Attrubuted to Ottavio LEONI
(Rome c.1578 - Rome 1630)
Portrait of a Young Girl
187 x 138 mm. (7 3/8 x 5 3/8 in.)
In his will of 1630, drawn up shortly before his death, Leoni left all his drawings to his stepson and pupil, Ippolito, who he hoped would find them useful in his own work. Ippolito, however, seems to have sold the drawings almost immediately to Cardinal Scipione Borghese, one of the leading collectors in Rome and a longtime patron of Leoni’s. At the cardinal’s death in 1633 his collection was inherited by his cousin Marcantonio Borghese, Prince of Sulmona. The group of portrait drawings by Leoni is first mentioned by Baglione in 1642 and 1649 as being in the Borghese collection. This large group is probably identical with an album of some four hundred portrait drawings by Leoni that were later in the collection of a M. d’Aubigny before being sold and dispersed at auction in Paris in 1747, when they were noted by the collector Pierre-Jean Mariette.
The present sheet once belonged to the English collector Henry S. Reitlinger (1882-1950), who assembled a fine collection of drawings, paintings and prints, much of which was left to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge after his death. In 1922 Reitlinger published Old Master Drawings: A Handbook for Amateurs and Collectors, one of the first guides to the collecting of drawings, which was illustrated with examples from the author’s own extensive collection of Italian, French, German, Netherlandish and English drawings. Reitlinger owned at least two other portrait drawings of women by Leoni, one of which is today in the Fitzwilliam Museum..
Leoni produced over seven hundred finished portrait drawings of his contemporaries in Rome, including not only members of the aristocratic families of the city but also writers, artists, scientists and ecclesiastical figures. As Baglione noted, ‘He portrayed not only the Supreme Pontiffs of his time, but also the Cardinal Princes, and titled Lords, and others of quality, no matter how famous they were, both religious and secular alike, were at various times drawn by him…There is no Prince, Princess, Gentleman, or Lady, as much as private individual, who has not been portrayed by Ottavio.’ Elected principe of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome in 1614, Leoni also drew many portraits of contemporary artists working in the city, including Caravaggio, Bernini, Guercino, Guido Reni, Simon Vouet and the Carracci. Leoni began numbering his portrait drawings sequentially from January 1615 onwards, inscribing the month and year of execution on each sheet, and from around 1618 often drew in a combination of red, black and white chalks on blue paper.
Significant groups of portrait drawings and prints by Ottavio Leoni are today in the collections of the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Accademia Toscana di Scienze e Lettere ‘La Colombaria’ and the Biblioteca Marucelliana in Florence, the Palazzo Rosso in Genoa, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Louvre in Paris, and the Albertina in Vienna.
His posthumous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 9 December 1953, probably part of lot 63 (‘O. Leoni. A Portrait of a Girl, head and shoulders, full face, black chalk heightened with white on greenish paper’, bt. Cantor for £22).