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Ubaldo Gandolfi

(1728 San Matteo della Decima (Bologna) – 1781 Ravenna)

After. The Adoration of the Shepherds. Etching and aquatint in brown ink. 29.5 x 20 cm. “U. Gandolfi” inscribed in pencil in the lower margin. Unrecorded.

This very appealing etching, executed with Baroque verve, was attributed in the past to Gaetano Gandolfi despite the fact that in stylistic terms it differs from works known to be by him. In fact, research into the significant printed oeuvre of the Gandolfi family is very sketchy and far from adequate, which is astonishing in view of its artistic quality and relevance for the history of art. The present print reproduces a drawing by his elder brother, Ubaldo Gandolfi, dated 1766 which is now in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. Trained by such renowned masters as Felice Torelli, Ercole Graziani and Ercole Lelli, Ubaldo Gandolfi quickly became one of the foremost decoration painters active in Bologna and the Romagna. He also excelled as a por­trait painter and author of paintings on religious themes.

The present rare aquatint etching is a veritable masterpiece of reproductive printmaking. One can only marvel at the artist’s astonishing skill in transferring Ubaldo’s modello with its free, spirited linework and brilliant washes to the printmaking medium whilst remaining remarkably faithful to the original. The skilfully applied aquatint grain produces a vibrating surface pattern and subtle atmospheric effects, above all in the upper part of the picture where angels cavort on wonderfully transparent clouds. The masterful linework and effective chiar­oscuro are highly reminiscent of the style of the etcher, Giuseppe Zauli (1763–1822), who like Gaetano Gandolfi studied at the Accademia Clementina in Bologna and was subsequently in close contact with Francesco Rosaspina and Felice Giani. In 1796 Zauli was appointed the first director of the Scuola di Disegno e Plastica in Faenza.

A superb, atmospheric impression of outstanding beauty, with wide margins around the distinct and inky platemark. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition. From the collection of Carmen Hertz Gräfin Finckenstein, Ascona.

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