Pietro Antonio NOVELLI (Venice 1729 - Venice 1804)
Pen and black ink and black and grey wash, heightened with white on paper washed ochre. Inscribed David. in black ink at the lower left. 273 x 195 mm. (10 3/4 x 7 5/8 in.)ENQUIRE
This drawing belongs with a small but distinctive group of similar figure studies, executed in black and grey ink on prepared paper, which are either derived from, or inspired by, sculptural models. These drawings have borne different attributions in the past, but are now generally given to Pietro Antonio Novelli. Five drawings from this homogenous group are today in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and three are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, while others are in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Fogg Museum in Cambridge, MA, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, and elsewhere. A closely related pair of drawings of telamons appeared at auction in Monaco in 1984, while a stylistic comparison may also be made with a drawing of Neptune in a private collection in Brussels. The inscription ‘David’ at the lower left of this sheet appears to be in the same black ink as that used in the drawing itself. This suggests the intriguing possibility that this drawing, and by extension others of this group, may be the work of Novelli’s younger contemporary, the Genoese artist Giovanni David (1743-1790). Certainly, the draughtsmanship of this group is somewhat looser and more painterly than in other drawings by Novelli, which has been explained by the suggestion that the drawings date to an early phase in his career. Nevertheless, it is possible to detect a Genoese flavour in these studies that suggests that they be the work of a different artist altogether. The fact that the inscription on the present sheet seems to resemble a signature found on an autograph drawing by Giovanni David in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, depicting a standing woman and dated 1778, further argues that the attribution of this group of drawings to Novelli may perhaps need to be reconsidered.
Anonymous sale, Florence, Casa d’Aste Pitti, 14 May 1987, lot 1108 (as Attributed to Novelli)P. & D. Colnaghi, London, in 1995Private collection.