elements of the composition, can be related to the works of the Sicilian Olivio Sozzi. Originally from Palermo where he trained, Sozzi went to Rome from 1729 to 1732 to work in Conca’s studio. He became friendly with Corrado Giaquinto, some of whose drawings and bozzetti he owned.1 This short stay transformed his style, and he brought back to Palermo a manner that had assimilated his Roman apprenticeship and which he would develop in a large number of decorations. His frescoes for the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore of Ispica are among the masterpieces of the Sicilian settecento. It is in fact when working on this project, while he was decorating the basilica’s Cappella Grande with his son-in-law the painter Vito d’Anna, that he died in a fall from scaffolding. The attribution of our work relies in the first instance on the reasoning that the author of this grisaille is an artist influenced by Conca and Giaquinto, both in the composition and in the technique. However the unusually intense iconography and the scalloped form of the upper area of the composition recall models of the Sicilian settecento. Accordingly as Citti Siracusano has written, from the 1750s Olivio Sozzi “is active in Catania and eastern Sicily, where he infuses artistic circles with the capricious and gallant grace of a type of rococo derived from Conca and Giaquinto”. The putti in the lower right on the one hand, the step that creates an angle, the balustrade and the kneeler on which the Virgin is leaning on the other hand, are direct borrowings from two paintings by Giaquinto,2 proving intense familiarity with the master’s work. Comparison with a few works by Sozzi, in particular the Birth of the Virgin for the church of Santa Maria della Stella in Militello (in situ), shows similar use of architectural and decorative elements such as columns, balustrades, steps, but also the draperies and the still lifes of silverware placed in the foreground. The figures are close to those of Giaquinto in their poses and their clothing. Two small heads chatting in the background are similar in the two works and Sozzi has used the figure of God the Father flying over the scene, arms spread out, on several occasions in other compositions, sometimes sitting on a terrestrial globe over which the dove of the Holy Spirit flies,3 a depiction that seems however to derive more from Conca’s models.
28 FRANCESCO LA
Martina Franca 1728 – Naples 1787
Allegory of Architecture and the Liberal Arts: Study for a Frontispiece Black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash Inscribed in pen and brown ink on the verso, lower right Franc La Marra 303 x 211 mm (11 7/8 x 8 1/4 in.)
PROVENANCE Paul-Franz Marcoux, Paris (L.1911b)
BIBLIOGRAPHY Luciana Arbace, “Proposte alternative intorno a Massimo Stanzione e Luca Giordano per alcuni fogli Santarelli”, in Le Dessin napolitain, international symposium papers, Paris, École normale supérieure, 6-8 March 2008, Rome, De Luca Editori d’Arte, 2010, p. 117, fig. 1 (reproduced)
It is true that the manner is similar to that of his son-in-law, Vito d’Anna who was in turn a pupil of Giaquinto and was influenced both by him and by Sozzi. The two men, who were highly productive, worked a lot together, Vito d’Anna more in Palermo, Sozzi more around Catania, in a style that was strongly influenced by Giaquinto, and their works are at times very similar. 1 Citta Siracusano, “Francesco Sozzi “, in Giuliano Briganti, La Pittura in Italia. Il Settecento, Milan, Electa, 1990, p. 870. 2 The Death of St. Joseph for the St. Joseph chapel in the church of Santa Teresa di Torino and the Annunciation at the Galleria Borghese in Rome. 3 This is the case in his fresco, Triumph of the Sacrament (vault of the nave of Santa Maria Maggiore in Ispica): in this work he is very close to the figure in our oil on paper.
This highly finished sheet, superb in technique and in perfect condition, prepares the frontispiece of the 1758 edition of the book Trattato di Architettura by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio or Vitruvius, at the Stamperia Simoniana, translated with comments by the Marquis Berardo Galiani (fig. 1). According to the engraving’s lettering, the invention of this iconography is also due to the marquis. It depicts the young prince Ferdinand being presented to the Liberal Arts,
128 NEAPOLITAN DRAWINGS