M.S. Rau’s Collection on the Move: Two Giovannis Return to Italy

M.S. Rau Antiques
Mar 10, 2017 8:40PM

What do these two paintings have in common? For starters, both are the work of Italian masters that depict massively influential women. Perhaps most excitingly, however, is that they’re traveling to Italy this spring! This isn’t a typical Roman Holiday either – they’re both destined for inclusion in major museum exhibitions, each devoted to either respective artist.

Left:  Madonna with Child Enthroned by Giovanni dal Ponte (di Marco) Right:  Portrait of Rita de Acosta Lydig by Giovanni Boldini 

The work of Renaissance painter Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-1437) is being honored at the Accademia Gallery in Florence in an exhibition entitled “Giovanni dal Ponte: Florentine Protagonist of Late Gothic Humanism.” This is the first-ever museum exhibition to focus on this major art historical character, who takes his nickname “dal Ponte” from the neighborhood of the famed Ponte Vecchio where his studio was located. Dal Ponte trained under 14th century painter Spinello Aretino and then worked alongside Florentine art historical greats, such as Masaccio, Ghiberti, and Lorenzo Monaco. Dal Ponte’s work is celebrated for its marriage of Gothic and Renaissance aesthetics. In this particular work, the Madonna and child are locked in tender embrace, flanked by Saint Anthony Abbot on the left and Saint James Major on the right. The unnatural scaling of the figures demonstrates influence of dal Ponte’s Gothic predecessors. However, thanks to the overlapping of the figures, the composition conveys intentional recession into space, or perspective, marking the seminal artistic innovation of the Italian Renaissance. M.S. Rau is proud to loan this masterpiece back to its city of origin to be appreciated by locals and visitors at this monumental exhibition, which will be on displayed through April 17.

The other Giovanni in question is Ferarra-born portraitist and genre painter Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931). Boldini trained in Florence and then spent the majority of his career based in Paris, where socialites from both sides of the Atlantic sought him out for portrait commissions. This spring Boldini’s work will be honored at the Vittoriano Museum Complex in Rome from March 4 to July 16. To be included in the exhibition is M.S. Rau’s Portrait of Rita de Acosta Lydia, a masterpiece painted in 1911.

Rita de Acosta Lydig was renowned for her fiery personality, sensational style and unmatched beauty. At the age of 18, she married multi-millionaire William Earl Dodge Stokes, divorcing him just 4 years later and earning the largest divorce settlement recorded to date. She soon married again, becoming Mrs. Lydig and cementing her place in high society. The socialite was particularly celebrated for her extensive wardrobe, which forms the basis of the collection for the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute.  Her gown in this portrait was constructed from a single piece of exquisite 11th-century lace, for which she paid $9,000. Yet the ultimate extravagance lay at her feet: Lydig wears bespoke shoes made by the famed Ny Yanturni. Yanturni made shoes only for the most select clients, demanding a deposit of $1,000 per pair. Lydig owned over 300 pairs!

Complementing the fascinating tale of the sitter, the painting boasts an incredible provenance. It was purchased as part of the Lydig estate by foremost French art dealer Wildenstein in 1931 who then sold it to Baron Maurice de Rothschild, resulting in its nickname of “The Rothschild Boldini.” It remained in the Rothschild collection until 1995 when it was sold to a private European collection where it remained until now. Having been in private hands throughout its existence, this spring’s exhibition is a rare opportunity for museum-goers to experience its splendor.

It is a dream for art dealers to place artworks in the collection of major museums; loaning them for exhibition is similarly rewarding. Artworks’ inclusion in museum exhibitions boosts their value and cultural capital, making them all the more desirable for collectors. Whether or not you yearn to collect fine paintings, should you be in Italy this spring, treat yourself to a museum visit and say buongiorno to Giovanni e Giovanni!

M.S. Rau Antiques