A native of Venice, Pellegrini was invited to England in 1708 by the British ambassador to Venice, Charles Montagu, later 1st Duke of Manchester. In a letter to Montagu, John Vanbrugh wrote: 'If the Painter yr Ldship brings over be a good one, he may find work enough; but the room at Kimbolton can't be ready for him this Winter' (Knox, op. cit., p. 47). Pellegrini proved to be 'good', and he and his wife, Angela, the sister of Rosalba Carriera, stayed for four and a half years in England. During his stay he carried out important work at Kimbolton Castle in Huntingdonshire, at Castle Howard, Yorkshire and in three of the great London houses of the period, Burlington House in Piccadilly, Manchester House in Arlington Street and Portland House in St. James's Square. In his Notebooks, George Vertue describes Pellegrini as a 'talle, proper mam of a great deal of fire and vivacity... he painted prodigious quick and had a very noble & fruitful invention', and was hence not surprised that the artist had financial success during his sojourn (Vertue, 'Notebooks, I,' The Walpole Society, XX, 1930, pp. 38-9).
This picture dates from Pellegrini's English period, 1708-13, and is one of a type which Vertue described as 'large Eysel pictures for many noble men and Curious gentlemen' (ibid.). Both its style and the fact that it is on a canvas of the standard size used for three-quarter-length portraits in this country, indicate that the picture was painted in England. Pellegrini used a canvas of the same size, for the horizontal Venus and Cupid sold in these Rooms, 5 July 1991, lot 7 (£220,000), now in a private collection. Martini suggested that the latter picture could have been painted either during Pellegrini's English sojourn or during his subsequent stay in Germany (see the catalogue of the exhibition, London, Royal Academy, The Glory of Venice, 15 Sept-14 Dec 1994, p. 472, no. 41). However, the size of the canvas, the great similarity of the features of Venus and the faun in the two pictures, for which the artist probably used the same model, strongly suggest that both works were painted in England.
This picture will be included in Professor Alessandro Bettagno's forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist's work.