Previously unknown, this drawing is a particularly appealing addition to the œuvre of the Italian Neoclassical painter Giuseppe Cades, whose portraits are relatively rare. Its subject is explained in the artist’s own inscription: depicted are two young princes, Camillo (1775-1832), later to become husband of Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister Pauline, and Francesco Borghese (1776-1839). Cades also portrayed the boys, together with their mother and a servant, in a pastel from 1778 and measuring 60 x 78 cm., the same year in which the present sheet is dated (M.T. Caracciolo, Giuseppe Cades, 1750-1799, et la Rome de son temps, Paris, 1992, no. 46, fig. 29). As the heads are identical in the two works, they must be based on the same studies, or one work must be based on the other. Both portraits also have in common that they represent the sitters in fancy dress: classicizing costumes in the pastel, 17th century ones in the drawing. Cades may have been inspired by tableaux vivants in which the children participated. In the drawing, the bust of Pope Paul V, born Camillo Borghese, freely based on Bernini’s marble (either the version in the Galleria Borghese or the one recently acquired by The J. Paul Getty Museum), and the view of the façade of Saint Peter’s, completed during his pontificate, refer to the family’s illustrious past. The artist undertook further work for them in 1787, most notably decorating a ceiling in the Villa Borghese, Rome (see ibid., p. 99-106).
We are grateful to Maria Teresa Caracciolo for her assistance in cataloguing this drawing.