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    Sale 13731

    Brian Sewell - Critic & Collector

    27 September 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 108

    Andrea Sacchi (Nettuno, near Rome 1599-1661 Rome)

    The Madonna and Child with Saints Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Cosmas and Damian - a bozzetto

    Price Realised  


    Andrea Sacchi (Nettuno, near Rome 1599-1661 Rome)
    The Madonna and Child with Saints Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Cosmas and Damian - a bozzetto
    oil on canvas
    24 x 15 7/8 in. (60.8 x 40.4 cm.)

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    This Madonna and Child with Saints, which relates to Andrea Sacchi’s ceiling fresco of circa 1629 in the Old Pharmacy of the Collegio Romano in Rome, is an exceptionally rare surviving sketch by one of the most significant Italian artists of the 17th century. Alongside Nicolas Poussin and Alessandro Algardi, Sacchi established a reputation as one of the pre-eminent exponents of Baroque Classicism in Rome in the 1630s and as a vociferous critic of the flamboyant Baroque manner championed by their contemporaries Pietro da Cortona and Gianlorenzo Bernini. Ellis Waterhouse, the great doyen of Italian Baroque painting, described Sacchi’s work as ‘the most sensitive and considered to be produced by a native Roman painter in the century’ (E. Waterhouse, Roman Baroque Painting, Edinburgh, 1976, p. 112).

    The scarcity of pictures by the artist to have appeared on the market is largely due to the fact that a considerable part of Sacchi’s oeuvre has remained with the descendants of the Roman families who commissioned the works. In particular he was patronised by various members of the Barberini; he was the official painter to Cardinal Antonio Barberini and executed the ceiling fresco of the Allegory of Divine Wisdom for the Palazzo Barberini between c.1629-1631. Although there is no record of the family having commissioned the fresco for the Old Pharmacy, the fact that the Barberini owned both a preparatory sketch and a larger version of the finished work would suggest that they were involved in some capacity.

    Sacchi was a notoriously self-critical artist and the existence of two sketches associated with the Old Pharmacy fresco is arguably an indication of his satisfaction with the composition. The Barberini sketch, now in the Fondazione Roberto Longhi in Florence, is of slightly larger dimensions (63.5 x 43.5 cm.) but is otherwise compositionally identical to this picture, barring the omission of the lowest winged putto on the left of the Madonna. However, as Ann Sutherland Harris has noted, the Sewell sketch is a ‘more carefully prepared work’ (op. cit., 1967) than the Longhi version, which she observes is somewhat darker, and that the thin paint layer of the latter would indicate it was the more rapidly executed of the two, suggesting it pre-dates this picture.

    This chronology is supported by the early provenance for the Sewell sketch, which is thought to have been owned by the shadowy Sicilian nobleman Don Fabrizio Valguarnera. A diamond merchant and collector, Valguarnera is known to have acquired a number of other artists’ copies of their own works in Rome at the beginning of the 1630s. In early 1631, Valguarnera purchased Poussin’s celebrated Plague of Ashdod (1630; Paris, Louvre) for 110 scudi but, later that year, after being implicated in a diamond-stealing affair, he found himself at the centre of a sensational trial in Rome, in which the French artist, along with Giovanni Lanfranco and Alessandro Turchi, famously testified against the Sicilian.

    A preparatory drawing for the figure of Saint Ignatius is preserved at Windsor (see A.F. Blunt and H.L. Cooke, Roman Drawings of the XVII & XVIII centuries in the collection of Her Majesty The Queen at Windsor Castle, London, 1960, p. 48, no. 202 verso, as ‘Lanfranco’).


    (Probably) acquired from the artist by Don Fabrizio Valguarnera (d. 1632), before March 1631, for 30 scudi, and listed in his inventory as ‘Il quadretto di S. Ignazio cola Mad.a et altri santi piccolo’.
    A French Marshal, by 1770 (according to an old inscription on the reverse).
    Private collection, Ireland, where purchased by Brian Sewell, by the early 1960s.


    J. Costello, 'The twelve pictures "ordered by Velasquez" and the trial of Valguarnera', in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XIII, London, 1950, pp. 271 & 273.
    A. Sutherland Harris, Masters of the Loaded Brush: Oil Sketches from Rubens to Tiepolo, exhib. cat., New York, 1967, p. 12.
    A. Sutherland Harris, 'Andrea Sacchi and Emilio Savonanzi at the Collegio Romano', The Burlington Magazine, CX, no. 782, May 1968, pp. 250-53, illustrated, fig. 21.
    Bulletin of the National Gallery of Canada, Ontario, 1969, no. 5 (illustrated).
    A. Sutherland Harris, Andrea Sacchi, Complete Edition of the Paintings, Oxford, 1977, p. 57, no. 16, illustrated, colour plate IV and fig. 26.
    La Fondazione Roberto Longhi a Firenze, Milan, 1980, p. 279, under no. 92.
    O. Ferrari, Bozzetti italiani dal Manierismo al Barocco, Naples, 1990, p. 231, p. 231, illustrated.
    B. Sewell, Outsider - always almost: never quite, London, 2011, illustrated.


    New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Masters of the Loaded Brush: Oil Sketches from Rubens to Tiepolo, 4 April - 29 April, 1967, no. 6.
    Nettuno, Forte Sangallo, Andrea Sacchi 1599-1661, 20 November 1999 - 16 January 2000, no. 2.