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Pietro de Angelis

(born in Rome, active between 1769 and 1825)

Hercules’ Chariot. Pen-and-ink and brush drawing in black and grey and watercolour, on firm Venetian laid paper. 16.4 x 22.9 cm.

The enterprising Italian artist, Pietro de Angelis, is something of an unknown quantity, his life and work having only recently attracted increased interest. Born in Rome, de Angelis in all likelihood studied at the Accademia del Nudo and received his initial training there from Anton Raphael Mengs. Later, his travels frequently took him to Venice, where he was responsible, among other things, for painting several palazzi, including the Palazzo Badoer. It was here that he may have got to know the Venetian-born painter, Pietro Antonio Novelli, whose works evidently exerted a strong influence on his artistic style. De Angelis, who from the 1790s bore the honorary title cavaliere di merito, was active as a painter, draughtsman and poet and was also a respected member of various societies and academies. At the outset of the 19th century he must have decided to live and work in Eastern Europe. A design for a ceiling painting he made in Vilnius confirms that he was in the city for a while. Later on he also completed works in Warsaw and St. Petersburg. In 1812, finally, the artist spent some time in Munich, where he drew, painted, wrote literary texts and worked as a language teacher at the city’s lyceum. A number of de Angelis’ hand-drawn designs for frescoes have survived together with a few wall paintings. The present pen-and-ink drawing painted in watercolours with a depiction of Hercules’ chariot is evidently a design for a wall or ceiling painting. It is very probably directly connected with at least two other designs by the artist – a depiction of Ceres’ Chariot bearing the artist’s signature (pen and black ink, brush in grey and watercolour, 18 x 24,7 cm, inscribed “Carro di Cerere, De Angelis Fecit” in pen and ink), which is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and a drawing of Bacchus’ Chariot, which was offered for sale in Paris in 2000 (pen and black ink, brush in grey and watercolour, 17.5 x 24.5 cm, Piasa, 20 November 2000, Importants dessins anciens et du XIXe siecle, lot 55). The present carefully executed and delicately coloured sketch also reveals a clear stylistic affinity with the works of Pietro Antonio Novelli. From the collection of Benjamin Wolff (1790 Copenhagen – 1866 Engelholm, Lugt 420). Literature: Peter Crack, “The Life of Pietro de Angelis”, in: Source. Notes in the History of Art, no. 37 (Winter 2018), pp. 119–128.

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