GIOVANNI BATTISTA TIEPOLO (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid)
Study for Saint Francis (recto);Study of a drapery(verso)
red and white chalk on light brown (formerly blue) paper, stumping
1414 x 1058 in. (36.2 x 27 cm)
Armand-Louis François de Mestral de Saint-Saphorin (1738-1806), Vienna.
Nathan Chaikin (born 1887), New York and Venthône.
with Otto Wertheimer (1896-1972), Paris.
G. Knox, ‘Tiepolo Drawings from the Saint-Saphorin Collection’, in Atti del Congresso internazionale di studi sul Tiepolo, Udine, 1970, p. 66, ill.
G. Knox, Giambattistaand Domenico Tiepolo. A Study and Catalogue Raisonnéof the Chalk Drawings, Oxford, 1980, no. K12, ill.
Princeton, Princeton University Art Museum, Tiepolo, 1961 (without catalogue).
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Lot Essay

This drawing was part of the collection assembled by the Swiss diplomat Armand-Louis François de Mestral de Saint-Saphorin, a diplomat who worked for the King of Denmark in Warsaw, Saint-Petersburg, Madrid, The Hague and Vienna, where he died in 1806. The collection included about one hundred drawings by Tiepolo that he had likely purchased directly from the artist's studio either in Madrid or in Venice (Knox, op. cit., 1970, pp. 58-63). This sheet is a study for the figure of Saint Francis in a painting at the Prado (fig. 1; see M. Gemin and F. Pedrocco, Giambattista Tiepolo. I dipinti. Opera completa, Venice, 1993, no. 521, ill.; and C. Whistler inGiambattista Tiepolo 1696-1770, exhib. cat., Venice, Museo del Settecentesco Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996-1997, no. 41b, ill.). The altarpiece was part of a commission for seven paintings for San Pascual Baylon, a new church constructed at the behest of King Charles III for the Alcantarine friars of Aranjuez. Tiepolo received the important commission at the very end of his career, in 1767, soon after having completed the decoration of the ceilings of the Palacio Real in Madrid.

The altarpiece with Saint Francis was to be installed at the immediate right of the high altar, which was furnished with a painting representing the patron saint of the congregation, Saint Paschal Babylón. Tiepolo was provided by the King with a new larger studio in Madrid to fit the seven large canvases, which were completed in about two years. The painting's quality is hard to judge today, as it was heavily restored in 1914 after being rolled up in a storage room in the Prado. Scholars have argued that the painting might have been largely executed by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo who collaborated with his father, yet Giovanni Battista must have kept close scrutiny on the execution of such an important commission. Soon after their installation, however, Charles III decided to replace the altarpieces with a new series commissioned to Anton Raphael Mengs, Mariano Salvador Maella and Francisco Bayeu. Tiepolo’s canvases were transferred to the nearby convent. A preparatory modellofor the altarpiece is in the collection of the Courtauld Institute and it is regarded, together with the other bozzettifor the same commission, as among the most moving and beautiful works of the artist (fig. 2; see J. L. Seydl, Giambattista Tiepolo. Fifteen Oil Sketches, Los Angeles, 2005, no. 11, ill.).

In the drawing, Tiepolo focused on the single figure of the saint, isolated from the other elements of the composition. With only red chalk and a few white highlights, the artist masterly drew the beautiful and voluminous habit of Saint Francis. Many details included in the drawing were later in the final painting, such as the patches of fabric and the rosary attached to the cord on the saint’s waist.
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