A nineteenth century album containing forty six fine watercolours.
A nineteenth century album containing forty six fine watercolours.
A nineteenth century album containing forty six fine watercolours.
A nineteenth century album containing forty six fine watercolours.
A nineteenth century album containing forty six fine watercolours.
A nineteenth century album containing forty six fine watercolours.
A nineteenth century album containing forty six fine watercolours.
A nineteenth century album containing forty six fine watercolours.

Album of watercolours.
A nineteenth century album containing forty six fine watercolours.

Probably Venice: variously dated from 1795 to 1825.

Oblong small quarto album, 185 x 275mm, containing forty-six watercolours of various sizes and shapes ranging from delicate circular vignettes to larger scenes of urban and theatrical life, elegantly bound in nineteenth-century ochre morocco with ornate gilt decoration.

Fine Commedia dell'arte watercolours

A beautiful suite of watercolours, including a superb series of scenes of a contemporary Venetian commedia dell'arte troupe, by the Venetian painter and engraver Novelli. Featuring images from both the stage and street-performance, including acrobatics and conjuring, each of the 46 deftly drawn images is of considerable quality. Francesco Novelli (1767-1836) was best known for his vivid and imaginative book illustration, including for example Algarotti's Opere (1791-94, assisting his father), Don Quixote (1819) and Gil Blas (1820). He is also known for illustrating works such as the Fasti Veneziani (1794), hinting at his abiding interest in the theatre and the performing arts.

A beautiful suite of watercolours, including a superb series of scenes of a contemporary Venetian commedia dell'arte troupe, by the Venetian painter and engraver Novelli. Featuring images from both the stage and street-performance, including acrobatics and conjuring, each of the 46 deftly drawn images is of considerable quality. Francesco Novelli (1767-1836) was best known for his vivid and imaginative book illustration, including for example Algarotti's Opere (1791-94, assisting his father), Don Quixote (1819) and Gil Blas (1820). He is also known for illustrating works such as the Fasti Veneziani (1794), hinting at his abiding interest in the theatre and the performing arts.

One of Novelli's most important teachers was the French artist Vivant Denon, who visited Venice in the 1790s. Denon seems to have had a formative influence on Novelli's career, not least because he introduced his pupil to the engravings of Rembrandt. This rare and exceptional collection provides a wonderful insight into Italian theatre in its golden age. The album includes an incomparable collection of Novelli's watercolours, with the greatest number being piquant images of a Venetian troupe of the commedia dell'arte, with especially fine depictions of Pierrot himself, as well as other key figures such as Columbine and Harlequin. It includes a remarkable series of scenes from a stage play, as well as studies of the individual performers. Indeed, many of these images are so precisely rendered that it is likely that Novelli depicts a well-known troupe, perhaps one with which he was personally connected.

The remaining images cover all aspects of contemporary life, including several military vignettes (perhaps scenes from the diorama) as well as charming rural scenes. Several show Novelli's work at its most sympathetic, especially in his animated studies of street vendors and town squares. It is also likely that many of these scenes derive from a period when the troupe was on the road, especially as some of the liveliest show street performers, conjurors and Punch and Judy shows. These scenes reveal Novelli at the height of his powers, especially his skill in capturing the energy and fascination of the crowds that gathered to watch the impromptu performances.

Unpublished, although the compilation of the album suggests that publication might originally have been Novelli's intention. This is a superb collection of images by one of the pre-eminent artists of his generation, providing an insight into Novelli's involvement with the Venetian theatre, as well as giving a unique opportunity to study the daily life of a travelling group of European artists and musicians at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Make-up of the album:-

• three portraits of peasants:

• a fishmonger with his left sleeve hanging loose

• a peasant women with a cob of corn

• a profile of a woman in an elaborate scarf

• a uniformed cuirassier rejects the entreaty of a woman

• a lively scene at the market, with a grenadier, a Pierrot, and a harlequin

• a crowd gathers around a conjuror in the town square

• children animatedly watch a Punch and Judy show

• a street performer shows a dancing bear while an urchin shows a monkey

• two small round scenes:

• the first of a cavalry charge

• the second a peaceful domestic scene around the hearth

• an infantry charge (perhaps a real scene or a diorama)

• three generations of women, interior

• a lively outdoors scene of the stables

• two women work inside a darkened barn

• four liveried horses with a cart full of hay

• two small round scenes:

• a scene in the yard of a hostelry

• cooking in a well-provisioned kitchen

• two small square scenes:

• infants and burghers at a Punch and Judy show

• small children crowd around an itinerant projectionist

• two small square scenes:

• dancing a lively jig

• the children of the house at lessons

• two small square scenes:

• a muzzled bear is made to dance

• masked members of a commedia dell'arte troupe enjoy a repast

• two small square scenes:

• a corpulent gent mounts his horse

• a befrocked gentleman loses his hat in an impromptu swing

• two small square scenes:

• a mother with swaddled child and infant greets some friends

• a game of cards

• two small square scenes:

• Pierrot chased by a 'dog'

• Pierrot discovers Harlequin and Columbine (with stylized cartouche but no caption)

• three medium square scenes:

• the 'dog' seems to have caught Pierrot

• Pierrot greets Columbine

• Pierrot astride the 'dog'

• two small square scenes:

• a strongman lifts four children on a table by his teeth

• Columbine's lover hides by pretending to be a sofa

• two small square scenes:

• Pierrot performs a balancing act

• Pierrot discovers Harelquin and Columbine asleep

• two small square scenes:

• Pierrot accosted by a Satyr

• Pierrot offers his hat to the 'dog'

• two small square scenes:

• an acrobat assumes a pose

• a different acrobat stands on his hands

• two small square scenes:

• a female contortionist performs a trick with four glasses and a hoop

• a female acrobat balances on the low-wire

• two small square scenes:

• one of the troupe strikes a pose

• Pierrot discovers a skeleton in his closet

• two small square scenes:

• the skeleton torments Pierrot at table

• Pierrot poses

G.B. Perini, Della vita e delle opera di Francesco Novelli (1888).

Price (AUD): $47,500.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504048

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