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    Sale 1986

    Important Old Master Paintings Part I And Part II

    15 April 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 47

    Pier Leone Ghezzi Comunanza 1674-1755 Rome

    Paolo de Matteis in his Studio

    Price Realised  


    Pier Leone Ghezzi Comunanza 1674-1755 Rome
    Paolo de Matteis in his Studio
    signed, dated and inscribed 'Ritratto di Paolo/de Matteis Pittore/Napolitano, fatto da/m, Cav. Ghezzi il di 8 marzo 1726, il quale/fu scolaro di Luca/Giordano Pittore Na/poletano' (upper right, on pasquinade)
    oil on canvas
    15¾ x 11 5/8 in. 40 x 29.5 cm.

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    This delightful, small, vigorously-painted portrait is remarkable as perhaps the first painted caricature, and consequently a forerunner of such notable caricaturists as Hogarth, who even reproduced one of Ghezzi's head sketches in his Analysis of Beauty (1753). Ghezzi was an observant and merciless caricaturist in the more traditional pen and ink medium, and often drew humorous sketches of his wealthy and prominent patrons.

    The present work is unique as a finished oil painting rather than a pen sketch. It is Ghezzi's third portrait of de Matteis, the first two pen-and-ink caricatures, both dating from 1725 and drawn from life. Ghezzi's subject is the artist Paolo de Matteis, a Neapolitan-born painter and printmaker who worked for a time in Rome. The first sketch contains a lengthy caption poking fun at de Matteis' peripatetic career: 'Paolo de Matteis, Painter, came to Rome where he stained many canvases and took a great deal of money from the Roman nobility, before he returned to Naples disgusted by Rome on 25 June 1525, drawn by me Cav. Ghezzi on 30 June 1725, and he died in Naples in the month of July 1728, on the 26th day of the festival of Saint Anne'. (fig. 1; Codici Ottoboniani Latini 3115, fol. III). A second caricature of Ghezzi's fellow painter mitigates the unflattering depiction somewhat with a more generous caption. The third portrait, the only one on canvas, was recorded by Ghezzi in his Memorie on 16 November 1732: 'I've finished the caricature of Pavolo de Mattei in which he is painting Fortune standing on the wheel and crowning an ass, nearby a magnificent horse to demonstrate that fortune always protects the ignorant which we see in present times...the present painting has been requested from me by Abbot Pascoli who gave me the book of the lives of the artists written by he himself'. Thus we know the painting's intended recipient, Abbot Leone Pascoli, author of the Vite de'pittori, scultori, ed architetti moderni, as well as the date of execution, 1732 rather than 1726 as is written on the cartellino. Since De Matteis died in 1728 it seems Ghezzi back-dated his picture to coincide with De Matteis' stay in Rome, adapting the composition from one of his earlier pen-and-ink caricatures. The painting of Fortune (which may or may not have actually existed; we have no record of it today) seems to have been Ghezzi's commentary on the scarce fortune encountered by de Matteis in Rome, with a clientele who failed to recognise his full merits.


    Anthony Morris Clark (+); Christie's, London, 6 July 1978, lot 37.


    Memorie del Cavalier Leone Ghezzi scritte da se medesimo da gennaro 1731 a luglio 1734, Rome, Biblioteca Casanatense, MS 3765.
    A.M. Clark, 'Rome and the Papal States', Painting in Italy in the Eighteenth Century: Rococo to Romanticism, 19 September - 1 November 1970 (Art Institute of Chicago); 24 November 1970 - 10 January 1971 (Minneapolis Institure of Arts); and 7 February - 21 March 1971 (Toledo Museum of Art), exhibition catalogue, p. 194.
    E. Riccomini, Pittura Italiano del Settecento, exhibition catalogue, Bologna, p. 185.
    Artisti in Roma nel Sei e Settecento, 1988, exhitibion catalogue, Rome.
    A. Lo Bianco, Pier Leone Ghezzi: Settecento alla moda, 1999, exhibition catalogue, Rome, p. 144, no. 39.
    A. Negro, 'Un "Allegoria della fortuna" di Giacinto Gimignani per la Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica', in Studi di storia dell'arte in onore di Denis Mahon, Milan, 2000, p. 292.


    The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, No. L69.2
    Chicago, Art Institute, Painting in Italy in the Eighteenth Century, 1970-71, no. 81.