2 More
5 More
Specifed lots (sold and unsold) marked with a fill… Read more PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Venus and Cupid

Venus and Cupid
oil on canvas
45 ¼ x 63 3/8 in. (114.9 x 161 cm.)
(Possibly) Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607-1671), Palazzo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome, listed in the inventory of 1644, inv. no. 192, as ‘Un quadro con una donna con un'amore senza cornice coperta con suo tafetta verse della Gentilesca’.
(Possibly) Matthew Prior (1664-1721), London, by 1718, listed in his inventory as 'Gentileschi, Artemisa Lomi or Orazio Lomide […] Venus and Cupid Kissing. "Big as the life”’ (see Literature, The Art Bulletin, 1945), from whom acquired by the following,
Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Mortimer (1689-1741), Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire, and by inheritance to his widow,
Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles (1694-1755), by whom sold; The Collection of the Right Honourable Edward Earl of Oxford, Great Piazza, Covent Garden, London, 10 March 1742 (=3rd day), lot 14, as ‘Venus and Cupid, Italian’ (1 gns. 14 s. to Boden).
(Probably) with Dr Merz, Bern; Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, 25 May 1943 (=1st day), lot 1699, as 'Orazio Borgianni'.
with Franz Segesser von Brunegg, Lucerne, by 1958.
Private collection, Switzerland, by 1959, and by descent to the present owner.
(Possibly) Listed in the inventory of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, Palazzo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome, April 1644, p. 18, inv. no. 192, listed in the ‘Segue l'ultima Stanza de quadri’, as ‘Un quadro con una donna con un'amore senza cornice coperta con suo tafetta verse della Gentilesca’.
(Possibly) H. Bunker Wright and H.C. Montgomery, ‘The Art Collection of a Virtuoso in Eighteenth-Century England’, The Art Bulletin, XXVII, no. 3, September 1945, p. 199, no. 34, as in the collection of Matthew Prior, as 'Gentileschi, Artemisa Lomi or Orazio Lomide […] Venus and Cupid Kissing. "Big as the life.”’
H. Voss, ‘Venere e Amore di Artemisia Gentileschi’, Acropoli, I, no. 2, 1960-61, pp. 79-82.
R. Ward Bissell, ‘Artemisia Gentileschi: A New Documented Chronology’, The Art Bulletin, L, 1968, p. 167, under ‘Appendix II: Questionable and incorrect attributions’ as ‘by an artist of more academic inclination than Artemisia Gentileschi’.
E. Schleier, ‘Caravaggio e i caravaggeschi nelle gallerie di Firenze’, Kunstchronik, XXIV, 1971, p. 89.
M.A. Lavin, Seventeenth-Century Barberini Documents and Inventories of Art, New York, 1975, p. 165.
M. Marini, ‘Caravaggio e il naturalismo internazionale’, Storia dell’arte Italiana, VI, no. 1, 1981, p. 370.
M. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art, Princeton, 1989, pp. 105-6 and 274-76, as ‘wrongly ascribed to Artemisia Gentileschi’.
A. Emiliani, Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri da Fossombrone, Bologna, 1997, p. 77, no. 25.
R. Ward Bissell, Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art, Pennsylvania, 1999, pp. 247-49, no. 31, under ‘Autograph paintings [by Artemisia Gentileschi]’.
H. Langdon, 'Exhibition Reviews: Rome, New York and Saint Louis, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi', p. 320, under 'doubtful attributions'.
J.W. Mann, Artemisia Gentileschi: Taking Stock, Turnout, 2005, pp. 6-9, fig. 11.
J.E. Gedo, 'Annotations on Artemisia', in The Psychoanalytic Review, C, no. 5, October 2013, pp. 727-8, fig. 5.
Zurich, Helmhaus, Die Frau als Künstlerin: Werke aus vier Jahrhunderten, 2 July-31 August 1958, no. 22.
Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts, La découverte de la lumière des Primitifs aux Impressionnistes, 20 May-31 July 1959, no. 69.
Florence, Casa Buonarroti, Artemisia, 18 June-4 November 1991, no. 40, with a catalogue entry by Roberto Contini, as more closely matching the style of Francesco Guerrieri.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Saint Louis, Missouri, The Saint Louis Art Museum, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi: Father and Daughter Painters in Baroque Italy, 14 February-15 September 2002, with a catalogue entry by J.W. Mann, as bearing ‘provocative affinities with Artemisia’s work, and should it prove to be a product of her brush (I have not examined it firsthand), it most probably belongs to the last decade of her life’.
Tolmezzo, Udine, Casa delle Esposizioni, Amanti: Passioni Umane E Divine, 21 May-08 October 2017.
Special notice

Specifed lots (sold and unsold) marked with a filled square ( ¦ ) not collected from Christie’s, 8 King Street, London SW1Y 6QT by 5.00 pm on the day of the sale will, at our option, be removed to Crown Fine Art (details below). Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent ofsite. If the lot is transferred to Crown Fine Art, it will be available for collection from 12.00 pm on the second business day following the sale. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Crown Fine Art. All collections from Crown Fine Art will be by prebooked appointment only.
These lots have been imported from outside the EU or, if the UK has withdrawn from the EU without an agreed transition deal, from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Sale room notice
Please note the additional literature reference for this lot:
A. Emiliani, Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri da Fossombrone, Bologna, 1997, p. 77, no. 25

Brought to you by

Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Born in Rome, Artemisia Gentileschi, the eldest child of Orazio, became one of the great artists of the seventeenth century. Recognised in her lifetime for her abundant talent, her reputation, over the course of more recent decades, as one of the most expressive and powerful woman painters of any era has been consolidated.
She trained with her father, becoming his close assistant in her formative years. He soon recognised her outstanding promise, writing to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Maria Maddalena of Austria, in July 1612, that: ‘having studied the profession of painting, after three years she had practised so much that I can now say that she has no peers, having created such works of art that perhaps even the most important masters of this profession cannot achieve…’ (‘havendola drizzata nella professione di pittura, in tre anni si è talmente appraticata, che posso ardire de dire che hoggi non ci sia pare a lei, havendo per sin adesso fatte opere, che forse principali mastri di questa professione non arrivano al suo sapere…’ ). This letter was written at the time of the notorious trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of Artemisia the previous year, when she was seventeen. In November 1612, Tassi was convicted and banished from Rome for five years. To minimise the scandal which the trial had engendered, Orazio arranged for Artemisia to marry the Florentine painter, Pierantonio Stiattesi, just two days after the trial ended. Shortly thereafter, the couple moved to Florence, where they would live until 1620, and Artemisia would become an independent artist, enjoying prodigious professional success in the Tuscan capital, patronised by Grand Duke Cosimo II de' Medici and the Grand Duchess Cristina, in so doing becoming the first female painter to be accepted as a member of the Accademia del Disegno. Her subsequent career saw her then move back to Rome, travel to Venice and spend the final decades of her life in Naples, save for a stay in England. This itinerant path brought about stylistic changes along the way: she initially embraced Caravaggesque tendencies, having undoubtedly been witness to her father’s great admiration for Caravaggio, an artist who had a profound and pivotal effect on the direction of Orazio’s career, before adapting and developing her great sense of naturalism, as she responded to and absorbed diverse influences in different cities.
Artemisia’s oeuvre is replete with compositions that show heroic female figures and her mastery of the nude resonates throughout her career. The role of her predecessor Lavinia Fontana in this regard has been seen as decisive, with her depictions of female nudes – notably Venus and Minerva – paving the way for Artemisia’s extraordinarily expressive capabilities, one pioneer following another. No doubt this was also driven by a sensitivity towards, and a response to, the changing tastes of her patrons; she was ‘uncommonly attuned to the prevailing tastes in the cities in which she worked’ (K. Christiansen, ‘Becoming Artemisia: Afterthoughts on the Gentileschi Exhibition’, Metropolitan Museum Journal, XXXIX, 2004, p. 112). The superbly drawn figure of Venus in this painting shows a commanding understanding of the female form, with her wonderfully outstretched leg, in a pose that is at once provocative and restrained, statuesque yet true-to-life. In her physiognomy she closely recalls other nudes in Artemisia’s corpus, such as the seated Bathsheba in David and Bathsheba (Ohio, Columbus Museum of Art) or the renowned Danaë (Saint Louis Museum of Art). More direct parallels can also of course be drawn with the Venus and Cupid (fig. 1; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts), especially in the wonderfully sculpted form of the legs. The way in which the white sheets fold around the mattress recall the crisp draperies that are so characteristic of her father, not least in his great masterpiece Danaë and the Shower of Gold (Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum).
The picture’s conservation history is worth noting. When it was first examined by Herman Voss he noticed that later overpaint, in the form of drapery, had been added to the shoulder, torso and leg of Venus; at his suggestion the then owner had the overpaint removed, to reveal the original composition beneath (see Voss, op. cit.). When the work was last seen in public in 2002, it had only been partially restored which made full consideration of its qualities more challenging; its recent conservation treatment has markedly improved its appearance.
There have been differing views on its dating. Bissell and Schleier (op. cit.) date it to the 1630s, whilst Keith Christiansen, to whom we are grateful, suggests an earlier dating of circa 1620, upon her return to Rome, reflecting the echoes of Florentine influence that feel present in the canvas.
Whilst the picture’s early history and the circumstances of its commission are not certain, it is possible that it is the work by Artemisia listed in the 1644 inventory of Cardinal Antonio Barberini (‘Un quadro con una donna con un'amore senza cornice coperta con suo tafetta verse della Gentilesca’). A nephew of Pope Urban VIII, his collection included great masterpieces of the time, including Caravaggio’s Cardsharps and The Lute Player. The canvas then found its way to England, and was probably owned by the poet and satirist Matthew Prior before being acquired in the eighteenth century by his friend Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Mortimer. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, and was a Member of Parliament for Radnor and Cambridgeshire, before succeeding his father as 2nd Earl in May 1724. On marrying the heiress Henrietta Cavendish (1694-1755), only daughter of John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne, he inherited Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, and later, in 1716, inherited Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire from his mother-in-law, Duchess of Newcastle. He formed a very substantial collection of pictures as well as a celebrated library.

More from Old Masters Evening Sale

View All
View All