Giovanni Pratesi
The Florentine Eye
Auction: 22 March 2023, Milan

Giovanni Pratesi: The Florentine Eye 22 March 2023 • 4:00 PM CET • Milan

G iovanni Pratesi has been a central figure in Florentine cultural life for half a century. He has contributed to making Florence an international centre of the art market. For any serious collector, a visit to Giovanni’s gallery in the city’s Via Maggio has been an essential experience.

Giovanni has played a key role in innovating and redefining the figure of the dealer in post-War Florence. He approaches the arts with the attitude of a connoisseur, a collector whose innate curiosity leads to the discovery of the true identity, meaning and value of a works of art previously dismissed as anonymous.

Giovanni Pratesi

An outstanding example of Giovanni’s virtuoso intuition is his rediscovery of the lost portrait bust of Gaetano Berenstadt (1687-1734), a music star of his time and Handel’s favourite virtuoso singer, who then worked as a sculpture dealer. Prior to its rediscovery, the bust had languished in another dealer’s gallery, forgotten, and misidentified as a portrait of Louis XV. Having purchased the bust, Giovanni was able to identify the bust as a portrait of Gaetano Berenstadt following a compelling comparison with the medal portrait by Lorenzo Maria Weber, itself in Giovanni’s collection. In September 2022, Giovanni presented the bust of Berenstadt as a donation to the Palazzo Pitti.

A guiding concern for Italy’s cultural heritage has been evident throughout Giovanni’s career. The Florentine prides himself in his strong relations with Italian museums and cultural institutions, as well as personal relationships with leading curators and scholars. This approach is exemplified by the collection of 16th-century Sienese paintings that Giovanni created for the Pinacoteca di Siena, which bridges an earlier gap between the Renaissance and Baroque pictures in that collection.

Giovanni has been instrumental in promoting research into neglected periods of Florentine art history. His exhaustive efforts have encouraged a new generation of young scholars and have culminated in two esteemed publications, Repertorio della Scultura Fiorentina del Seicento e Settecento (1993) and Repertorio della Scultura Fiorentina del Cinquecento (2003), both of which were edited by Giovanni.

The creation of the Fondazione Giovanni Pratesi, in the former Oratory Serristori at Figline Valdarrno, is a concrete testament to Giovanni’s vision, his love of Florentine art, and his desire to share his passion with the Tuscan public. His interest in materials, and his deep concern for architectural history is at the heart of Giovanni’s sensitive restoration of Giovan Battista Foggini’s Serristori Chapel.

Many exquisite works of art have passed through Giovanni Pratesi’s elegant, vaulted gallery. The dealer has, however, retained a first-class collection, built across the span of his illustrious career, which Sotheby’s is now privileged to present at auction in Milan on 22nd March 2023. The works in this publication reflect Giovanni’s taste, style and passion for the arts, which is rooted in the venerable tradition of Florentine scholarship. Giovanni is the most prominent inheritor of an earlier generation of Florentine art dealers, notably Stefano Bardini and Elia Volpi, who had themselves shaped the taste for Early Renaissance Art at beginning of the 20th century.

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