Justice Fulminating the Vices
34.6 cm x 32.3 cm (13 5/8 in. x 12 11/16 in.)
Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini
(Venice, Italy, 1675 - 1741, Venice, Italy)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini represents eighteenth-century Venetian painting at its most exuberant. He was first trained in Milan with the idiosyncratic Paolo Pagani, but his style depends more on the sensuous and decorative aspects of Sebastiano Ricci. Pellegrini’s drawing is broad and soft, his palette warm and pastel, and his paint handling dense and fluid. Defying gravity, bordering on the caricatural, this painterly virtuosity was a tremendous success across Europe, with the artist called to execute significant fresco cycles and numerous canvases in England, France, and Germany.
During a year-long sojourn in Antwerp, Pellegrini carried out three major decorative projects. This painting is an unpublished oil sketch for one of these, a much-admired canvas for the ceiling of the Salle du Petit Collège in the city’s town hall. Appropriate to that setting, it represents the figures of Justice and Prudence crushing two male figures identifiable as Avarice and Deceit. Phosphorescent in color, practically sculpted in paint, this sketch dramatizes the material properties for which Pellegrini was so highly regarded. These properties are conspicuous in the wake of a recent cleaning and relining of the canvas.
The Suida-Manning Collection includes two other paintings by Pellegrini: a comparably rich, half-length figure of Bellona from around 1713–1714, and a more summary Venus and Cupid, which may have come from a decorative ensemble.