GIOVANNI BATTISTA CIPRIANI, R.A. (1727-1785)
APOLLO WITH HIS LYRE
Indistinctly inscribed (signed?) l.l. in black chalk
Pastels with bodycolour on paper
29 x 37 cm
Private collection, Southeast England
The present work was used by Cipriani's lifelong friend and collaborator Francesco Bartolozzi for the title-page illustration of the music book 'Six concerts pour le clavecin ou piano forte' by Karl Friedrich Abel (London, 1782). Our work also relates to a drawing by Bartolozzi in pen & ink, likely a preparatory work for the print, sold at Dorotheum, Vienna, 30.09.2015, Lot 93 (see fig. I, image 8 above). It is worth noting that both Cipriani and Bartolozzi were close friends with the celebrated composer Abel .
Cipriani was born in Florence to a family originally from Pistoia. His first teacher was Ignatius Hugford, a Florentine artist of English descent, before entering the studio of Anton Domenico Gabbianbi. He lived in Rome between 1750-53, during which time he painted two works for the abbey of San Michele in Pelago, St Tesauro and St Peter Igneo, a canvas of the organ of the church of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi in Florence, and the main altarpiece of the church of the Oratory of Gesù Pellegrino outside of the Porta San Gallo. Whilst working in Rome, he met the architect Sir William Chambers and sculptor Joseph Wilton, whom he accompanied on their return to England in August of 1755.
Shortly after his arrival in London he was employed by Lord Tilney, the Duke of Richmond, as well as several other eminent aristocratic collectors, and swiftly earned himself a fine reputation for decorative painting in particular. Early important commissions included a painted ceiling for Lord Holland’s apartment in the aforementioned William Chambers’ newly-built Albany, a ceiling in Buckingham House, and a room at Standlynch (now Trafalgar Park, Wiltshire). Cipriani also worked with his friend Chambers on one of the architect’s grandest projects, Somerset House, designing decorations for the interior which included the rooms into which the Royal Academy moved.
Cipriani himself was a founder member of the Royal Academy, along with his closest-friend and collaborator Giambattista Bartolozzi, and was responsible for designing its diploma (which was then engraved by Bartolozzi). In recognition of his services in this respect the members presented him with a silver cup with a commemorative inscription in 1769. He was much employed by publishers, for whom he made drawings in pen and ink, sometimes coloured. His friend Bartolozzi engraved most of these, including the present work. Cipriani himself also made some engravings, including "The Death of Cleopatra," after Benvenuto Cellini; "The Descent of the Holy Ghost," after Gabbiani; and portraits for Thomas Hollis's memoirs, 1780
He painted allegorical designs for the Gold State Coach and the Lord Mayor's Gold Coach, built in 1762 and 1757 respectively in 1782, and repaired Verrio's paintings at Windsor and Rubens's ceiling in the Banqueting House at Whitehall. He also decorated furniture. He designed many groups, of nymphs and amorini and medallion subjects to form the centre of Pergolesi's bands of ornament, and they were continually reproduced upon the elegant satin-wood furniture which was growing popular in his later days and by the end of the 18th century became a rage. These designs were sometimes inlaid in marquetry, but more usually painted onto the wood by other hands. Some of the furniture designed by the Adams was probably painted by Cipriani himself, and he even occasionally designed handles for drawers and doors.
 Cf. S.A. Bergquist, 'Francesco Bartolozzi's Musical Prints', in Music in Art, Vol. 32, No. 1/2 (Spring - Fall 2007), B. Brumana, 'Francesco Bartolozzi (1728-1815) incisore della musica', in Esercizi: Musica e Spettacolo, vol. 20, nuove serie 11 (2006-2007)