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Pietro Antonio Novelli

(1729–1804, Venice)

The Little Bagpiper. Pen and black ink, grey wash. 37.5 x 29.4 cm. Inscribed “Sempre sonar a tutti do’ ne tocca / Uno co’l culo e l’altro co la bocca” in the artist’s own hand.

The Venetian-born painter and draughtsman, Pietro Antonio Novelli, received his initial training from Jacopo Amigoni (1682–1752). In 1768 he was admitted to the Accademia in Venice and in the early 1770s travelled to Bologna, where he studied the works of Guido Reni and the Carracci brothers. The artist spent the years from 1779 to 1782 in Rome, where his work was greatly influenced by the art of Raphael and Roman Classicism represented in exemplary fashion by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779).

A prolific and versatile draughtsman with a sound classical training, Novelli nonetheless often turned his attention to humorous genre scenes. The artist has sketched the young, rustically dressed musician in the present work using light strokes of the pen and with a flowing wash. The inscription in Venetian dialect in Novelli’s own hand betrays an earthy sense of humour. It might be a design for a series of popular sayings which were often disseminated in prints issued by Joseph Wagner’s successful publishing house in Venice.

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