(Forno di Canale 1709 - Treviso 1781)
Capriccio Landscape with Fishermen and Seated Peasants, a Church at the Right
Signed and inscribed Zais Inv: et Del: in the lower left margin.
Further inscribed Hyllan IV. / Zais - gebohren in Cremona on the verso.
307 x 412 mm. (12 1/8 x 16 1/4 in.) [sheet]
Watermark: A crest and three crescents above IMPERIAL, with a crown above.
Among stylistically comparable signed and finished landscape drawings by Zais are three sheets in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm and two signed drawings in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
These two large landscape drawings belonged to 20th century Italian antique dealer and collector Giuseppe Rossi (1914-1989), who built a fine collection of 18th century decorative arts. Born into a family of cabinet makers in Turin, he worked for the family firm both before and after military service during the Second World War. After the war he began to focus on dealing and collecting, and from the late 1940s onwards was based in the palazzo of the Marchese Carrassi del Villar, on the Piazza San Carlo in Turin. This fine pair of drawings by Zais were inherited by Rossi’s younger sister Maria Luisa (1917-2017), who worked with him from 1944, and, when his declining health led him to give up the gallery, embarked on a new career as a conservator.
Zais came into his own as a landscape painter and draughtsman in Venice following Zuccarelli’s departure for London in 1752. As the 19th century artist and museum director Frederic William Burton wrote of him, ‘Zais profited so well by [Zuccarelli’s] tuition that he is considered to have surpassed his master in certain qualities of their art. He attracted the attention of the English Consul, Joseph Smith, a passionate collector of works of art and rare books, and was by him brought largely into notice among wealthy amateurs...In the compositions of this painter the landscape always plays an important part, and is treated with much grace and elegance. The figures, well grouped, frequently illustrate some biblical, historical, or mythological event; otherwise they represent battles, fêtes-champêtres, or a fanciful rustic life.’ Zais’s manner did not change much throughout his career, and it remains difficult to establish a firm chronology for his paintings or drawings.
Giuseppe Zais’s most significant works as a decorative painter were a series of frescoes on the walls of the Villa Pisani at Strà, in the Veneto, executed between 1760 and 1765. He produced a number of etchings, and provided illustrations for an edition of Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, published in 1772. It was not until 1774, when he was already in his sixties, that Zais was accepted into the Accademia Veneziana as a landscape painter. Sadly, however, his career seems to have ended not long afterwards. As the 18th century art historian Luigi Lanzi wrote in his Storia pittorica dell’ Italia: dal risorgimento delle belle arti fin presso al fine del XVIII secolo, first published between 1795 and 1796, Zais ‘failed to sustain either his own dignity or that of his art, and giving himself up to carelessness and dissipation, he died a common mendicant in the hospital of Trevigi.’
Although most of Giuseppe Zais’s extant landscape drawings are executed in pen and ink and wash, a handful of watercolours are also known. A significant number of drawings by the artist are today in the collection of the Museo Correr in Venice, while other fine examples are in the Szépmüvészeti Müzeum in Budapest, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice and the Albertina in Vienna.
By descent to his sister, Maria Luisa Rossi, Turin.