Collection

Felice Boscaratti
Italian, 1721-1807

Atlas Maintaining the Balance of the World, before 1772
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. R. Kirk Askew, Jr.
1958.1.1
Period: 18th c
Classification: Painting
Dimensions: Framed: 56 1/2 x 44 x 3 1/4 in. (143.51 x 111.76 x 8.26 cm) Unframed: 48 3/4 x 37 1/2 in. (123.83 x 95.25 cm)
Signatures, Inscriptions and Markings v
Not signed; Inscribed (CL, on scroll): ARTES INGENIA LEGES TRIPVDIAT SVPERBIA / MIMA . MOMO; (LL, on book): CIC - de OFFITS; (LL, on sole of shoe): (illegible, possibly signature) / 17 (?); (CR, on book): DE / A(?) / ET / GENT(?)
Inscribed (CL, on scroll): ARTES INGENIA LEGES TRIPVDIAT SVPERBIA / MIMA . MOMO; (LL, on book): CIC - de OFFITS; (LL, on sole of shoe): (illegible, possibly signature) / 17 (?); (CR, on book): DE / A(?) / ET / GENT(?)
I. Stretcher reverse: 1. Pink paper label, printed and typed, top left: (VCAG label); 2. White chalk, upside down, top left: VASSAR; 3. Graphite, top center: PRML. YZ; 4. Red paint, top right: VC 57.1.1; 5. Blue border paper label, top right, ink insc.: HHO; 6. Red paint, bottom left: VC 58.1.1; 7. White chalk, down left side: DURLACHER; II. Canvas reverse: 1. White chalk, top left: 74; 2. White paint, bottom right: 121; 3. White chalk, lower left: C1/141 [circled]
Provenance v
Given 1958 to VC Art Gallery by Mr. and Mrs. R. Kirk Askew
Published References v
Riviera, Lazaro, La educazione virile nelle quattro tavole inventate dal signor Lazaro Riviera (Verona, 1774). French version, 1773; Zannandreis, Diego, Le vite dei pittori scultori e architetti veronesi pubblicate e corredate di prefazione e di due indici da Giuseppe Biadego (Verona, 1891), p. 415; Thieme-Becker, Kunstler Lexikon (Leipzig, 1910), IV, p. 385; Dell’Incisione in Venezia (Venice: Zanetti, 1924), p. 145; Haskell, Francis, Patrons and Painters: a study in the relations between Italian art and society in the age of the Baroque (New York: Knopf, 1963), pp. 326-27; Vassar College Art Gallery: Selections from the Permanent Collection (Poughkeepsie: Vassar College Art Gallery, 1967), p. 24, repr. p. 127; Olivato, Loredano, “Politica e retorica figurativa nella Venezia del settecento. Alla riscoperta ni un pittore singolare: Felice Boscarati,” Arte Venezia, XXXI, 1977, p. 145-56. Vassar College Art Gallery: Paintings 1300-1900 (Poughkeepsie: VC Art Gallery, 1983), p. 156, repr.
Exhibition History v
New York, NY, IBM Gallery of Science and Art, “Highlights from the Vassar College Collection,” July 13-September 11, 1993.
Description v
These two paintings comprise half of a commission given to the Veronese painter Felice Boscaratti by a local doctor, Lazzaro Riviera. Their subject mat- ter consists of an allegorical system of almost incomprehensible subtlety drawn up by the commissioner as a series of philosophical lessons for young men. They were so difficult to understand that Riviera had copies engraved after the four original paintings and inscribed with Latin texts. He also pub- lished a pamphlet, La Educazione Virile, in 1773 in an effort to explain the paintings. The paintings were taken to Venice when Boscaratti moved there and they were there when he became the official painter of Giorgio Pisani, who was elected Procurator in 1780. Upon his election, the paintings were hung along a processional route, but their abstruse symbolism was inter- preted by the local Inquisitors as subversive. Fearing sedition, they arrested Pisani four days later, and his artist was directly affected by the disgrace of his patron, at whose trial he was required to testify. While the overall content of the paintings remains obscure, we are able still to understand, in the first painting, the warning contained in the figure of Mars, who treads on a learned tome, unbalancing the equilibrium of the world, while in the other painting, Pan plays his bassoon-like instrument and dances, as wild animals rend apart another expensive volume of learning. Thus, martial and sensual pursuits are the enemies of scholarship, and the arts are victimized by the excesses of passion when it triumphs over reason. These scenes are painted as simulated unstretched canvasses, introduced to the viewer in the Atlas allegory by a contemporary gentleman, who affixes an inscribed sheet of paper to the canvas, and in the Pan allegory by a pair of ancient philosophers or scholars. In the second trompe l’oeil canvas, the curling, unpainted and exposed edge carries an inscription mentioning Lazzaro Riviera.
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