Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 24. A muse presenting Simonelli to Archimedes, seated at a table.

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection

Pier Francesco Mola

A muse presenting Simonelli to Archimedes, seated at a table

Auction Closed

January 26, 04:31 PM GMT

Estimate

15,000 - 20,000 USD

Lot Details

Description

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection

Pier Francesco Mola

Coldrerio 1612 - 1666 Rome

A muse presenting Simonelli to Archimedes, seated at a table


Pen and brown ink with gray wash over red chalk;

inscribed in pen and brown ink: archimede.

163 by 240 mm; 6⅜ by 9½in.

Sir Robert Mond (1867-1938), London (L.2813a);
with P. & D. Colnaghi & Co, London, by whom given, Christmas 1953, to 
A. Paul Oppé (1878-1957),
his sale, London, Christie's, Master Drawings from The Oppé Collection, 5 December 2006, lot 34,
where purchased by the present owner
T. Borenius and F. Wittkower, Catalogue of the Collection of Drawings by the Old Masters formed by Sir Robert Mond, London, 1939, no. 166, pl. XXIV;
K.T. Parker, Catalogue of the Collection of Drawings in the Ashmolean Museum, II, Italian Schools, Oxford, 1956, under no. 915

Niccolò Simonelli (1611-1671) was a friend and patron of Mola and the subject of several of his caricatures, of which at least thirteen are known, including three other drawings formerly in the Oppé collection.1


Simonelli, an influential and active personality in the art world of the 17th century, served as an administrator under various cardinals, starting with Francesco Maria Brancaccio and Camillo Pamphili, then took charge of the Chigi household, and became 'guardarobiere' to the Cardinal Flavio Chigi (1631-1693), the nephew and favourite of Alexander VII. He had a reputation as a connoisseur and adviser on artistic matters and was not afraid to use these advantages to deal in pictures and other artworks.  He also assembled his own notable collection of drawings by Giulio Romano, Polidoro da Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci, his favourite master, and collected paintings, antiquities and cameos too. Within the artistic community of his time his influence was important, and he helped, for instance, to launch the artistic career of Salvator Rosa.


In the present drawing, Mola's narrative, rendered in pen and ink and wash with red chalk, is not entirely clear, in terms of its symbolic meaning. However, its playfulness and caricatural nature is very apparent in the energetic application of the media and in the overall quirkiness of composition. The 1989 Lugano exhibition catalogue entry for the drawing suggests that Simonelli's introduction to Archimedes is perhaps part of an inside joke between Mola and his good friend. It also comments on the inclusion of the female allegorical figure and questions her metaphorical role in this mysterious encounter. Whilst the symbolic meaning behind the figures remains ambiguous, Mola's talent in formulating a comic scene, with a seemingly effortless brevity of line, is indisputable.


Simonelli was not only immortalized by Mola but was also featured and celebrated in caricatures by other contemporary artists, including Jusepe de Ribera and Pietro Testa.3


1. Sale, London, Christie's, Master Drawings from The Oppé Collection, 5 December 2006, lots, 35, 36 and 37

2.  F. Haskell, Patrons and Painters, revised and enlarged edition, New Haven and London, 1980, p. 124

3. Jusepe de Ribera, Man wearing a large cloak and a small naked man on his head, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Inv. no. 1981.395); Pietro Testa, Study for 'The Feast of Midas' with a Letter to Simonelli, see E. Cropper, Pietro Testa, Philadelphia 1988, nos. 99 and 100