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Pietro Antonio Novelli

(1729–1804, Venice)

The Lion of the Arsenal in Venice. Pen and black and reddish-brown ink, grey wash, white heightening, on pinkish-brown grounded paper. 29.4 x 18.7 cm.

This very charming study is a humorous paraphrase of the ancient statue of the lion that stands in front of the Arsenal in Venice. The angle of vision is very original and so is the fluid linework, which gives the work considerable artistic freshness and spontaneity. The cartoon-like approach of the work gives the stern stone guardian of the Arsenal the harmless appearance of a cuddly toy.

The Venetian-born painter and draughtsman Pietro Antonio Novelli, the author of the present drawing, received his initial training from Jacopo Amigoni (1682–1752). In 1768 he became a member of the Accademia in Venice. In the early 1770s Novelli travelled to Bologna, where he studied the works of the Carracci and Reni. The artist spent the years from 1779 to 1782 in Rome, where his work was strongly influenced by the art of Raphael and the Roman Classicism eminently typified by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779). Novelli was a prolific and versatile draughtsman and this delightful study was certainly drawn on the spot in the Serenissima. From the collection of Giuseppe Chiantore, Turin (Lugt 540).

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