Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 37. A boy in profile, holding an apple.

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

A boy in profile, holding an apple

Auction Closed

January 26, 04:31 PM GMT


40,000 - 60,000 USD

Lot Details


Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

Venice 1682 - 1754

A boy in profile, holding an apple

Black chalk, heightened with white chalk, on blue paper

397 by 271 mm; 15⅝ by 10¾ in.

Probably William Beckford, Fonthill Abbey,
thence by descent to Mrs John Beckford,
sale, London, Sotheby’s, 18 November 1959, lot 2;
K.J. Hewett, Bog Farm, Kent,
from whom acquired by the present owners

Piazzetta's reputation as a talented and brilliant draughtsman was established chiefly on the basis of studies such as this, which became known as 'teste di carattere'. His patrons and biographers often lamented his slowness in completing his paintings, but it seems he was able to produce very quickly these distinctive, finished and pictorial drawings, which became an important source of income for him, from early in his career.  Generally representing heads or half-length figures, executed on large sheets of bluish paper, these impressive studies soon became extremely popular with collectors and connoisseurs of Piazzetta's own time, and remain so today. They were conceived as works of art in their own right, to be framed and hung on the wall among paintings.

Speaking of the artist's technique in these remarkable works, Alice Binion observed ‘..the extraordinary tactility of the figures was obtained by his singular technique of modelling by smudging the chalk instead of using hatching,’1 a technique which creates a subtle sfumato effect full of nuances, like that of a painter in pastels. Nowhere in Piazzetta's drawn oeuvre is this technical brilliance more evident than in his teste di carattere, which are rightly the best known and most admired of all the artist's drawings.

1. The Glory of Venice, exhib. cat., London, Royal Academy, and Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1994, p. 148