Pier Leone GHEZZI (Rome 1674 - Rome 1755)

Portrait of Serafino Falzacappa, Seated at a Table

Pen and brown ink, with double framing lines in brown ink.
Partially inscribed and dated 1714 on the verso, in the upper right margin.
172 x 272 mm. (6 3/4 x 10 3/4 in.) [image]
197 x 302 mm. (7 3/4 x 11 7/8 in.) [sheet]


Dated 1714, this is a portrait of Serafino Nicola Falzacappa (b.1706), the young son of one of Ghezzi's longstanding patrons. The Falzacappa family came from the ancient Etruscan city of Corneto (today called Tarquinia), northwest of Rome, and are known to have commissioned several works from Ghezzi. Around 1712, the artist painted an altarpiece of The Madonna and Child with Saints Joseph and Felix of Cantalice for the church of San Giuseppe in Corneto, under the patronage of Serafino's father, Giovanni Vincenzo Falzacappa. Over the next few years, Ghezzi also produced a number of drawn and painted portraits of members of the Falzacappa family.

Closely related to the present sheet is another finished portrait drawing by Ghezzi of the young Serafino, this time accompanied by his brother, in a double portrait of Francesco and Serafino Falzacappa Seated at a Table, Studying and Writing, today in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. In the Getty drawing, Serafino practices writing his name on a piece of paper, while his older brother Francesco places both of his hands on a book, as if interrupted in his reading. Both the Getty drawing and the present sheet show the children not in a formal context, but engaged in an everyday activity, which adds greatly to the appeal of the drawings. It is likely that both drawings were produced while Ghezzi was visiting the Falzacappa family in Corneto. With their framing lines and large margins, they were almost certainly intended as finished works of art, and may well have been commissioned by the Falzacappa family, or given to them by the artist. The same is true of two finished portrait drawings by Ghezzi of other members of the Falzacappa family, including one of Serafino's mother; a Portrait of the Contessa Agnese Sguazzi Falzacappa, with a Nun and an Abbot, and a Portrait of the Mother of the Contessa Falzacappa. A painted three-quarter length portrait by Ghezzi of the same sitter, Serafino Falzacappa, but slightly older than he appears in this drawing, was sold at auction in Italy in 2016.

Among comparable drawings by Ghezzi, particularly of children, are two studies of A Boy Standing with One Hand in his Pocket and A Beggar Boy Standing, Pointing with his Right Hand in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and a Peasant Woman with a Child from Filacciano in the Biblioteca Vaticana, Rome. Also stylistically comparable is an early pen and ink self-portrait drawing - depicting the artist as a young man, seated at a desk and in the act of drawing a portrait - in a private collection in London.

This charming, intimate drawing of the young Serafino Falzacappa seated at a table is among the relatively few portraits, as opposed to caricatures, in Ghezzi's drawn oeuvre, and is executed with a more refined pen technique than is seen in the artist's caricatures. As Didier Bodart has noted of the related drawing of the Falzacappa brothers now in the Getty, in terms that may equally be applied to the present sheet, 'One of the most original and exceptional drawings of this period [is] the Portrait of Serafino and Francesco Falsacapa…The psychological insight of this work [and] its acute sense of composition and exceptional delicacy are seldom found in Pier Leone's drawings…These drawings which are not overdone, and which have a precise and exciting realism, are rare in Ghezzi's graphic production.'

Presumably the Falzacappa family, Corneto (Tarquinia).

Pier Leone GHEZZI

Portrait of Serafino Falzacappa, Seated at a Table


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