Jean - Luc Baroni Ltd

Gian Domenico Ferretti


Gian Domenico Ferretti

Florence 1692-1768

The Harlequins remonstrating with the Doctor





Black chalk and brown wash.
172 x 215mm. (6 ¾ x 8 ½ in.)

Provenance: Bears two brown ink paraphes on the old backing which also bears the inscription in black chalk:  Feretti and in another hand: Mr Zamy (?) qui a… furini; Marianne C. Gourary, New York.

Ferretti spent much of his career in and around Florence but he was versatile and eclectic in the mediums in which he worked as well as in his style and choice of commissions. His Florentine masters were Tommaso Redi and Sebastiano Galeotti although he also spent five years in Bologna in the studio of Felice Torelli, returning again to Florence by the age of 23 where he received minor commissions to paint frescoes both in churches and palazzi and already in 1717 was made a member of the Accademia del Disegno. His first important commission, however, was to fresco the cupola of the cathedral of Imola, the native city of his father. With a letter of introduction from the archbishop of Imola, Cardinal Ulisse Gozzadini addressed to Cosimo III de’ Medici, Ferretti returned to Florence but for the meantime he continued to work on projects elsewhere, in Pistoia and Impruneta. His contacts with the Medici became established with the commission from Grand Duke Gian Gastone, the next Grand Duke of Tuscany, to design tapestries for the Medici workshop, for which payments began in 1728. In 1731, he was welcomed amongst the twelve Maestri di Pittura at the Florentine Accademia, a signal of his, by then, high standing as a painter; he became Console of the same institution the following year, a post which he filled until shortly before his death. Soon after this, he began work on the major project of his career in Florence, the frescoes of the choir and apse of the Chiesa della Badia di Firenze (signed and dated 1734) which are now considered as the highest expression of Florentine Rococo. From this time, his services were in constant demand. The 1740s were spent on major projects both in and beyond Florence, a great altarpiece for the cathedral depicting The Death of St Joseph, a cycle of frescoes in the refectory of the convent of SS. Annunziata, a series of frescoes in the Palazzo Sansedoni in Florence and an ambitious fresco project in the church of SS. Prospero and Filippo in Pistoia. In the mid 1750s Ferretti executed the frescoes in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, as well as an altarpiece for one of its chapels. By the early 19th Century, although a good part of his work had already been destroyed, Ferretti was described by Luigi Lanzi in his Storia Pittorica d’Italia as the principal fresco painter of his generation in Florence and by Francesca Baldassari, in her recent monograph, as the greatest protagonist of Tuscan painting in the 18th century1.

As Francesca Baldassare describes, one of the most delightful aspects of Ferretti’s work is the group of paintings and drawings dedicated to caricatures and masques. Continuing in the tradition of Florentine satire established by artists of the 17th century such as Baccio del Bianco and Stefano della Bella, during the 1740s Ferretti painted two well-known series of Harlequinades2. These were almost certainly influenced by the presence of the Venetian writer, Carlo Goldoni, who was in Florence for much of 1742. Ferretti’s uncle was the antiquarian and Man of Letters, Antonio Francesco Gori, and Goldoni and Ferretti probably both frequented the Gori house, one of the centres of the Florentine cultural world, where dinners were regularly held at which improvised comedic spectacles were performed for the delight of the guests. Florentine society in this moment, was full of small groups and minor academies established to celebrate certain aspects of literary or artistic life. It is known that Ferretti belonged to the L’Accademia del Vangelista, at one time a religious confraternity but by that time, a society for lovers of the dramatic arts. Improvised theatrical spectacles were also the chief occupation of this society which, on Carnival days, opened its doors to women. The traditional Commedia dell’arte characters were, most probably, the chief subjects: Arlecchino, Pulcinella, Pantalone and Colombina. Francesca Baldassari points out that Ferretti’s gently satiric works find a parallel in the caricatures of Giuseppe Maria Crespi and also draws attention to the fact that Florentine cultural life in the 1720s and 1730s had experienced a reanimation due to the more relaxed and modernising rule of the Grand Duke Gian Gastone.

Ferretti’s Harlequinades form two distinct groups: eleven paintings of a vertical format formerly belonging to the Max Reinhardt collection at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, are in the Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, along with two horizontal compositions, which possibly belong to a different series. Two related paintings, again horizontal but repeating two of the Sarasota subjects, are in the Art Museum of the University of Kansas and two paintings on copper, one of which is signed, were in the Simmons collection in London. The second group is a series of drawings on Harliquinade subjects but of different incidents, to which the present work is a delightful addition. The drawings all share roughly the same measurements and exactly the same medium, and the largest number known are in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford2. Related to these, are a number of engravings by Francesco Bartolozzi. In this newly identified drawing, the scene appears to show the lover character, sometimes called Colombina with her particular hair arrangement and dress, being protected from the railings of the doctor; this same character appears identically with Pulcinella in a number of the Ashmolean sheets, as well as in the paintings. Ferretti’s draughtsmanship in these sheets is extremely distinctive, having a light, dancing touch and delicacy of wash along with a characterful manner of describing face and form in curving, abbreviated lines.

1. See Francesca Baldassari, Giovanni Domenico Ferretti, Milan 2003, p.9.
2. See Edward A. Maser, Gian Domenico Ferretti, Florence 1968, pp.220-221, figs. 163-167 and pp.90-91 and 110; and Baldassari, op. cit., p.236 and figs. 5,6 and 7.

7-8 Mason's Yard, Duke Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6BU – – Tel. +44 20 7930 5347

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site