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    Sale 7575

    Old Master and British Pictures

    25 April 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 98

    Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (Venice 1682-1754)

    The Good Samaritan

    Price Realised  


    Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (Venice 1682-1754)
    The Good Samaritan
    with Schulenburg inventory number '436' (lower left); with number '33' (on the reverse); inscribed 'Piazetta px.' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas, unlined
    31 x 42 in. (78.7 x 106.7 cm.)

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    With its pendant pair The Dead Abel (fig. 1, sold at Sotheby's, London, 12 December 1984, lot 21), The Good Samaritan is Piazzetta's earliest recorded work, possibly dating from his years as a student in the studio of Antonio Molinari (1655-1704), one of the leading tenebrosi of Venice. The choice of subjects, with its juxtaposition of a New Testament and an Old Testament scene, served the academic study of the life model that was an important stage in the training of any ambitious artist. The recumbent poses of the wounded Samaritan and the dead Cain could be sustained by a model for a period of time allowing for concentrated study, while the complex disposition of their limbs would have been chosen as a test of the artist's skill in modelling and foreshortening. A unique record of Piazzetta's early years, the pair represents the intense training invested in perfecting the young painter's talent.

    Although Schulenburg regularly purchased from Piazzetta, who not only sold his own works but also dealt in Old Masters, it seems that the pair did not enter the Schulenburg collection directly from the painter; A. Binion notes that they were acquired for Schulenburg by his trusted secretary Johann Friedrich Werner from an unknown third-party (Binion, 1990, op. cit., p. 96). Schulenburg enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Piazzetta, especially in the years 1738 to 1745. Among the many projects undertaken by Piazzetta on Schulenburg's behalf--as an artist, dealer and connoisseur--are two portrait drawings (one now in Milan at the Castello Sforzesco; the other in Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago) illustrating a degree of psychological intimacy that would have been the envy of most other patrons in Venice at the time. The discovery of two works from the youth of Piazzetta must have delighted Schulenburg as an opportunity both to add to his collection and to surprise his friend. Ever the perfectionist, Piazzetta seems to have set but little store by his 'prima maniera', and when he and Francesco Simonini, in their capacity as Professori , oversaw the valuation of Schulenburg's collection for the 1741 inventory, Piazzetta valued the pendant pair at only 100 ducats, as compared to 60 ducats for a single drawing.

    The numbers painted onto the present picture (436) and its pendant (435) relate to the inventory produced under Piazzetta's supervision in 1741 (see Binion, 1970, loc. cit.), and do not correspond to the annotated copy of the printed inventory, where they are given the numbers 443 and 444 (Binion, 1990, op. cit., p. 284).

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Purchased by Field Marshal Count Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg (1661-1747) in 1741, by whom bequeathed to his nephew,
    Christian Günther von der Schulenburg, Berlin, and by descent to the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Schulenburg libri-cassa, Hanover, Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv, MS, entry for 31 August 1741, recording payment of 10 zecchini to Schulenburg's secretary Johann Friedrich Werner for the purchase of 'due quadri...uno del autore Piacetta rappresenta Abel morto, e l'altro il Samaritano caduto tra i ladri'.
    1741, 30 Giugno Venezia, Inventario Generale della Galleria di S.E. Maresciallo Co: di Schulemberg...La qual Galleria pricipio à formarsi l'anno 1724 ripartita coll'ordine che segue, Hanover, Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv, Dep. 82, Abt. III, N. 37, as part of the 'Quadri due pma maniera uno rapta Abel morto, e l'altro il Samaritano' by Piazzetta, valued at 100 ducats.
    Inventaire de la Gallerie de Feu S. e. Mgr. Le Feldmarechal Comte de Schulenburg, annotated copy. Hanover, Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv, Dep. 82, Abt. III, N. 95. No. 444, as part of the two 'Tableaux prim maniére, l'un repress. Abel mort, l'autre le Samaritain' by Piazzetta.
    A. Binion, 'From Schulenburg's Gallery and Records', in Burlington Magazine, May 1970, p. 301.
    A. Binion, La Galleria scomparsa del maresciallo von der Schulenburg, Milan, 1990, pp. 96, 172, 236 and 284.
    L. Moretti, 'Notizie e appunti su G.B. Piazzetta, alcuni piazzetteschi e G.B. Tiepolo', in Atti dell' Ist. Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti, 143 (1985), pp. 362-3.
    G. Knox, Giambattista Piazzetta, 1682-1754, Oxford, 1992, p. 31 and fig. 27.