• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7575

    Old Master and British Pictures

    25 April 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 102

    Pietro Liberi (Padua 1605-1687 Venice)

    Jupiter in the guise of Diana and the nymph Callisto

    Price Realised  

    Pietro Liberi (Padua 1605-1687 Venice)
    Jupiter in the guise of Diana and the nymph Callisto
    with Schulenburg inventory number '245' (lower right); inscribed 'Kr. Liberi' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas, unlined
    46 x 67 in. (116.8 x 170.2 cm.)


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    This amorous scene is taken from the second book of Metamorphoses, in which Ovid recounts the tale of one of Jupiter's most celebrated and daring seductions. Callisto was the favourite nymph of the goddess Diana. Such was her beauty that when she was discovered in Arcadia by the god Jupiter, he was overcome with desire for her. Disguising himself as Diana in order to deceive her, he cunningly won the nymph's trust, before seducing her. Here Liberi depicts the moment of seduction, with Callisto unable to resist Jupiter's advances while disguised as Diana, his true identity revealed only by the presence of his eagle in the background. Several months later, when the pregnant Callisto was forced to disrobe before bathing with the other nymphs, the violation of her chastity was revealed and a furious Diana expelled her from the forest, whereupon Jupiter's wife Juno, consumed with jealousy, transformed her into a bear. Just as she was about to be attacked by Diana's hunting dogs, Callisto was rescued by Jupiter, who turned both her and her infant son into the constellations Ursus Major and Minor.

    Pietro Liberi enjoyed a great deal of success with erotic scenes of this kind, which were highly sought after by his aristocratic patrons in Venice, as well as in the imperial court following his trip to Austria, Hungary and Bohemia in 1658-9. In addition to the outward trappings of success Liberi was created a Cavaliere di San Marco in 1653 and he was also made a Count Palatine by the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. The present work is one of a pair of pictures by Liberi that Schulenberg purchased by 1738 for 90 ducats, the other was identified in the inventories as The Three Graces. The detailed inventories also contain valuation details, provided by so-called Professori. This group of appraisers included such renowned artists as Giambattista Pittoni and Giambattista Piazzetta. Indeed the latter is known to have conducted valuations for Schulenburg as well as selling him numerous pictures in the years 1738-1741, as attested by certificates signed by Piazzetta and preserved in the Schulenburg archives (Hanover, Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv, MS, Dep. 82, Abt. III, N. 37; see also Binion, op. cit., pp. 59-60 and 181-7).

    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.


    Provenance

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


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR (LOTS 95-102)


    Literature

    Specificazione de Quadri spediti in Germania, Terza Spedizione in Aprile 1738, Hanover, Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv, MS, Dep. 82, Abt. III, N. 37, as one of a pair by 'Kr. Liberi' purchased for 90 ducats and subsequently valued at 300.
    Inventario Generale della Galleria di S: Eccelza Felt Marescial Conte di Shulembourgh...La qual Galleria pincipiò a formarsi dal 1724, e Fino al presente 1738 30 Maggio, Hanover, Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv, MS, Dep. 82, Abt. III, N. 37, as one of a pair by 'Cavalier Liberi' purchased for 90 ducats and subsequently valued at 600 ducats.
    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, MS, Dep. 82, Abt. III, N. 37, as one of a pair by 'Kr Liberi' valued at 300 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. 245, as part of a pair by 'Kr. Liberi'.
    A. Binion, La Galleria scomparsa del maresciallo von der Schulenburg, Milan, 1990, pp. 205, 232, 265 and 276.