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    Sale 11932


    13 April 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 31

    John Scarlett Davis (Leominster 1804-1845 London)

    The Long Gallery of the Uffizi, Florence

    Price Realised  


    John Scarlett Davis (Leominster 1804-1845 London)
    The Long Gallery of the Uffizi, Florence
    signed and dated 'J Scarlett Davis 1834' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    42 1/8 x 55½ in. (107 x 141 cm.)

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    In 1799, with France's victory over Austria, Tuscany came under Napoleonic rule. Over the next few years Napoleon's strength grew, and even in the face of the strenuous opposition of Tommaso Puccini, then director of the Uffizi Gallery, many of Florence's treasures – including the famed Venus de' Medici (fig. 1) – were carried off to Paris. The Venus, long renowned as one of the finest antique statues to have survived, was a requisite stop for any traveler on the Grand Tour and a paragon of classical beauty. After Napoleon's fall in 1814, Ferdinand III returned to his seat as Grand Duke of Tuscany and sent a commission to Paris to request the return of stolen artwork, including the Venus, which resulted in the restoration of a number of paintings and sculpture to their Florentine home.

    Davis's scene, painted twenty years later, reflects a return to peace and normalcy within the Uffizi's vaunted Long Gallery and is among the finest of the gallery interiors for which the artist had become known. Many of the works in the present image can be identified, including, from left: Barocci's large Madonna del Popolo altarpiece; the Martyrdom of Saint Giustina by Veronese; and a View of the Grand Canal by Canaletto. Below these are Reynolds's Self-Portrait, commissioned by Ferdinand III's predecessor as Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold II, and presented by the artist himself to the gallery in 1775. Beneath that is Veronese's Assumption of the Virgin, which hangs just above Rubens' portraits of himself and his first wife Isabella Brandt. Leaning against the wall at lower left is a portrait of a Cardinal, probably by Van Dyck, and just to the right of this canvas is Michelangelo's celebrated Virgin and Child tondo. At the far end of the long hallway, silhouetted against the bright sunlight pouring through the window, is Baccio Bandinelli's copy of the renowned ancient marble Laacoön (Vatican, Rome).

    In the center foreground, an elegant lady in green sketches at an easel, and just behind her, along the left wall, is the unmistakable Venus de' Medici, whose removal from and return to the Gallery had been the subject of such fierce dispute only a few years before. As the Venus' place in the Gallery had before its removal been in the famous Tribuna Room (where it can be seen again today), one wonders if Davis' work illustrates a heretofore undocumented placement of the famous sculpture, or if its inclusion in the background is invented, and intended to serve as a purposeful allusion to the marble's recent triumphant return.


    Commissioned by John Hinxman; Christie's, London, 25 March 1848, lot 78 (19 gns. to Roughet).
    Miss C. O'Connell, Durant House, Northam.
    National Westminster Bank Ltd.
    An anonymous institution; Sotheby's, London, 14 July 1993, lot 102, where acquired by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    A. Graves, The British Institution: 1806-1867, London, 1908, p. 142.
    G. Watkin Williams, 'The Life and Works of John Scarlett Davis (1804-1845)', The Old Water-Colour Society's Club, XLV, 1970, pp. 20-21.


    London, Royal Academy, 1834, no. 400.
    London, British Institution, 1836, no. 475.
    London, Colnaghi, Paintings by Old Masters, 1956, no. 34.