Study for 'The Return of Pope Pius IX to Rome from Basillica Santa Maria Maggiore'
signed in Cyrillic, inscribed in Russian and dated 'K. P. Briullov Rome 1850' (lower left)
oil on canvas
23 7/8 x 29 1/4 in. (60.7 x 74.3 cm.)
V. Timm, Russkom khudozhestvennom listke, St. Petersburg, 1861, no. 7, illustrated as lithograph.
E. Atsarkina, Briullov - Zhizn' i tvorchestvo, Moscow, 1963, pp. 282, 367, listed.
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION (lots 130-152)
Karl Pavlovich Briullov (1799-1852) is the only Russian artist of the 18th Century to win world fame during his lifetime. After receiving a gold medal for his canvas 'Appearance of three Angels to Abraham' (1821; The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg), Briullov was sponsored to travel around Europe and chose to settle in Rome, where he swiftly earned his reputation as a leading portraitist. In 1928, on a commission from Prince Anatole Demidov, Briullov embarked on his signature canvas, 'The Last Day of Pompeii' (1928; The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg) which recreates the destruction of the city. This historic canvas was greeted as the highest achievement in Russian art; as one contemporary poet exclaimed 'The Last Day of Pompeii became the first day of Russian painting'.
The present lot, painted in 1850, following the artist's return to Rome, is a study for a major canvas that never came to fruition. Due to Briullov's spontaneous bursts of artistic inspiration this was not a rare occurence; the number of unfinished projects greatly outnumber the quantity of his completed works. This particular study provides a fascinating insight into Briullov's methods, exposing his compositional and colourist techniques. It depicts the return of Pope Pius IX to Rome in April 1850 following the events surrounding the declaration of a Roman Republic in February 1849. Public disorder and the murder of the Prime Minister in 1848 had forced the Pope to flee, the support of Napolean and his troops who crushed the insurrection in Rome allowed him to return. As E. Atsarkina writes, in this study Briullov conveys the '...credulity of the people, the self-satisfaction of the French General, who thinks himself a master in a foreign land, and the hypocrisy of the priesthood.'(Briullov - Zhizn' i tvorchestvo, Moscow, 1963, p. 282).
The whereabouts of this work were unknown for a number of years; when V. V. Stasov published his Russkii khudozhestvennii listok, the study was in the collection of Titton, a Roman merchant and personal friend of Briullov.
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