Giovanni Battista TIEPOLO
Venise 1696–1770 Venise
La Sainte Famille adorant l'Enfant
Period : 18th century
School : Italian
Pen and brown ink, brown wash over traces of black stone
22.5 x 19.3
This drawing once belonged to an album generally referred to as the Owen-Savile album. It was given this name because in the 1920s it was owned, or co-owned, by Richard Owen, an English art dealer based in Paris who worked closely with the Savile Gallery in London. The album contained more than sixty-seven drawings by Battista Tiepolo on the theme of the Holy Family, and a further ninety-three studies of heads, which are recorded in photographs from Owen’s archives now preserved at the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge. A selection of forty drawings from this album, including at least twenty-two depicting the Holy Family (or closely related themes) were exhibited at the Savile Gallery in London in May 1928. The accompanying exhibition catalogue illustrates only ten of these, and the summary descriptions of the drawings and the lack of measurements make it difficult, and often impossible, to identify the extant drawings with certainty. The Savile drawings were sold with a copy of the bookplate of the album’s nineteenth-century owner, the collector Edward Cheney, who had purchased the album in Venice in 1842. Cheney’s inscription on this bookplate lists the early provenance of the album all the way back to Battista Tiepolo (Fig. 1). Drawings from the Owen-Savile album can be found today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Ashmolean Museum, the Fogg Art Museum, the Hamburg Kunsthalle, the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, the National Galleries of Scotland, and other public and private collections.
According to Cheney, prior to his departure for Spain in 1762, Tiepolo is said to have given this album, along with eight others, to the library of the monastery of the Padri Somaschi at Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, for safekeeping. His second son, Giovanni Maria, was a priest at that monastery. After the suppression of the convent in 1810, the albums were subsequently owned by Count Leopoldo Cicognara, Antonio Canova and his half-brother, before being acquired by one signor Francesco Pesaro, who in turn sold them to Cheney in 1842. In 1885, a year after Cheney’s death, nine albums from his collection, including the Owen-Savile album, totalling over one thousand drawings, were sold in a single lot at Sotheby’s and bought by the London dealers Edwin Parsons and Sons. The lot number, 1024 can still be found written on the extant copies of Cheney’s bookplate from the Savile Gallery exhibition.
George Knox dates the drawings from the Owen-Savile album to circa 1754-62. In addition to the drawings from the Savile Gallery show, others were sold by Owen in Paris. It remains unclear whether the present drawing was part of the Savile exhibition or if it was sold through Owen’s Paris gallery. The fact that these drawings were kept together for well over a hundred and fifty years until circa 1928 explains the exceptional condition in which sheets such as this survive. The present sheet is a particularly beautiful example from this series revealing both the artist’s mastery in the handling of the pen and his brilliance in distributing the light.
As Knox has further pointed out, the Giambattista’s drawings of the Holy Family were made as independent works of art and are not in any way preparatory for paintings. Each variation on the familiar theme of the Holy Family, with or without the Baptist or angels, or that of the related subject of the Rest of the Flight into Egypt, emphasizes a different aspect of the narrative and often highlights a specific role or emotional state of one of its protagonists. In Knox’s own words, Tiepolo’s drawings of the Holy Family ‘float on the page like exquisite arabesques, and together they represent the most magnificently sustained testimony to Giambattista’s graphic inventiveness.’
 G. Knox, Tiepolo, A Bicentenary Exhibition 1770-1970, exhibition catalogue, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 1970, p. XIV.
 G. Knox, Catalogue of the Tiepolo Drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, p. 6, fig. 1. The original bookplate from Cheney’s album, hitherto only known from a reproduction in Knox’s V&A catalogue, resurfaced at Sotheby’s, New York, 25 January 2023, part of lot 50.
 The identity of sig. Pesaro remains unclear. He cannot, however, be identified as Francesco Pesaro, the Venetian ambassador to Madrid, who died in 1799.
 J. Byam Shaw and G. Knox, The Robert Lehman Collection. Vol. 6, Italian Eighteenth-Century Drawings, New York, 1987, p. 122, under cat. no. 93.
See the catalogue.
Londres, Savile Gallery, Catalogue of an Exhibition of Drawings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770), mai 1928, n. 39 (?)
Between € 50,000 and € 100,000
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