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Francesco Guardi (Italy 1712-1793). After Angelo Trevisani (Italy 1667/9-after 1753). The Family of Darius before Alexander the Great.

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 14 – 18 June 2022

Lot 634 Francesco Guardi (Italy 1712-1793). After Angelo Trevisani (Italy 1667/9-after 1753). The Family of Darius before Alexander the Great. Oil on canvas, 38 x 55.5 cm.

Compare with the painting of the same subject by Angelo Trevisani in the collections at Nationalmuseum, Stockhom, inv. no. NM195.
We would like to thank Enrico Lucchese for his kind help in cataloguing this lot.


150.000 – 200.000 SEK
€ 14.000 – 19.000


The collection of art dealer Gösta Stenman (1888-1947), Stockholm, inv. no. 168.

In context

A rediscovery of a painting by Francesco Guardi after Angelo Trevisani

The meeting of Alexander the Great with the family of Darius III of Persia after the Battle of Issus (5 November 333 BC), which is the subject of the present painting, is recorded in various classical authors, among others Plutarch, Curtius Rufus and Valerius Maximus. Here is related how Sisigambi, the elderly mother of Darius begs Alexander the Great to return Darius wife Statira. Sisigambi is seen kneeled before her tent, while she addresses herself by mistake to Alexander’s friend Hephaeston. Alexander himself stands behind Hephaeston and is shown in red and bare headed. He raises his right hand, recalling Curtius Rufus famous passage from his Historiae Alexandri Magni Macedonis, III, 31: quam manu adlevans rex; ‘non errasti’inquit’ mater: nam et hic Alexander est’. 

The painting, which was inspected from a highresolution photograph, faithfully repeats the composition of the painting of the same subject, oil on canvas, 147 x 201 cm, in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, inv. no. NM195, which is recorded in the inventory of the estate of King Gustav III in 1792, as G.C. Trivisini. After various attributions to French 18th century masters and to Antonio Bellucci and Giambattista Pittoni, Görel Cavalli–Björkman (The family of Darius before Alexander: a Painting in search of its artist, in: Nationalmuseum Bulletin, 1979, pp.179/84) suggested an attribution to Gaspare Diziani. In 1999 Ugo Ruggeri (Nuove Opere di Angelo Trevisani, in: Ex Fumo Lucem. Baroque Studies in Honour of Klara Garas presented at her eightieth Birthday, II, 1999, pp. 53/6) convincingly reattributed the painting to Angelo Trevisani, dating it to circa 1732. 

Fig. 1. Gianantonio Guardi, after Angelo Trevisani. Triumph of Scipio. Milan, private collection.
Fig. 1. Gianantonio Guardi, after Angelo Trevisani. Triumph of Scipio. Milan, private collection.

The present painting differs from the one in the Nationalmuseum in a stricter grouping of the figures in a frieze whereas in the painting in Stockholm the group is placed closer to the picture plane. By keeping to the frieze, the present painting is more faithful to Charles le Brun’s famous composition, which circulated through the print by Gerard Audan and which Görel Cavalli–Björkman (op. cit., pp. 181/2) identified as prototype for the Stockholm painting. Noteworthy too is that in the present composition the sky is higher. Perhaps the painting in Stockholm once showed a similar larger sky and may have been trimmed. If so, its format is to be calculated at four times that of the present painting. In any case, such as observed by Ruggeri, (op. cit., p. 55), the arched gallery in the back recalls that in Paolo Veronese’s famous painting of the subject, now in the National Gallery, London, which was at Palazzo Pisani, Venice at the time.

Fig. 2. Gianantonio Guardi, after Angelo Trevisani, Triumph of Scipio. Christies, London.
Fig. 2. Gianantonio Guardi, after Angelo Trevisani, Triumph of Scipio. Christies, London.

Due to the sketchy touch of the brushwork, the present painting is easily to be judged as a preparatory model or rather the finished forms and by lack of signs of a creative process as a ricordo of the Stockholm painting. However, stylistically the painting does not fit in with the creative development of Trevisani in the 1730s, which consisted of mediating between the classicism of Balestra and Ricci and the exuberance of Pittoni and Crosato (see D. Ton, Angelo Trevisani, fra maniera ‘vaga’ e ‘naturale’, in: Arte Veneta, 2010, p. 55). Trevisani’s paintings of the period show besides solid pictorial forms, the use of dazzling colours and strong effects of light and shade. The absence of these stylistic characteristics is here replaced by precious vibrant brushwork and luminism, which evidently are peculiarities of Venetian painting of the mid 18th century under the influence of Giambattista Tiepolo, the colourist Piazzetta and Jacopo Marieschi. Some details in the present painting remind of the latter, but the rather closed forms as much as the explicit graphic character (see F. Pedrocco, Francesco Guardi Pittore di ‘Storia’, in: Francesco Guardi 1712 – 1793, 2012, p. 55), are hallmarks of Francesco Guardi, such as seen in the profiles of the faces and the position of the eyes, which are rendered with thin and secure strokes of the brush, a real family brand.

Fig. 3 Angelo Trevisani. Triumph of Scipio. Newport, “The Elms”.
Fig. 3 Angelo Trevisani. Triumph of Scipio. Newport, “The Elms”.

This stylistic analysis allows to come back to the early phase of Francesco Guardi, the last protagonist of Venetian art, and his relationship with his elder brother Gianantonio, who was head of the Guardi workshop (recently the subject of E. Lucchese, Il Secolo di Nicola Grassi. Pittura del Sei e Settecento Veneziano, 2021, pp. 162/5). Especially noteworthy in this context is the documented production of interpretative copies by the Guardi workshop after older and modern paintings, commissioned by collectors, who no longer wished to acquire the perfect repetition of such famous works but whose aim was to have a collection of paintings reflecting the great masters of the past but reinterpreted in a recognizable 18th century style. (see E. Lucchese, La Pittura di Figura del Settecento Veneziano: da Sebastiano Ricci a Tiepolo e Piazetta, in: Originali, Repilche, Copie. Uno Sguardo diverso sui grandi maestri, 2018, p. 284).

Fig. 4. Francesco Guardi, after Paolo Veronese. The Family of Darius before Alexander. Galleria Lorenzelli, Bergamo.
Fig. 4. Francesco Guardi, after Paolo Veronese. The Family of Darius before Alexander. Galleria Lorenzelli, Bergamo.

In order to allocate a date for the present painting, it should be noted that at the end of the 1740’s Gianantonio painted two copies copies, (fig. 1 and 2) (see F. Pedrocco, F. Montecuccoli degle Erri, Antonio Guardi, 1992, p. 135; pp. 232 and 235, cat. no’s 102 and 105) after Angelo Trevisani’s “Triumph of Scipio”, (fig. 3), then at Ca’ Corner dei Tacchi and now in Newport (Ton, op. cit., pp. 64 and 66). According to studio practice, the main role in the execution of these copies would be for Gianantonio as head of the workshop, commissioned by patrons such as the Giovanelli family and Marshal von der Schulenburg to provide copies after paintings from the Veneto and by foreign masters in an interpretative 18th century style, whereby Francesco is likely to have assisted. His earliest recorded painting dates from 1738 and the second dated painting from 1750, whereas the two Allegories, now in the museum in Sarasota (D. Succi, Francesco Guardi, I, Itinerario artistico, 2021, pp. 298/309) are no longer believed to date from 1747, followed by the copy after Veronese’s painting of “The family of Darius before Alexander”, (fig. 4) formerly in Galleria Lorenzelli, Bergamo, in the 1760’s (see A. Morassi, Guardi,1973, p. 347, cat. no. 212).

Based on its lesser degree of development then the latter, the present painting must therefore still have been painted within the Guardi workshop under the guidance of Gianantonio. Yet, it gives interesting references to the eclectic Marieschi, as mentioned before. Under the new influence of Tiepolo, Trevisani’s prototype is given a new impulse by giving it a lighter touch. Guardi’s interest must foremost have been with Gianbattista Tiepolo and then especially his drawings rather than his paintings. It is this interest in graphic and certain colouristic effects, which connects Guardi with Giandomenico Tiepolo. Both artists share many affinities, also in terms of interpretation of Venice in its twilight. A date in the 1740’s for the present painting is proposed here, as it falls stylistically between Giambattista Tiepolo’ fresco of the same subject in Villa Cordellina in Montecchio Maggiore of 1743 (see Il Secolo, pp.164/5) and Giandomenico’s “Stations of the Cross” for the Oratorio del Crocifisso in the church of San Polo, which were finished by 1749. In the latter Tiepolo’s son was criticized for his characters, which were disqualified as ‘caricatures’. However, those figures and the macchiette of Francesco Guardi after he had finally settled as vedutista were to become the protagonists of the visual spettacoli by which grand the grand era of 18th century Venetian painting would come to a close.

Enrico Lucchese, 18 May 2022

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