Jean - Luc Baroni Ltd

Gandolfi Gaetano


Gaetano Gandolfi

Bologna 1732 – 1802

Portrait of the painter Giovanni Trussardi Volpi




Study for a Sculpture of Neptune

Red chalk.
Inscribed in pen and ink on the verso: Gaetano Gandolfi.

247 x 174 mm 9 ½ x 6 ½ mm.

In his brief autobiography, Gaetano describes a typical Bolognese training, working in the studios of three Bolognese artists and studying at the Accademia Clementina, where he received prizes for drawing and for sculpture. Although Gaetano travelled to Venice (Giovanni Battista Tiepolo was a strong influence on his work) and later to London, his successful career was spent almost exclusively in and around Bologna. He received important commissions for religious and secular projects, altarpieces and decorative schemes and also painted portraits and oil sketches for collectors as well as working as a sculptor. Collectors prized his drawings highly and he was well known as an excellent draughtsman.

This delightful red chalk drawing may have been done for its own sake or made in preparation for part of a decorative scheme. This figure of the sea god could have been conceived as a trompe l’oeil statue. From early in his career, Gaetano used such figures in his palace decorations, perhaps encouraged by his study of sculpture at the Accademia Clementina. Donatella Biagi Maino has connected a draped female figure, formerly in the Goldschmidt collection, Berlin drawn in pen and ink, to the decorations in the Palazzo Malvasia1. In her monograph of 1995, Biagi Maino illustrates the grand vaulted ceiling painted with Jove as the Eagle in a great sky seen through an open colonnade decorated with figures on pedestals. Trompe l’oeil decorations are a significant aspect of Gaetano’s career, both for religious and secular projects, often showing the influence of Giambattista Tiepolo, which the present drawing also demonstrates. Biagi Maino illustrates the da sotto in sù figures of the Four Elements perched on a painted balcony in the Palazzo Odorico which were executed in around 1785 and two of the trompe l’oeil allegorical female figures painted by Gaetano in the palazzo Gnudi Scagliarini as well as a ceiling painting of the Sacrifice of Iphigenia2, for which he was paid in 1789.

One further aspect of Gaetano’s career to which this fine drawing might be related is sculpture for its own sake. A small number of terracotta figures have been identified as witness to his early production, including two rather severely designed Cardinal Virtues, in a private collection3  and two further, slightly freer figures of La Fortezza and La Prudenza, more recently identified by Donatella Biagi Maino, plus  a much more expressive sleeping youth, signed: GG and dated 1762, formerly in the collection of Robert von Hirsch3.


1.    See annotated card in the Witt Library, Courtauld Institute and Donatella Biagi Maino, Gaetano Gandolfi, Turin 1995, figs. 4-6, and cat. 4, p.344.
2.    See op. cit., figs. 189-192 and figs. 214-217.
3.    See op.cit.,  pl. III and IV,  see, Biagi Maino, Ubaldo and Gaetano Gandolfi, opera scelte, Cento 2002, figs. 1 and 2 and annotated card in the Witt Library giving reference to Sotheby’s, 22 June 1978, lot 406.

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