Attr. Francesco Albani
(Probably) Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694 – 1753); and by descent to
William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire (1720 – 1764), Chatsworth House, Derbyshire;
Thence by descent.
Chatsworth: The Attic sale; Sotheby’s, London, 5-7 Oct. 2010, lot 68 (as “After Andrea Sacchi”).
The present work was long considered a version of Andrea Sacchi’s unfinished portrait of Francesco Albani, now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid (see A. Sutherland Harris, Andrea Sacchi, Oxford, 1977, pp. 77-78, no. 44, fig. 74). Sacchi was a pupil of Albani’s and it was Bellori who suggested that Sacchi likely painted the Prado portrait during a visit to Bologna in 1635. This theory, which is in keeping with the apparent age of the sitter (57), is widely accepted by scholars.
It appears that the Prado work remained in Sacchi’s possession until his death (Inventory of the contents of Sacchi’s House, June 1661, no. 210) at which point it was bought by Carlo Maratta. It passed subsequently into the collection of Philip V of Spain (1683 – 1746), before entering the Prado. There is a slightly later copy of this portrait (dated 1664) in the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, possibly commissioned by Maratta when the original was in his possession.
The present work is distinctly closer in manner to a Self Portrait by Albani in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna (inv. 341; see C. Puglisi, Francesco Albani, New Haven, 1999, p. 169, no. 82, illus. frontispiece). Dr. Catherine Puglisi identifies the “blond tonality, liquid shadows, smooth finish, and…delicacy of handling in the hair” as typical of Albani’s work in the 1630s. On the basis of photographs, she dates the Bologna picture to circa 1636-38, just after (and probably inspired by) Sacchi’s version. Portraits by Albani are rare, with only three other examples identified as having been painted in the 1630s. The one most closely approaching the Self Portrait is the Portrait of Andrea Calvi of 1636 (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff). There are a number of versions recorded, including a copy in the Uffizi of slightly smaller dimensions, and one offered at Sotheby’s (31 Jan. 2013, lot 58, as “Attributed to Francesco Albani”). Dr. Puglisi, who has studied the present work from photographs, judges it to be the better version in comparison to the Sotheby’s version (private communication, 20 Feb. 2013). Dr. Ann Sutherland-Harris, who has also studied the painting from photographs, has suggested an alternative attribution to a Bolognese artist active in the circle of Albani (written communication, 23 Feb. 2011).
This picture is additionally significant for having been in the Devonshire collection at Chatsworth, one of the most significant private art collections in Britain. Lord Burlington visited Italy twice, first in 1714-15 and later in 1719. It seems likely that it may have been one of the twelve paintings that he bought in Rome on 5th February 1715. This purchase included works by Pasqualini, Pietro da Cortona, Viviani and Carlo Maratta, but we have yet to confirm that the Albani portrait was amongst them. Burlington was an avid collector of Italian paintings and drawings, and the Albani Self Portrait may equally well have been acquired later, perhaps through one of his agents such as William Kent. The picture is unlined, on its original stretcher and in a simple carved gilt wood frame made in England probably in the first quarter of the eighteenth century.
Attr. Francesco Albani