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pietro antonio novelli
(1729–1804, Venice)

An antique warrior with sword, long cloak, and plumed ­helmet next to a sacrificial urn, in a rocaille frame. Pen and gray and brown ink over red chalk with gray wash. 13.8 x 8.5 cm. Inscribed in the lower text plate: Fabbrica di Francesco Rubelli/Q.m Cesare all’Insegna del/Coraggio in Canonica S. Marco/Venezia.

The talented painter, draftsman, and poet Pietro Antonio Novelli is best known for his numerous paintings in Venetian churches. The present small drawing is a rare and curious ­document of the collaboration between artists and artigiani in eighteenth-century century Venice. The drawing probably served as a preparatory study for a wooden or metal trade sign. Another similar drawing by the artist was once in the collection of Paul Wallraf in London (see Antonio Morassi, Disegni Veneti del Settecento nella collezione Paul Wallraf, exh. cat., Venice: Fondazione Cini, 1959, vol. 9, p. 39, ill. 48).

The origins of the Venetian Rubelli family can be traced back to 1635. Francesco Rubelli, the founder of the family dynasty, was a dyer, producing the red sail-cloth for the freight ships of the Serenissima. Since that time the Rubelli family worked as textile merchants. Today the main offices of the family enterprise can be found at the Palazzo Corner Spinelli on the Grand Canal in Venice.