PIETRO ANTONIO NOVELLI (1729-1804)
DIANA WITH HER HOUND
Bears collector's stamp l.l. (L.2044)
Pen & ink with grey wash
13 x 9 cm
Capitaine Carlo Prayer (1826-1900), Milan (Lugt 2044);
Maria de Bernasconi, 1977 (according to inscription verso);
With Hill-Stone, Dartmouth, MA, U.S.A.;
Where acquired by the previous owner
Dr Annalisa Scarpa has previously confirmed the attribution to Novelli on the basis of digitial images.
For a larger drawing of a similar model in comparable format, see that sold at Christie's, Paris, 18.03.2004, lot 50 (Une jeune femme à mi-corps portant un panier de fruits). A further study of Diana with her hounds by Novelli's son, Francesco, can be found in the Morgan Library & Museum, New York (acc. no. 1993.62).
Our knowledge of Pietro Antonio Novelli’s career are known primarily through his posthumously published memoirs. He studied first in the studio of Biambattista Pittoni, where he came under the influence of Gaspare Diziani and Francesco Guardi, and his paintings from this period are also indebted to Jacopo Amigoni. Among Novelli’s early documented works are a set of illustrations for an edition of Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata, published in 1760, and several plates for the complete edition of Carlo Goldoni’s Commedie, published in 1761 and 1788. In 1768 Novelli was accepted as a member of the Accademia in Venice, for whom he submitted an Allegory of the Arts as a reception piece. Novelli painted frescoes in several Venetian palazzi, including those of the Corniani-Tivan, Mangilli, Mocenigo and Sangiatoffetti families, as well as executing a number of altarpieces and decorative frescoes throughout Northern Italy; in Udine, Padua and Bologna, as well as in Venice.
Novelli settled in Rome in c.1779, where he would remain for the following twenty years. Here, he was greatly influenced by the neoclassical artists of the day, particularly Pompeo Batoni and Anton Raphael Mengs. As in Venice, he was soon sought-after for interior decorations, receiving commissions to paint works in the Villa Borghese and several further Roman palazzi.
Novelli is largely remembered today for his virtuoso draughtsmanship, which displays his remarkable versatility both in treating the same subject numerous times in imaginatively different compositions and in his ability to draw both decorative works for their own sake and attractive, finished studies for his commissioned paintings. His drawn oeuvre includes these two categories, as well as designs for book illustrations, prints and frontispieces. Novelli blended both Venetian and Roman traditions in his paintings, and the same can be said for his drawings, which demonstrate how effectively he learnt from and enlarged upon the manner of the great artists of his day’s styles. Catherine Whistler has recently said of Novelli that “Novelli is at his most impressive as a draughtsman, whether working economically with the pen…or delicately brushing on complementary shades of wash…With his multifarious talents, Novelli could well be regarded as the Palma Giovane of his time - both artists worked in Rome and Venice and attempted to combine the virtues of academic classicism with Venetian painterliness; Palma and Novelli were prolific draughtsmen, and both had to live with the achievements of far greater artists in view.” (1)
 C. Whistler, ‘Domenico Tiepolo & his Contemporaries', in The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century (eds. J. Martineau & A. Robison), exhib. cat. London & Washington D.C., 1994-1995, p.357