646 Study of horse and ox bones. Salvator Rosa, attributed to.
Study of horse and ox bones
Study of horse and ox bones
Study of horse and ox bones
Study of horse and ox bones
Study of horse and ox bones

A fine ink wash drawing with watercolor from a major British collection, likely a study for Rosa's 1650 masterpiece Democritis in Meditation.

Study of horse and ox bones

Graphite, ink wash and watercolor on handmade laid paper with a large, indistinguishable ovoid watermark with a bunch of grapes, 8 7/16 x 12 5/8 inches (225 x 320 mm), signed in brown ink in the lower left. With the Henry Scipio Reitlinger oval stamp in brown ink on the verso (Lugt 2274a).

The condition of the image and paper is consistent with age, there is minor toning on the recto and some attenuation of the green pigment. The drawing is laid down to an 18th century laid paper support and has a small pencil notation in the lower right corner (modern), and scattered notations in pencil on the verso of the support (also modern, perhaps auction/accession notes). On the paper support is an ink drawing in red and black of what appears to be the floor plan for the wing of a large building. The drawing is top-up, adhered facing the verso of the Rosa drawing. The architectural drawing on the support is visible through to the recto of the Rosa composition when the sheets are viewed through raking light. There is a small area of stipple point spotting in brown ink on the verso of the support. Examination under black light shows no indication of repairs or additions, expert or otherwise. Although the balance and measure of this fine drawing evokes the feeling of completion, and it bears the complexity of composition to stand on its own, it is likely a preparatory drawing for Rosa's c1650 canvas masterpiece "Democritus in Meditation", and the 1662 etching of the same subject.

Salvator Rosa (1615 –1673) is best known as a Baroque master landscape artist whose unorthodox compositions often illuminated the night side of nature with a wild and untamed quality. In a period typified by bright colors, high drama, and subject matter which was portrayed in a way to stimulate piety, Rosa's work is dark, moody, and mercurial. A proto-Romantic, he chose uncommon subject matter such as little known philosophers, ritual witchcraft, battle scenes, and the cold truths surrounding Mother Nature and her reclamations. Rosa was a true visionary, and was sometimes accused of embodying a creative force that exceeded his formidable ability with a brush. By all accounts he was a flamboyant man with a large personality, and was also an accomplished woodworker, poet, satirist, actor, musician, and printmaker. Rosa had a profound influence on Romanticism, and by the late 18th century he had become a cult-like figure; the myths and legends that surrounded his life were as mysterious and intriguing as his atmospheric landscapes. He enjoyed far-reaching fame and recognition throughout Europe during his lifetime, more so than his contemporaries, and the fascination was beyond a purely pictorial interest. He was the subject of an opera by Antônio Carlos Gomes, a ballet Catarina or La Fille du Bandit, and Franz Liszt included an arrangement of a song by Giovanni Bononcini in his suite "Annees de pelerinage, No. 3, Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa" for solo piano. Rosa was a progenitor of the Romantic hallmark of savage sublimity, and he is credited with major influence upon artists well into the 20th century.

Regarding the attribution:
Michael Mahoney writes in his outstanding dissertation, "The Drawings of Salvator Rosa", that Rosa typically only signed drawings when they were given away or sold. Therefore, one of the only ways for attribution of a signed drawing to Rosa by external evidence is its presence in a distinguished private collection during the artist's lifetime. It is known that Giovanni Battsita Ricciardi owned one such collection. Ricciardi was a Florentine man of letters, writer of comedies, and intimate friend of Rosa. In fact, most of Rosa's surviving letters are addressed to Ricciardi. It is known that in 1661 Rosa undertook a review of his oeuvre for subjects that might by published as etchings. At this time Rosa asked Ricciardi to send some of the drawings by Rosa from his private collection to Rome for this purpose, and it is recorded that among these drawings were the preparatory works for his painting of "Democritus in Meditation". The following year, 1662, the etching of "Democritus in Meditation" was published. The fate of the Ricciardi Collection is ultimately unknown, it appears that this singularly important body of work was split and widely dispersed over the course of time.
It is also notable that a large goup of Italian drawings including works by Rosa were purchased by the Teyler Museum, Haarlem, in 1791. Mahoney states that the Teyler lists its acqusition of the drawings from the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden. The drawings are described as mounted into existing albums which contained decorative and architectural drawings. Specifically, one such album, labeled "26" in the museum inventory, includes architectural drawings of the portico of Saint Maria in Trastevere. After Queen Christina's death the remaining drawings in her collection were sold by her heirs to settle debt.
[Mahoney, Michael, "The Drawings of Salvator Rosa", Garland, New York & London, 1977, Vol. 1, pp. 14-26]

Regarding the ink stamp:
According to Frits Lugt, the Scipio ink stamp was added by Sotheby's when the work was offered in one of several sales of Reitlinger's estate. It is very possible that this drawing was included in lot number 90 in the first of these sales, which took place in London on December 9th, 1953. The lot is described as containing two landscapes by Rosa, and five other gouache and ink wash drawings by the artist. The works in this lot are unfortunately not illustrated, nor are they further described in that Sotheby's catalogue.

Regarding the provenance:
Henry Scipio Reitlinger was born in either 1882 or 1885, attended Kings College, Cambridge, and later in Frieberg, Germany, where his studies focused on mining engineering. After his graduation Reitlinger traveled to Africa and made a fortune as the director of the Naraguta Tin Mine in Nigeria. He enjoyed an early retirement from the mining industry, and turned his focus completely to his passion for art scholarship and collecting. He formed important collections of Old Master paintings and drawings, Asian art, porcelain, and English and Continental antiquities. He also penned two notable books, "A Selection of Drawings by Old Masters in the Museum Collections with a Catalogue and Notes" (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1921, and "Old Master Drawings; a handbook for amateurs and collectors" (Constable & Co. Ltd., London, 1922). Reitlinger intended to open a public museum showcasing his vast private collections, but he didn't live long enough to see it to fruition. After his death in 1950, the newly formed Henry Reitlinger Trust did succeed in opening the Reitlinger Bequest Museum, which operated in Maidenhead between 1951 and 1987. After the museum's closure, the objects were transferred to the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University in 1991, where they are housed today. Reitlinger's remaining personal collections were auctioned at Sotheby's after his death, with one sale occurring in 1953 (mentioned above), and six subsequent sales which all took place in 1954. Henry Reitlinger was the older brother of celebrated British art historian, collector, and author Gerald Reitlinger.

Item number: 646

Price: $20,000.00