocks near the shore. She is approached by Bacchus, the god of wine, led by the figure of Cupid, who pulls him along while cautioning him to silence at the same time. Bacchus wears a crown of grape leaves and grape clusters, and he grasps in his right hand his traditional attribute, the thyrsus, or a staff topped with a pine cone. Raising his arm in a gesture of astonishment and protection, he immediately falls in love with a partially garbed Ariadne. In a moment, she will awake, and the two will go on to marry and enjoy eternal happiness together. In the background at left, an aged Silenus, Bacchus’ tutor, is being helped up the hill, surrounded by satyrs and maenads, drinking, dancing and playing music.  

Benvenuti carefully worked through this composition by way of a number of preparatory sketches. An initial study showed Bacchus standing on the right, with a prone Ariadne on the left.2 A more developed drawing in the Casa Sandrelli in Arezzo, detailed more of the essentials of the composition with Bacchus and Ariadne in nearly their final positions, but with Cupid on Bacchus’ left and his pursuing jovial entourage on his right.3 A third drawing in the Bartolini Collection in Siena more closely established the final composition. 

Fornasari has drawn attention to the varied influences on the career of Benvenuti around the time he completed the present painting—from ancient sculpture, to 16th century Venetian painting, and to the works of Canova and Thorvaldsen. Certainly, there are echoes of both the Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican in Rome5 and Thorvaldsen’s Jason with the Golden Fleece today in the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen in Bacchus’ pose and attitude, while the figure of the sleeping Ariadne recalls both ancient sculptural prototypes and the elaborations of them by Titian and his contemporaries.  

Benvenuti’s career was particularly rooted in Tuscany. Born in Arezzo, he entered the Accademia di Belle Arte in Florence as a young artist and studied under Giuseppe Piattoli and Sante Pacini. In his 20s, he travelled to Rome, where his art developed not only under the influence of Vincenzo Camuccini and Antonio Canova, but also from his first hand exposure to Italian Baroque painting. Benvenuti’s career flourished during a period of French rule in Italy (1794-1814). He returned to Florence in 1903 as Court Painter and Director of the Accademia in Florence, and commissions from Napoleon and his sister Elisa Baciocchi, who was appointed Grand Duchess of Tuscany, soon followed. After the fall of Napoleon and the restoration of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, Benvenuti continued to receive important commissions, among which were frescoes in the Palazzo Pitti and the ceiling of the Cappelle dei Principi in San Lorenzo. Throughout his career, Benvenuti combined his love of drama with crisp and legible design to create classicizing compositions with a vibrant Romantic tendency.  

1. Benvenuti also mentioned this Bacchus and Ariadne in his third-person autobiographical notes published by Viviani: "He painted a picture with figures one-third life size, depicting Bacchus finding Ariadne on the Island of Naxos for an English gentleman."

2. Pencil, 200 x 160 mm; See Fornasari 2000 and Fornasari 2004, reproduced fig. 276.

3. Pencil and Pen, 352 x 231/245 mm; published by Carlo Del Bravo in Pietro Benvenuti, 1969, cat. no. 14.

4. Pen and Brown Ink, 190 x 250mm (entire sheet); published by Fornasari 2003-2004, cat. no. 23.