Portrait of Ignazio Degotti (d. 1824), celebrated scenographer at the Paris Opéra, seated in a gilded Empire fauteuil carved with lion heads; dated 1812

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Object Description

Watercolour on ivory (ivory registration number: 6UC8161S), gilt-bronze frame.

Ignazio Degotti was born in Turin and was a celebrated painter and scenographer at the Paris Opéra specialising in perspective architecture and landscapes. Under the stewardship of Ignazio Galliari, he learnt the art of perspective painting at the Royal Academy of painting and sculpture in Turin. In 1796, he was appointed dessinateur des decorations at the Paris Opéra for the staging of Gluck’s Alceste and he held this position until 1817. The present miniature was painted during this period and suitably positions the scenographer in a suitably theatrical fur lined cape sitting on an ornate gilded Empire fauteuil carved with lion heads.

Ferdinando Quaglia was one of the most important miniature painters of the early nineteenth century. He studied in Parma, Florence and Milan before travelling to Paris in 1805 where he worked in Napoleon’s court. There, he worked closely with Jean-Baptiste Isabey and was heavily influence by him. His portraits, much like the present work, are characterised by their level of detail and execution, expression and freshness of colour.

Object History

Provenance: Helft Bensimon Collection, Paris; With Leo R. Schidlof, from whom acquired by Ernst Holzscheiter in Paris, 5 May 1936 (inv. nos. MD/0682 and 465); Christie’s, London, Treasured Portraits from the Collection of Ernst Holzscheiter, 4th July 2018, lot 23.

Exhibited: Paris, Salon, 1812, no 750 (as a portrait of M. Degotti); Arenenberg, Napoleonmuseum, Miniaturen und Karikaturen, 1954, no. 33 (as a portrait of Talma); Geneva, Musée d’art et d’histoire, Chefs-d’œuvre de la miniature et de la gouache, 1956, no. 367, illustrated (as a presumed portrait of François-Joseph Talma); Zurich, Haus am Zurich, 1957-58 and 1961; Vienna, Albertina, Meisterwerke der Europäischen Miniaturmalerei von 1750-1850, 1965, no. 311 illustrated fig. 19 (as Talma); London, Royal Academy and Victoria & Albert Museum, The Age of Neoclassicism, 1972, no. 976 (as a portrait of Talma).

Object Literature

Ch. Gabet, Dictionnaire des artistes de l’école français, au XIX siècle, Paris, 1831, p. 575; C. Jeannerat, ‘Il pittore Ferdinando Quaglia’, Dedalo, VII, January 1922, p. 543, illustrated p. 545 (as a portrait of Degotti); U. Isler-Hungerbühler, ‘Die Miniaturen-Sammlung Holzcheiter’, Artis, February 1961, pp. 32-33, illustrated fig. 4; L.R. Schidlof, The Miniature in Europe, Graz, 1964, II, pp. 657 (described as ‘a masterpiece’ and ‘important’), and 1026, illustrated IV, pl. 468, fig. 962 (the sitter identified as the actor François Joseph Talma); G. Cavalli-Björkman, Svenskt Miniatyrmåleri, Stockholm, 1981, p. 141, illustrated (as a portrait of Talma); C. Parisio, Ferdinando Quaglia 1780-1853, da Piacenza a Parigi, Brescia, 2012, pp. 35-36, illustrated (as Ignazio Degotti).

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