Portrait of a Lady with an Attendant Holding an Oval Portrait
Studies of a Hand and Drapery (verso)

Jacopo Amigoni, Italian, 1682 - 1752

c. 1736

Pen and brown ink with brush and brown wash, over traces of black chalk, squared in black chalk, on cream laid paper

Sheet: 9 1/8 x 7 3/16 inches (23.2 x 18.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Muriel and Philip Berman Gift, acquired from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with funds contributed by Muriel and Philip Berman and the Edgar Viguers Seeler Fund (by exchange), 1984

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Amigoni worked in Germany, England, and Spain, as well as in his native Venice, and was known for his portraits. This study for a double likeness, in which a lady of high rank presents an image of a man (perhaps deceased?) in an oval frame, may have been done during the artist's stay in England between 1729 and 1739.

Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    This drawing is a study for a double portrait, although to date none has been identified. It shows a lady of high rank seated in her well-appointed interior; with a ceremonial curtain draped behind her. She is in the act of presenting to us a portrait of a man in an oval frame. She acts as interlocutor, introducing the man’s image to the viewer. The composition suggests that it was intended as a commemorative portrait, perhaps to honor the lady’s husband, a hypothesis borne out by the conspicuous placement of a dove, symbol of love, perched overhead. Amigoni’s affinity for light colors, the shimmering surfaces, and the graceful fluidity of compositional elements for which he is known in his paintings are hinted at here in his delicate use of ink washes of varying intensities and his sensitive application of details with the pen. The carefully measured grid pattern drawn over the surface of the sheet was a commonly employed device to guide an artist in the meticulus enlargement of an image from paper onto canvas. The presentation of the context of biographical narrative in the drawing as well as the suggestion of an elaborate garden landscape in the background indicate that the work was done during Amigoni’s stay in England, or sometime between 1729 and 1739. A group of forty-four portrait drawings, thirty-four of them from an album once with the English dealer F. R. Meatyard, was dispersed mainly in the 1920s, and the drawings are now scattered in various museums and private collections, including the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the British Museum in London, and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich. Elaine Claye (“A Group of Portrait Drawings by Jacopo Amigoni.” Master Drawings, vol. 12, no. 1 {Spring 1974}, pp.41-48) fixes the date of these drawings to Amigoni’s London years on the basis of costume; the extravagantly puffed sleeves and décolletage of the lady in the present drawing suggest that it was done during that same period. It is not known whether the Philadelphia drawing was from the group of forty-four, as information about its early provenance is lacking; it does not agree with any of the portraits discussed or reproduced by John Woodward in 1957. Amigoni used the same compositional convention of the “portrait within a portrait” when he depicted a young attendant holding up a framed oval portrait of one gentleman as it is being pointed out by another in the Portrait of R. J. Thompson, B. Tilden, and James Howe, now in the York City Art Gallery, England (Scarpa Sonino, Annalisa. Jacopo Amigoni. Mensili d'arte, no. 16. Soncino: Edizioni dei Soncino, 1994, fig. xi), which was done in collaboration with Ignazio Enrico Hugford. The respective responsibilities of Amigoni and the elusive Hugford in this composition have never been clarified, though probably Amigoni was responsible for the portraiture. Hugford (alias R. Richford) was born in Pisa in 1703, was a pupil of Anton Domenico Gabbiani, and lived in Florence, where he acted as guide and painting merchant for travelers on the Grand Tour (for a detailed study of the Grand Tour, see London, Tate Gallery; Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni. Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century. Exhibition catalogue edited by Andrew Wilton and Ilaria Bignamini. London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 1996). The York City painting shows a graceful English landscape in the background, as does the present drawing, and bears an inscription on the verso dating it to “about 1736,” mentioning that the work was done in Florence and then altered and corrected in London” by Amigoni. A date around 1736 is suggested here for the Philadelphia sheet as well. Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2004), cat. 37.