Mattia Jona, Master Drawings and Prints, Japanese Prints - Piazzetta Guastalla 5, 20122 Milan, Italy, tel (+39) 02 8053315

Carlo Antonio Tavella, landscape with shepherds and herds


Pen and brown ink, extensively washed with red ink; 272 x 405 mm. PROVENANCE: Alfredo Viggiano (1884-1948), Lugt 191a.
The majority of the known drawings by Tavella are graphic memories, 'ricordi' of his finished paintings, where the artist recorded the dates, the dimensions and the name of the customers. These drawings remind us of the 'liber veritatis' by Claude, but they also fit well with the news we have about the character of Tavella from his biographer Carlo Giuseppe Ratti, who describes him as a man so meticulous as to border on obsession. These record-drawings are usually executed in pen, with linear strokes, without any indication of the tonal values. The drawing presented here, conversely, has been extensively worked with the red wash, giving to the landscape the completeness of an autonomous, fine and impressive work. However, even in this drawing, the way of depicting with the pen the animals, the human figures and the trees seems to me fully characteristic of Tavella. I would therefore agree with Enrico Cortona, who was the first to attribute this drawing to him.
Although rare, there are nevertheless other drawings by the artist that can be compared with our. Christel Thiem called them 'disegni autonomi' or 'presentation drawings', providing two main examples: a large drawing now at the GDS Uffizi which depicts a landscape with Balaam and the Angel and an equally large sheet in Stuttgart. Both the drawings are in brown wash, extensively heightened with white lead; both, so rich in tonal values, are most likely autonomous works of art. In both drawings Christel Thiem noted a strong link with the works of Pieter Mulier the younger, called il Tempesta (1637-1701) the Dutch landscape painter who worked in Italy. Tavella lived and worked in the Milanese studio of Tempesta from 1695 until 1701, when Tempesta died.
See C. Thiem, 'Carlo Antonio Tavella, un contributo per il disegnatore', in 'Disegni Genovesi dal Cinquecento al Settecento. Giornate di studio, (9-10 maggio 1989)', Florence, 1992.

The son of Genoese parents, Tavella was the pupil of Grevenbroech in Milan from 1681-88. Later he traveled through Italy, visiting the cities of Emilia, Florence and Livorno. In 1695 he returned to Milan to study with Pietro Mulier, called il Tempesta. After the death of his teacher in 1701 Tavella settled permanently in Genoa, there working as a landscape painter for Alessandro Magnasco, Domenico and Paolo Gerolamo Piola. Important groups of drawings by Tavella are at Palazzo Rosso, Genoa, in the collection Fachsenfeld Schloss in Stuttgart and the Uffizi in Florence.

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