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Gaetano Gandolfi (San Matteo della Decima 1734-1802 Bologna)
Gaetano Gandolfi (San Matteo della Decima 1734-1802 Bologna)

The Annunciation

Gaetano Gandolfi (San Matteo della Decima 1734-1802 Bologna)
The Annunciation
oil on canvas, oval, unframed
21 ¾ x 15 in. (55.3 x 38 cm.)
Commissioned together with the finished altarpiece by Filippo Trenta, Bishop of Foligno (d. 1795), circa 1789, for the Clarissa nuns of the Chiesa dell' Annunziata, Foligno, by whom it was rejected (being too small), and bought back by the bishop in 1791, together with the altarpiece, the latter of which is recorded in his collection in 1784 and again in 1796.
Alberto Pignatelli, Porto San Giorgio, from 5 June 1905.
Private collection, Vienna, until the early 2000s.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 4 July 2007, lot 58, where acquired for the present owner.
P. Bagni, I Gandolfi, Padua, 1992, p. 335, under no. 315.
D. Biagi Maino, Gaetano Gandolfi, Turin, 1995, p. 399, under no. 203.

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Lot Essay

This exquisite bozzetto was made in preparation for Gaetano Gandolfi’s large-scale altarpiece, The Annunciation, commissioned by Bishop Filippo Trenta (d. 1795) around 1789 for the Chiesa dell’ Annunziata, Foligno. Gandolfi was then at the height of his career, having recently returned from a 6-month sojourn in London at the invitation of Richard Dalton, librarian to King George III. The trip had been immensely formative, exposing the artist to a broader European artistic milieu and strengthening a budding interest in English Neo-classicism. He began wholeheartedly to incorporate the simplified forms and static compositions that he had encountered into his preexisting, robust and informal style upon his return. Indeed, the present sketch combines the characteristic freshness and vitality of Gandolfi’s bozzetti with the restrained palette and stylized gestures typical of his later years.

Upon completion, the measurements of the related altarpiece were found to be incorrect. The bishop reimbursed the painters fee of 150 scudi to the monastery and a second, larger altarpiece of varying composition was commissioned for the allotted space, and is still installed in the church today. In July of 1971, the original altarpiece was returned to the bishop, who was convinced of its superiority, writing “L’ovalone, inservibile all’Altare del Monistero, è stato da me ricomprato per prezzo in tutto con la sua cornice scudi 150. È il lavoro più corretto che sia uscito da sí gran uomo, e non solo vince gli altri due quadri ma supera le più belle cose del gran Guido Reni. In somma è un vero miracolo dell’arte pittorica” ("It is the best work to have been done by this great man, and not only does it win over the other two, but it surpasses the most beautiful things done by the great Guido Reni. All told, it is a true miracle of pictorial art"; see Foligno, Biblioteca Comunale, MS. F.6, Coresi, c. 2v, no. 47). The present bozzetto was most likely returned to the bishop simultaneously, for it was sold together with the altarpiece on 5 June 1905, for the total sum of 125 lire.

Donatella Biagi Maino endorsed the attribution to Gaetano Gandolfi after first-hand inspection at the time of the sale in 2007.

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