• Old Masters auction at Christies

    Sale 12109

    Old Masters

    26 October 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 85

    Pietro Liberi (Padua 1605-1687 Venice)

    An allegory of Painting and Drawing

    Estimate

    Pietro Liberi (Padua 1605-1687 Venice)
    An allegory of Painting and Drawing
    oil on canvas
    46 ½ x 56 ¼ in. (118.1 x 142.8 cm.)


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    Reclining amidst the clouds, an alluring female figure holds a painter’s brushes and palette in her left hand while resting her right on a theatrical mask, here understood, as Fabio Massaccesi has observed, as a symbol of mimetic imitation (loc. cit.). These attributes identify her as an allegorical figure of Painting. She gazes lovingly at her ephebic male counterpart, Drawing, recognizable by the lapis in his left hand. A symphony of pinks, lavenders, yellows, blues and whites, this painting was first recognized as by the hand of Pietro Liberi in 1981, when Eduard Safarik, the prominent Czech art historian and avid collector of Italian works of art, described it as a “forerunner of the French gallant painting of the 18th century, of Boucher and Fragonard, or even Renoir ante litteram” (“precursore della pittura glante francese del secolo XVIII, di un Boucher or di un Renoir and litteram addirittura”; loc. cit.). In the following year, the painting entered Safarik’s personal collection, having been gifted to him by Dr. Massimo Gatti. Ugo Ruggeri confirmed the attribution to Pietro Liberi in his 1996 catalogue raisonné, dating the work to around the 7th decade of the 17th century (loc. cit.).

    The work’s original intended destination remains uncertain. However, in 2003, Safarik suggested that the canvas may be identified as The Triumph of Painting (Trionfo della Pittura) of equal dimensions mentioned in the inventory of the estate of the Armenian Marques Gregorio Agdollo, who lived in Venice from 1747 until his death in 1789 (loc. cit.). The scholar further noted that the work was probably painted as a pendant to the Allegory of Embracing Justice and Peace (private collection), which dates to the same period and is of roughly equal dimensions (see U. Ruggeri, op. cit., pp. 192-93, no. P175). The subject of Painting’s relationship to Drawing was inspired by the longstanding humanist debate concerning the supremacy of the individual liberal arts, known as the Paragone. At the same time, the erotic overtones of Liberi’s two paintings were perfectly in line with the Libertine trends that were blossoming in Venice at that moment. Accordingly, as Safarik noted, Liberi’s Allegory of Painting and Drawing was likely created for a refined private collector who, following the advice of writers like Giulio Mancini, would have displayed them in only in “the most secluded rooms”. The works might also have been covered with a curtain, to be seen only by the head of the family, his wife or an unflappable friend, since such stimulating imagery was understood “to often result in the procreation of beautiful children” (G. Mancini, Considerazioni sulla pittura, c. 1619-21, I. p. 143).

    Provenance

    (Possibly) Marques Gregorio Agdollo collection, Venice, before 1789 (inv. no. 35).
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, New York, 4 June 1980, lot 119, as 'Circle of Lambert Sustris'.
    Dr. Massimo Gatti, Lugano, until 1982, by whom given to
    Eduard A. Safarik, Venice.
    Koelliker collection, Milan.


    Literature

    E. A. Safarik, 'Riflessioni su “La Pittura veneziana del Seicento” di Rodolfo Pallucchini', Arte Veneta, XXXV, 1981, p. 225, fig. 1.
    E. A. Safarik and G. Milantoni, 'La pittura del Seicento a Venezia', M. Gregori and E. Schleier, La pittura in Italia: Il Seicento, Milan 1988, I, pp. 170, 172, fig. 233.
    E. A. Safarik, Il Seicento: La pittura, in Storia di Venezia: Temi: L’Arte, II, 5, Rome 1995, pp. 81 and 87, fig. 15.
    U. Ruggeri, Pietro e Marco Liberi, Rimini 1996, pp. 179-180, no. P149.
    E. A. Safarik, 'Eravate un tempo tenebre, ma ora siete luce', Una vita per l’arte veneta: Atti della Giornata di Studio in onore e ricordo di Rodolfo Pallucchini, Venice, 2001, p. 83.
    C. Accornero, Pietro Liberi cavaliere e fenice dei pittori, Treviso, 2013, pp. 60 and 63, figs. 35 and 36.


    Exhibited

    Salzburg, Residenzgalerie, Malinconia delle Venezie: La collezione Safarik nella collezione Koelliker, 22 November 2003-1 February 2004, no. 31 (entry by E.A. Safarik).
    Forlì, Musei San Domenico, Guido Cagnacci: Protagonista del Seicento tra Caravaggio e Reni, 20 January-22 June 2008 (entry by F. Massaccesi).