Francesco Fontebasso (1707 - 1769)

A Pagan Sacrifice Sold

Pen and two shades of brown ink, over an underdrawing in black chalk, on two joined sheets of paper.
Inscribed Di Francesco Fontebasso Veneziano at the lower right.
Further inscribed Di Francesco Fontebasso Veneziano M 281 and numbered 2923 on the backing sheet.
498 x 718 mm. (19 5/8 x 28 1/4 in.)


This unusually large and highly finished sheet is unrelated to any known painting by Fontebasso. Given its scale and high degree of finish, it was almost certainly produced as an autonomous work of art, valued in its own right and perhaps intended for sale to a collector. Fontebasso here displays his remarkable skill with the pen, with a network of hatched and crosshatched lines and the use of two shades of brown ink to achieve a sense of depth and luminosity. The figures in this drawing are characteristic of Fontebasso’s muscular figural types, while their poses are also typical of the artist. The striding man at the right edge of the sheet, for example, is a compositional device often used by Fontebasso; as is the praying man at the left, who finds a counterpart in such paintings as The Virgin Appearing to Saint Jerome in a private collection, datable to the 1740’s. The same kneeling figure also appears in one of Fontebasso’s finished drawings of The Adoration of the Shepherds, in a private collection.

A new and exceptional addition to the corpus of drawings by Fontebasso, this large and impressive sheet is a splendid testament to the virtuosity of the Venetian artist’s draughtsmanship at the height of his career.

Private collection, Germany.

Esther Bell et al., The Age of Elegance: The Joan Taub Ades Collection, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2011, pp.34-35, no.12A (entry by Anne Varick Lauder).


A Pagan Sacrifice


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