Pelagio Palagi

Bologna 1775 - Torino 1860

Virgin Mary

Oil on panel

Cm 60 x 46

Starting at a very young age the study of perspective, architecture, figurative and portrait painting, and collecting by Carlo Filippo Aldrovandi, he continued his studies at the school of nudes of the Accademia Clementina of Bologna. His formation and first works overlapped with the arrival of the Napoleonic troops in the city; thanks to the request of his mentor, who was a member of the Senate and representative of the Bolognese provisional government, Palagi designed uniforms, medals, and emblems with the symbols of Liberté, égalité, fraternité to be used in letters and cards for the Directory. Later, the new emerging bourgeoisie entrusted him with the creation of the monumental sepulchres of Edoardo Pepoli (1801), Girolamo Bolognini Amorini (1803), and Luigi Sampieri (1804) at the Certosa di Bologna. He also decorated the residence interiors of the Cospi, Aldini, and Gozzadini families in 1805.

He moved to Rome in 1806 to complete his studies at the Accademia di San Luca, where he may have been Vincenzo Camuccini's student. This is not confirmed by all the writings of the time, but the Roman painter's historicism had undoubtedly an influence on Palagi's style. This influence is present in the Bolognese painter's portraits, in which he demonstrates a careful analysis of the models' features, as well as in his historical paintings and landscapes, which lead Palagi to conduct accurate research on ancient history and the study of nature. Examples of this elaboration and research are Portrait of Giuseppe Guizzardi in antique costume (1807), Marriage of Amore and Psyche (1808), Mario a Minturno (1809–1810), Ila e le ninfe (1810–1811), and most importantly the major works at the Gabinetto Topografico in the Palazzo del Quirinale (1811–1813) and the Galleria di Teseo in the Palazzo Torlonia (1813–1815).

From 1813 Palagi was inspector of the Accademia Italiana and was in charge of following the activities of the young artists who were pensionists of the Accademia del Regno d'Italia in Rome. Together with Antonio Canova, president of the Accademia, the artist was able to gather the most representative young artists of the Italian Neoclassicism, from Felice Giani to Gaspare Landi, besides the abovementioned Camuccini. The experience in Rome helped Palagi to deepen his interest in archaeology and collecting, already developed during his youth in Bologna.n 1815, after a brief stay in Bologna, the artist moved to Milan, where he opened a private school in open competition with the Accademia di Brera, which never granted him a teaching position. In the Lombard capital the private clientele, wider and more stimulating than the one in Rome, lead with to dedicate himself to portrait painting, especially of Giuseppe Bossi and Andrea Appiani; the public commissions asserted him as the portrayer of the protagonists of the Restoration. Some works that straddle between the 1810s and 1820s are some of his portraits including those of Conte colonnello Francesco Arese Lucini nello studioLuigi ArchintoFrancesco I d’Austria (all of them made in 1817), Maggiore Pietro Lattuada (1822), Cristina Archinto Trivulzio (1824) and Ballerina Carlotta Chabert come Diana (1828–1830).

The encounter with Francesco Hayez, the leading artist of Lombard Romanticism, induced in Palagi a search for a compromise between historical-romantic painting and classicist formation. Product of this pursuit are Gian Galeazzo Sforza visitato in Pavia da Carlo VIIIGustavo Adolfo Re di Svezia che fa giurare fedeltà alla figlia Cristina dagli Stati GeneraliSisto V non riconosce la famiglia and La difesa di Matteo Visconti, all of them exhibited at Bera between 1821 and 1830, and Ratto delle Sabine (1823–1825).

By the end of the decade Palagi obtained the commission for the architectural and decorative intervention, and sculpture design of the Palazzo Arese Lucini and the Villa Tittoni Traversi.His fame as an architect, interior decorator, sculptor and furniture designer, as well as painter, reached the court of the Savoys, and in 1832 the king Carlo Alberto designated him head of the enlargement project of the Castle of Racconigi. Palagi moved to Turin after obtaining in 1834 the head position of the pictorial and decorative restoration project of the Castello di Pollenzo and the modernization project of the Royal Palace of Turin. In the same year he was given the Chair of Decoration (Cattedra di Ornato) of the Accademia Albertina.


We are grateful to Fernando Mazzocca for confirming the attribution of the present painting.


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Attributed to John Gibson RA

Conway 1790 - Rome 1866



45 x 68 x 38 cm

John Gibson RA is best known for his exquisite depictions of figures from classica mythology, working in the neoclassical tradition of Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822) and Berthel Thorvaldsen (1770 – 1844), in Rome. He was perhaps the leading British sculptor of the nineteenth century and enjoyed the patronage of high-profile clients including: Queen Victoria of Great Britain, the Duke of Devonshire, Count Erwein of Schönborn, Alessandro Torlonia and Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. In 1833 Gibson was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in London and five years later was sworn in as a full member, exhibiting there between 1816 and 1864. He had an illustrious artistic career and received many international honours, including the Légion d'Honneur, which was awarded to him by the French government in 1864.

 John Gibson arrived in Rome on 20th October 1817, aged 27, with four letters of recommendation from Sir George D’Aguilar, Henry Fuseli (1741 – 1825), John Flaxman (1755 – 1826) and from Lord Brougham. The impact the ‘Eternal City’ had on the ambitious young sculptor cannot be overstated. For at this time, it was the centre of the contemporary and classical art world and had an unrivalled abundance of ancient masterpieces, which sculptors could copy and take direct inspiration from, on a daily basis. Gibson once famously declared: “I thank God for every morning that opens my eyes in Rome” and indeed, he remained a resident of the city his whole life, leaving only for important commissions (for example, to carve his two portrait statues of Queen Victoria in 1844 and 1850) and during the revolutionary events of 1847-1849, during which time he moved to Lucca.

 In addition to the antiquities of Rome, one of the greatest artistic influences on Gibson was Antonio Canova, who was celebrated as Europe’s leading artist and regarded as the ‘Phidias of his time’. During his education in Canova’s bustling studio between 1817 and 1822, he had the opportunity to work in clay. He would have observed the practice of Canova making small terracotta models, or bozzetti, which were then worked up into a full-scale clay model, to be finally cast in plaster and enlarged by his studio assistants for translation into marble, using a curious contraption known as a ‘pointing machine’. There exists a fascinating account of the young John Gibson learning to work with clay in Canova’s studio, under the watchful eye of his main assistant Antonio D’Este:

 “At my own request Canova allowed me to copy his fine Pugilist – the marble statue in the Vatican. I began with great zeal to model my copy from the cast in the studio. After I had worked at the clay for a few days, down it all fell! It seems that my master had observed to his foreman, Signor Desti (Antonio D’Este), that my figure must fall, ‘for you see’, said he, ‘that he knows nothing of the skeleton work – but let him proceed, and when his figure comes down, show him how the mechanical part is done.’ So when the model fell, a blacksmith was called in, and the iron work was made, with numerous crosses of wood and wire.” Gibson also perhaps learned a great deal about the art of clay modelling during a brief time working under Joseph Nollekens, who is famed for the bravura of his terracotta ‘pensieri’ – as he referred to them. Indeed, a model of Theseus and the centaur by Gibson was included in the sale of Nolleken’s effects at Christies in 1823.

 Canova was a huge influence on Gibson during his early years in Rome. Not only did he support him with artistic and technical advice, but he also assisted in establishing the framework for the young sculptor’s career. Gibson was affectionately called the ‘British Canova’ by many and referred to himself as ‘Canova’s last pupil’ in a letter to Antonio Gacini, Secretary of the Royal Academy in Milan in 1861: “The first instruction which I received in my art was from an Italian. It was Canova whose pupil I became in the year 1817 and studied under him for five years when he died. I was his last pupil.”

 However, Gibson was no mere copyist. His work is markedly distinct from the great Italian’s and has a softer, perhaps more human quality. John Gibson was one of the few remaining exponents of the ‘pure’ neoclassical style of sculpture, who sought to achieve ‘ideal’ classical forms, while on the whole, his contemporaries and rivals were pursuing notions of formal naturalism, or ‘verismo’, such as depicting modern subjects wearing the contemporary fashions of the day.

Inspired by the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717 – 1768), Gibson aimed to achieve ‘the sublime and the purest beauty’ in his sculpture through study of the human form perfected to the standards of classical sculpture. The strong influence of the antique can be seen in the composition of the present work. The inspiration for the general form of this terracotta Narcissus was perhaps taken from the Capitoline Gaul or Dying Gladiator (fig.1), while the Centocelle Eros of the Vatican (fig.2) could have provided a model for the downward tilting attitude of the head and the thick curls of shoulder-length hair.

By 1821, Gibson had established his own studio in the Via Fontanella, just off the artistic hub of the via Babuino. The first major work of his own conception was his Sleeping Shepherd Boy  from 1824 (fig.3), made for Lord George Cavendish. Gibson reinterpreted this theme a number of times, making other versions for the Duke of Northumberland and a Mr Lenox of New York. This terracotta Narcissus is depicted in a similarly languid pose and adopts a comparably relaxed countenance. Their heavy heads are bowed, both in drowsy dream-states, full unconscious slumber in the case of the Shepherd Boy, while Narcissus is caught in a trance-like day-dream, as he stares into the water below, enamoured with the beautiful appearance of his own reflection. Their torsos are also gently ‘crunched’, with their abdominal muscles engaged in a similar contorsion (fig.4). Anatomically perfect, both models demonstrate the education Gibson received, not just from studying the ancient models which of course abounded in his adopted city, but the anatomy classes he attended in Britain, led by Dr Vose, who dissected human corpses for his students.

In 1830 Gibson is known to have made a Narcissus in marble for Lord Barrington and subsequently made two others for a Mr Evrington and a Mr Fort of Manchester. He returned to the theme again, sending a Narcissus to the Royal Academy as a submission for his diploma work in 1838 (fig.5). In Ovid’s version of the story of Narcissus and Echo in his Metamorphosis, the nymph Echo fell in love with a beautiful young hunter called Narcissus. But her love was not returned and Echo was condemned by the goddess Juno to repeat only the last words that were spoken to her. As a punishment for spurning Echo’s love, Narcissus was made to fall in love with his own reflection and expired gazing at himself in a pool of water. In his place a flower grew and which took on his name. It is a tragic tale and one of the most famous surviving from antiquity and so would have been an enticing subject for Gibson. The inspiration for the Royal Academy’s example was apparently the sight of a boy sitting on the edge of a fountain that Gibson noticed during a morning walk along the Monte Pinciano, thus satisfyingly combining an observed genre scene with a well-known classical allegory.

 The handling of the head and facial details of the terracotta Narcissus appears to be very similar to the marble work of the same subject that Gibson sent to the Royal Academy in 1838 (fig.6 and 6a) and also his Cupid disguised as a Shepherd Boy at Yale (fig.7). Specifically, their slim, pointed noses, their small, plump, slightly parted lips and their heavy-lidded, blank, pupil-less eyes – in the manner of the ancients. The clay figure’s remarkable head of deep, shoulder-length curls also has much in common with those carved by Gibson for his marble Narcissus, but also to his Love tormenting the soul, at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. It is also interesting to compare the positioning, modelling and anatomical style of the hands and feet of the terracotta model to the marble Narcissus and the Sleeping Shepherd Boy, respectively - for their smooth, yet pronounced, squared-off knuckles and deeply incised nails must surely have been made by the same master.

 When one compares the physiognomic details of this newly discovered terracotta with other major works from Gibson’s oeuvre, the comparisons are so striking that it seems almost certain that the present terracotta is by the hand of John Gibson. The model therefore represents an important art historical discovery for scholars and collectors of European neoclassical sculpture: it adds another model to Gibson’s oeuvre, revealing a different conception of the subject of Narcissus based on ancient archetypes available to Gibson in Rome. In conjunction with this, it also expands our understanding of the types of media that he used in his own artistic practice and increases our appreciation of the skill and facility he had in modelling clay.




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Giuseppe Bernardino Bison

Palmanova 1762 – Milan 1844

Trieste, The Molo towards Palazzo Carciotti

Oil on canvas

Cm 53,5 x 64,5

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Attributed to Giacomo Raffaelli

Rome 1753 - 1836

Greek Comedy Masks

Rosso and Giallo Antico marble relief

Cm 25 x 27

The Raffaelli were Roman kilns and in the second half of the seventeenth century they supplied the Vatican with vitreous material, in the form of colored square tesserae, to make mosaics. In their kilns the Raffaelli therefore produced stuff that is used to make mosaics, that is, vitreous enamels cut into white or colored tiles, such as white lattimio, red lead and gold sheets. On the death of Paolo Raffaelli, the furnace was inherited by his three sons: Francesco, Antonio and Giacomo - the eldest son - who ran it.

Giacomo Raffaelli moved the workshop, first to Piazza di Spagna, then to Via del Babuino, 92. With the help of Cesare Aguatti, around 1775 he conceived the micro-tesserae mosaic, called filato or romano, obtaining it from a siliceous compound which, incandescent, it could be spun and then cut into tiny segments. The micromosaic was an idea to build a great illusion, that is to make the masterpieces, even the most perishable ones, stable and reduce them in size to the point of making them works of art to wear or carry in your pocket. He made tiny plaques in micromosaic with landscapes, with Roman monuments (sometimes in the form of a whim), with flowers, with birds, with religious or mythological subjects. These plates, mounted in metal, glass or marble or wood or hard stone boxes, were then applied on snuff boxes or mounted on brooches, on elements for necklaces, on rings, on caskets, on buttons: they became expensive souvenirs. , for travelers on the Grand Tour. Giacomo Raffaelli exhibited micromosaics for the first time in his atelier in Piazza di Spagna, on the occasion of the Holy Year 1775. The frame motif he used to finish his micromosaics was typical: a chain of white tiles with blue tiles inside, between two rows of red tiles. The invention had many followers and between 1824 and 1830 the area between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo contained 68 commercial activities related to micromosaic.

His circular plaque with Pliny's doves, dated 1778, is in the British Museum and another example is in the Napoleonic Museum in Rome: the theme was repeated several times by him. A Goldfinch, micromosaic medallion, from 1778, is kept in the Museum of Santa Giulia, in Brescia.

In 1787 Stanislaus II Augustus Poniatowski, the last king of Poland, appointed him a Polish noble and his advisor for the Liberal Arts. A fervent republican, Giacomo was involved in Milan, in 1808, in anti-Napoleonic political riots and was arrested, but immediately released.Most of the vitreous enamels produced by the Raffaelli furnace, starting from 1804, were exported to Milan, where Giacomo had opened a school of mosaic art in the former convent of San Vincenzino, connected to the Brera Academy, then directed by Giuseppe Bossi. By decree of 24 April 1807 the viceroy Eugenio Beauharnais ordered him a life-size copy of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. The work, in which his son Vincenzo and the mosaicists Giuseppe Roccheggiani and Gaetano Ruspi collaborated, lasted many years and was possible thanks to the mosaic tiles, produced by the Raffaelli furnaces and coming from Rome. This inscription, placed at the foot of the mosaic, celebrated both the art of the mosaicist and the intentions of the client to preserve, in a stable mosaic work, the image of Leonardo's fresco which was already in poor condition at that time:


The work was destined for the Louvre, but after the fall of Napoleon it was claimed by the Habsburgs, who took it to Vienna on 11 August 1818. The Italians residing there asked that the mosaic of Leonardo's work be placed in the Italian National Church of Vienna (church of the Minorites of Vienna), on an altar made by the architect Friedrich August von Stache. The mosaic was moved to the new location on March 26, 1847.

In Brera, in 1814, a selection of art objects was exhibited, produced by Giacomo Raffaelli and his students ː a clock decorated with marble, semiprecious stones, mosaics and bronzes; table tops in white marble, set with mosaic and agate, lapis lazuli, carnelian and malachite elements; mosaic paintings representing birds.In 1815 Giacomo Raffaelli returned to Rome. The Tsar of Russia appointed him as his adviser and from him he bought mosaic paintings and mosaic-topped tables that are now in the Hermitage Museum. Giacomo made the detachment of the mosaic of the basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura, to restore it, after the fire of 1823 that had devastated the basilica.

He was elected academic of San Luca and was buried in Rome, in the church of San Stanislao of the Polish Nation, in via delle Botteghe Oscure. The Raffaelli furnace continued to produce micromosaics for jewelery and enamels for the Fabbrica di San Pietro, until 1864, under the direction of Vincenzo Raffaelli, son of Giacomo.

The work refers to Raffaelli's workshop for table desers in colored marble inspired by antiquity and can be dated around 1780.

The gilded silver Frame probably by Paolo Spagna (Rome 1736 - 1788) or Luigi Valadier (Rome 1726 - 1785)

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Giuseppe Bernardino Bison

Palmanova 1762 – Milan 1844

Venice, View of the Grand Canal

Oil on canvas

Cm 53,5 x 85,5

This work belongs to the early years of Bison’s career, and certainly to within the eighteenth century, when the artist specialised as an easel painter of views and landscapes, retracing the steps of the great tradition of Venetian painting.Yet this picture also signals a renewal of the received tradition for the new century, responding to the new taste of the bourgeoisie who desired mementos of the previous century’s golden age. During the last decade of the eighteenth century Bison worked in various cities in the Veneto and Friuli, also asserting himself as a talented fresco painter. Following a period of thirty years working from Trieste, in 1831 he moved definitively to Milan where he concluded the final years of his successful career.


We are grateful to Fabrizio Magani for confirming the attribution of the present painting.


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Francesco Righetti

Rome 1749 - 1819

The Borghese Gladiator

Bronze with Dark Patina

Cm 31 High

The present bronze sculpture was made after the famous Greek marble of a young fighter portrayed in the act of protecting himself from the aggression of the enemy with the shield which, originally, had to be attached to the left arm raised on guard. The bronzetto, with a dark patina in imitation of ancient bronzes, rests onto a base, also of bronze, bearing the signature "F[rancesco] RIGHETTI F[ecit] ROMAE 1787." The original marble, now in the Louvre, can be dated to the first century BC. It was discovered in Nettuno, near Rome, in 1611, eventually becoming one of the most prized pieces in the collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, from which it took its name, before being acquired by Napoleon in 1807 to decorate the Salle d'Apollon at the Musée Napoléon.

Particularly appreciated for the anatomical accuracy with which the muscles are rendered in the extremely harmonious athletic gesture, the sculpture was reproduced in large and small scale since the seventeenth century. The bronzesmiths active in Rome in the second half of the eighteenth century did not fail to include this model in their productions. The “bronze of the Gladiator Borghese, one and a half inches high” was one of the most requested pieces in the manufactory of Giacomo Zoffoli (1731- 1785), active since the beginning of the 1760s in Via degli Avignonesi. There, the bronze was sold for sixteen scudi, and was particularly popular with French and English Grand-Tourists, who paired it with other models after ancient statuary to adorn the interiors of their city residences. Versions of the Gladiator Borghese were found in the collections of Francis Russell, Marquis of Tavistock (1735–67), decorating his Thanet House in London between 1761 and 1762 and now in Woburn Abbeyof Elizabeth Percy , Duchess of Northumberland (1716–76), in her residence overlooking Trafalgar Square, now divided between Syon House and Alnwick Castleand of Sir Lawrence Dundas (1710–81), where it was arranged in a particularly elegant composition on the chimney of the Dressing Room of his London house, as depicted by Johann Zoffany (1733–1810) in 1769


We are grateful to Dr. Chiara Teolato for confirming the attribution.

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Federico Moja

Milan 1802 - Dolo 1885

Venice, a View of the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, with the Equestrian Monument to Bartolomeo Colleoni and the Scuola Grande di San Marco in the Background

Oil on Canvas Cm 74,5 x 104,5

Signed and dated 1845 lower right

After attending the Brera Academy, Federico Moja specialized in perspective painting under the guidance of Giovanni Migliara, from whom he acquired the ability to elevate the genre of urban views of everyday life into timeless architectural records. The striking cropping of the present composition and emphasis on perspective blend his learnings from his teacher with his own aesthetic characterised by the dramatic juxtaposition of light and colour.

Benedetto Bermani writes 'The school created by Migliara has in Moja one of those followers who have the power to detach themselves from the cold imitation of the great masters, to create their own style, daring, fertile, rich in effects and originality and which reveals an industrious imagination, which, respecting the laws of art, knows how to find unexpected implications. I will not tell you that Moja is perfect in design, exact in reproducing the most minute peculiarities of a building and of a monument... What I admire most in Moja is the splendor of the effects that he knows how to draw from art, whose boundaries appear so limited. The dazzling richness in the play of light, the comic or elegant or profound inspirations that reveal themselves from his sketches, make him an artist apart, since he was able to find an abundant source of ideas...' (Benedetto Bermani in AlbumEsposizione di belle arti in Milano, 1842, p. 78).

We are grateful to Dr. Fabrizio Magani for confirming the attribution.

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Giacomo & Giovanni Zoffoli

Rome 1731-1785 and 1745-1805



Cm 65,5 x 18 x 29,5

The fashion for reproductions of the most famous antique models in Italy developed in the 18th century, intended for wealthy European customers wishing to bring back a souvenir of the Grand Tour. 

The Zoffoli foundry was established by Giacomo Zoffoli in 1760. Located on what is now the Via Sistina, it was one of the most popular and important workshops in 18th Century Rome. Giacomo Zoffoli was a bronze maker and also later a silversmith, gaining his silversmith licence in 1775. Alongside his younger brother Giovanni, he became famous for casting bronze statuettes of models from the antique. Hugely popular among the Grand Tourists, they were known for not only casting reductions of the most well-known antique sculptures, but also for casting the newer discoveries such as those excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum. They would also often add a greenish patina to these, which was intended to replicate the copper sulphate deposits that were usual on newly excavated pieces. The present bronze is a miniature of the so-called "Mercury"

The Zoffoli copied it in reduced scale and included it in the line of bronze miniatures that they offered to Italian connoisseurs and to the cultivated foreign amateurs who visited Rome on the Grand Tour

In its scale, it's exquisitely worked finish, and its classical subject is a typical example of the miniature production of the Zoffoli.

H. Honour, 'Bronze statuettes by Giacomo & Giovanni Zoffoli' in Connoisseur, CXLVIII, 1961, pp. 194-200 

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