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Bernardino Capitelli
Orpheus and the Animals, A Study after an Ancient Bas-Relief

1626-1629

About the Item

Inscribed “55” and “218” in the lower right Watermark: Heawood 1351 Laid down on historic Cassiano Del Pozzo mount (Mount Type A, 531 x 402 mm) Provenance: Commissioned by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588–1637) for his Museo Cartaceo (Paper Museum) and kept in the library of his palazzo, via dei Chiavari, Rome Transferred with the entire dal Pozzo collection by fidecommesso to his younger brother, Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo (1606–1689); by descent to his second son: Gabriele dal Pozzo (d. 1695); by descent to his wife: Anna Teresa Benzoni and after her remarriage in 1697, the Marchesa Lancellotti de’ Ginnetti (d. 1736); by descent to their son: Cosimo Antonio dal Pozzo (d. 1740); by whom sold with the Dal Pozzo library in 1703 to: Pope Clement XI for the Vatican Library; by whom transferred as part of the Museo Cartaceo in January 1714 to his nephew: Cardinal Alessandro Albani (1692–1779), Palazzo ‘alle Quattro Fontane’ in Rome; by whom sold in 1762 to: James Adam, agent for the British Royal Librarian Richard Dalton (1715–1791) King George III of England, Buckingham House Among the sheets of the ‘Museo Cartaceo’ appropriated by Richard Dalton during a reorganization of the drawings, circa 1786-1788; his estate sale, Greenwood’s, London, 11-19 May 1791; where acquired by: John MacGowan (d. 1803), lawyer and antiquary of Edinburgh; his sale, Thomas Philipe, London, 26 January-4 February 1804; where acquired by: Charles Townley (1737–1805); and by descent to: John Townley (1803–1876); his sale, Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, London, 10-11 May 1865, part of lot 406, purchased by Thorpe (£5.5s) Sir William Stirling-Maxwell (1818–1878), 9th Baronet of Pollock, acquired by 1871 and bound in an album entitled “Drawings by Italian Old Masters. Sculpture;” and by descent: Stirling-Maxwell family; their sale, Phillips, London, 12 December 1990, lot 259, where acquired by: Private Collection, New York Exhibited: “I segreti di un collezionista: le straordinarie raccolte di Cassiano dal Pozzo: 1588-1657,” Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini, 29 September – 26 November 2000, pp. 137-138, cat. no. 147, as Bernardino Capitelli. Literature: Amanda Claridge and Eloisa Dodera, “Sarcophagi and Other Reliefs,” Part III, 3 vols., in The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo, ed. Arthur MacGregor and Jennifer Montagu, Series A, Antiquities and Architecture, London, 2019, cat. no. 508, pp. 782-784. This impressive drawing was commissioned by Cassiano dal Pozzo, one of the most significant patrons and collectors in 17th-century Italy. Dal Pozzo was an internationally known scholar of antiquities and natural history, interests that grew out of his connections to the Medici court in Florence and the intellectual circles centered at the University and Botanical Gardens in Pisa. Dal Pozzo achieved considerable success in his lifetime, serving as a secretary to Cardinal Francesco Barberini and accompanying him on several diplomatic missions. He is now remembered and celebrated for his incredibly ambitious project called the Museo Cartaceo, or the Paper Museum, to which this drawing originally belonged. Dal Pozzo employed artists to draw copies after all surviving remnants of Roman civilization, and to a lesser extent, after various types of naturalia, creating a visual encyclopedia of the ancient and natural world. Not only was the Museo Cartaceo an important resource for study and research in seventeenth century Europe, but after dal Pozzo’s death, it also became a treasured possession of popes and kings. Although this drawing was previously thought to depict an ancient gem or cameo, it was in fact drawn after an ancient marble relief of Orpheus charming the animals, now in the collection of the Louvre (Fig. 1). While it is often been difficult to identify the whereabouts of ancient objects depicted in Museo Cartaceo drawings at the time that they were made, the location of this relief in the 17th century is well-known. It had been purchased from the artist Pietro Tami—who may have restored the work, setting it into its rectangular surround—in 1615 by Asdrubale Mattei, a Roman nobleman and an important patron of Caravaggio. Mattei installed the relief on the eastern wall of the courtyard in his residence, Palazzo Mattei di Giove, above the third ground-floor window from the south wall (Fig. 2). In the 19th century, the relief was acquired by Cardinal Joseph Fesch and was later in the storied collection of the antiquarian Giampietro Campana, which was eventually purchased by Napoleon III for the Louvre. According to Greek mythology, the poet Orpheus was able to charm animals and suppress their instinctive ferocity with the sweet sound of his lyre. Orpheus sits in the center of this relief playing his lyre with a plectrum while a group of docile creatures gather around him. Lions, wolves, and a cow lie at his feet, while horses, deer, birds, and two braying mules stand around him, responding to his song. Our drawing, which is roughly one-fifth the size of the relief, faithfully imitates the oval shape of the stone and the original form of the lyre, which has since been restored. The draughtsman seems to have interpreted the tree on which the bird in the upper right of the relief is perched as a branch being consumed by the horned deer. Two other seventeenth-century drawings after the relief of Orpheus charming the animals from the Palazzo Mattei di Giove were made for the Museo Cartaceo and are now in the Royal Collection, Windsor (Figs. 3-4). Our version is the most faithful and accomplished of these drawings. The present work, which is still in its original dal Pozzo mount, was drawn by an artist that executed numerous drawings for the Museo Cartaceo in the 1620s. Nicholas Turner attributed the drawings from this group to Bernardino Capitelli, a Sienese artist who is known to have been in Rome from 1626-29 reproducing ancient monuments for dal Pozzo. Capitelli dedicated several of his etchings to the dal Pozzo family, and a surviving letter from the Italian painter Giovanni Battista Giustammiani testifies to his time in the service of Cassiano. Francesco Solinas accepted the attribution of this sheet to Capitelli in the 2000 Cassiano dal Pozzo exhibition, but the attribution of this group of works to Capitelli has recently been questioned. However, Amanda Claridge, author and editor of the forthcoming volume on Sarcophagi and Other Reliefs from the Cassiano dal Pozzo catalogue raisonné has suggested that the Capitelli’s authorship of this drawing remains a possibility. The present drawing was likely removed from the Bassi Relievi Antichi albums of the Museo Cartaceo (Royal Collection, Windsor, ten albums, RCINS 970364-970373), which comprised drawings of ancient relief sculptures. It was later in the collection of William Stirling-Maxwell along with 221 other drawings from the dal Pozzo collection. Stirling-Maxwell’s drawings were either already bound or rebound by him into two albums: “Architecture” and “Sculpture,” to which ours belonged. The tiny holes from this binding (or possibly the original one) are still visible along the upper edge of the mount. The drawing also bears two dal Pozzo numbers: the ‘55’ within the drawing of the relief almost certainly refers to its place in the Bassi Relievi Antichi album and the ‘218’ outside the border of relief (the normal position for dal Pozzo numbers) fits into sequence of drawings attributed to Bernardino Capitelli and may date from the reorganization of the Museo Cartaceo by Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo following Cassiano’s death. We are grateful to Amanda Claridge for her assistance in cataloguing this drawing.
  • Creator:
    Bernardino Capitelli (1589 - 1639)
  • Creation Year:
    1626-1629
  • Dimensions:
    Height: 5 in (12.7 cm)Width: 6.75 in (17.15 cm)
  • Medium:
  • Movement & Style:
  • Period:
  • Condition:
  • Gallery Location:
    New York, NY
  • Reference Number:
    1stDibs: LU1026275981
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