Giambattista Pittoni, ‘Scipio paying homage to Mars’, Christie's Old Masters

This mythological composition, entitled Scipio paying homage to Mars when it appeared on the London art market in 1965, but more broadly identified as Homage to a martyr in Boccazzi's 1971 catalogue raisonné of Pittoni's oeuvre (op. cit., p. 153), is an exceptional example of the artist's work from the early 1740s. Along with Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, Pittoni was part of the triumvirate of the first generation of great Venetian Rococo painters.

While this appears to be Pittoni's only version of this subject, several of the figures appear in other compositions by the artist. Virtually the entire right side of the painting including the two bearded priests, dog and the page with a charger in the foreground, as well as five additional attendants behind them, derive from Pittoni's monumental painting of nearly a decade earlier, The Sacrifice of Polyxena (see Boccazzi, op. cit., pp. 155-56, no. 166, fig. 271) which was commissioned for the ballroom of the Palazzo Taverna in Rome. In addition, there are several drawings related to figures in the present painting (see R. Pallucchini, I Disegni di Giambattista Pittoni, Padua, 1945, pls. 39, 41, 61 and 53).

Reusing figures in multiple compositions is typical of Pittoni's method and served his prodigious output. Given the general similarities of the two subjects -- a sacrifice and an offering at an altar -- one can see why the artist looked back at one of his most important commissions of the 1730s to inspire him a decade later. Nothing is known about the circumstances of the commission of this painting, although Boccazzi notes that it was formerly in the collection of the Marquis d'Argens. Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens (1704-1771) was a French philospher and writer who advised Frederick the Great on his acquisitions of modern French painting; he was also a descendant of Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Aguilles (1640-1709) whose painting collection was published by Pierre-Jean Mariette.

London, Hazlitt Gallery, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Italian Paintings, May-June 1965, no. 22.

Notable works of art now on the market', The Burlington Magazine, 107, no. 747, June 1965, pl. VII, n.p.

Revue du Louvre, 1971, nos. 4-5.

F.Z. Boccazzi, Pittoni: l'opera completa, Venice, 1979, p. 153, no. 151, fig. 425.


The Marchese d'Argence.

with Pardo Gallery, Paris.

with H. Shickman Gallery, New York, where acquired by the present owner.

About Giambattista Pittoni

Italian , 1687-1767, Venice, Italy, based in Venice, Italy

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