Ciro Ferri (Rome 1634-1689)
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Ciro Ferri (Rome 1634-1689)

The Virgin Immaculate blessed by God the Father

Ciro Ferri (Rome 1634-1689)
The Virgin Immaculate blessed by God the Father
with inscription ‘P de cortone.’ and ‘rt/’ (twice)
traces of black chalk, brush and brown ink, brown wash heightened with white, lightly squared in black chalk, the sheet cut and rejoined, on pale brown paper, a slender border at the left edge
19 ½ x 12 1/8 in. (49.6 x 31 cm)
John, Lord Northwick (1770-1859), Northwick Park, and by descent to
Captain Edward George Spencer-Churchill (1876-1964), Northwick Park; Sotheby’s, London, 1 November 1920, lot 54 (as Pietro da Cortona).
Otto Wessner (1851-1921), Sankt Gallen; Hugo Helbing, Munich, 8-9 June 1926, lot 746 (as Pietro da Cortona).
Possibly Simon Meller, Budapest; Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, 11 November 1949, lot 2854 (as Pietro da Cortona), where acquired by Robert Landolt.
G. Briganti, Pietro da Cortona o della pittura barocca, Florence, 1982, p. 295 (as Pietro da Cortona).
J.M. Merz, Cortona-Studien, Ph.D. dissertation, Eberhard-Karls Universitat, Tübingen, III, p. 190 (as attributed to Pietro da Cortona).
J.M. Merz, Pietro da Cortona und sein Kreis. Die Zeichnungen in Düsseldorf, Munich and Berlin, 2005, p. 69.
Zurich, Graphische Sammlung ETH, Zwiegespräch mit Zeichnungen. Werke des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts aus der Sammlung Robert Landolt, 2013-2014, no. 14, ill. (catalogue entry by J.M. Merz).
François Spierre, in reverse, for the Missale Romanum, Rome, 1662, p. 342, as frontispiece for the chapter 'Die VIII in Conceptione B. Mariae Virginis' (Le Blanc 22)
Special notice
These lots have been imported from outside the EU or, if the UK has withdrawn from the EU without an agreed transition deal, from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime.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 that this drawing will be published in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's paintings (and related drawings) by Dr Maria Cristina Paoluzzi.

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Stijn Alsteens
Stijn Alsteens

Lot Essay

Jörg Martin Merz was the first to recognize in this splendid but somewhat overlooked drawing the hand of Ciro Ferri, the most gifted collaborator of the great Roman Baroque painter Pietro Berrettini, called Pietro da Cortona (1596/1597-1669). It is closely related to the painting for the high-altar in the church of San Filippo in Perugia, completed in 1662 (Fig. 1; see A. Lo Bianco in Pietro da Cortona, 1597-1669, exhib. cat., Rome, Palazzo Venezia, 1997-1998, no. 60, ill.). Commissioned from Cortona by Cardinal Luigi Capponi in 1657, it was understood from the beginning that the painter would ‘farlo fare da’ suoi giovani sotto la sua dirizione’ (have it made by his assistants under his direction), and in particular by Ferri.

As Merz proposed in 2005 (op. cit.), the drawing was made as a preparatory study for the painting, and differs from it in many details, notably the position of the dragon below, the number and grouping of the putti surrounding God the Father and the Virgin, the spatial relationship between them and the dragon, and the overall proportions. In what form Cortona provided ideas to Ferri for the composition is not known, but at the time of a documented visit to Cortona in July 1657 of Capponi’s secretary, Father Giovanni Antonio Bernabei, and his brother Girolamo, the general idea of the composition had already been thought out, and the decision made to depict the Virgin relatively high up in the painting to ensure that her figure would not be partly hidden by the tabernacle on the altar above which the painting was to be hung (E. Ricci, La Chiesa dell’Immacolata Concezione e di San Filippo Neri (Chiesa Nuova) in Perugia, Perugia, 1969, p. 69). The lower part of the painting is occupied by a fearsome dragon holding the world in the claws of Evil, from which it will be delivered by the Virgin’s ‘immaculately conceived’ son.

The drawing’s highly finished execution differs from the freer style known from Cortona in these years, as evident, for instance, from with comparison of a large, technically and iconographically similar print model by Cortona in the Art Institute of Chicago depicting The Holy Trinity with Saint Michael conquering a dragon (inv. 1965.860; see J.W. Mann in Seventeenth-Century European Drawings in Midwestern Collections. The Age of Bernini, Rembrandt, and Poussin, Notre Dame, 2014, no. 17, ill.). Ferri’s finer style, brilliantly represented by the work under discussion, is also evident in other of his works, such as the Last Supper at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 68.38; see J. Bean, 17th Century Italian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1979, no. 171, ill.), which was engraved by Cornelis Bloemaert with the signature ‘Cÿrus Ferrus delin.’.

Bloemaert’s print, as well as others by another printmaker active in Rome, the Frenchman François Spierre after the compositions of Cortona’s drawing in Chicago and Ferri’s drawing in the Landolt collection, were made for the 1662 edition, commissioned by Pope Alexander VII, of the Missale Romanum, containing texts and instructions for the celebration of the Catholic Holy Mass (for the publication and the drawings for it by Cortona and Ferri, see D. Graf, ‘Disegni di Pietro da Cortona e della sua scuola per il Missale Romanum del 1662’, in Pietro da Cortona. Atti del convegno internazionale Roma-Firenze, 12-15 novembre 1997, s.l., 1998, pp. 201-214). The print related to the Immaculate Conception (Fig. 2) follows more closely the painting in Perugia than Ferri’s drawing, which may help explain why the print’s design is attributed to Cortona, rather than to Ferri; after all, the painting on which the print was based was commissioned from the master and his workshop.

A drawing at the Uffizi, attributed to another assistant of Cortona, the Fleming Livio Mehus, is based on this print (inv. 3102 S; see A. Lo Bianco, ‘Pietro da Cortona e gli Oratoriani’, in La regola e la fama. San Filippo Neri e l’arte, exhib. cat., Rome, Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia, 1995, pp. 189-190, fig. 192). A separate drawing, also attributed to Mehus, of the dragon, in a different pose from that in the painting or Ferri’s drawing, is also at the Uffizi (inv. 3095 S; see Lo Bianco, op. cit., 1995, p. 190, fig. 193). An anonymous copy after the figure of the Virgin, dated 1691 and based on the painting in Perugia rather than the print, is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 87.12.22).

Fig. 1. Pietro da Cortona and Ciro Ferri, The Virgin Immaculate blessed by God the Father, oil on canvas, Church of San Filippo, Perugia.

Fig. 2. François Spierre, after Pietro da Cortona and Ciro Ferri, The Virgin Immaculate blessed by God the Father, engraving.

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