A canvas by Francesco Trevisani acquired by the Rijksmuseum

Francesco Trevisani (1656-1746)
The Martyrdom of Saint Felicity
and her seven sons

Oil on canvas - 74 x 62 cm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum
Photo : Blondeau-Breton

4/09/07 — Acquisition — Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum — We recently published an article on the latest acquisitions to enrich the Rijksmuseum (see News of June 30, 2007). A canvas by Francesco Trevisani, representing the Martyrdom of Saint Felicity and her Seven Sons (ill. 1) was also purchased in 2006 from Etienne Breton in Paris [1].

The painting was part of a collection belonging to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, marquis of Torcy. He had received it from Cardinal Ottoboni, one of Trevisani’s main patrons and for whom the artist worked as official painter (ill. 2). To court favour with Louis XIV, Ottoboni gave him several works, by Trevisani ; their whereabouts are unknown today. Pierre Rosenberg and Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée, in an article about Trevisani and France [2], write : “The King of France was probably not the only one to benefit from the cardinal’s generosity ; twice in 1704, then in 1709, the marquis de Torcy, a prominent figure at the Court of Versailles, received paintings by Trevisani.” The works given in 1704 are known by their subjects, Chaste Susanna and Potiphar’s Wife. The canvas representing The Martyrdom of Saint Felicity and her Seven Sons was most likely the one sent in 1709 to the marquis. The choice of subjects is probably a reference to the marquis’ wife, Catherine Félicité Arnauld de Pomponne. One can see, on the upper right-hand corner, close to what seems to be a self-portrait, the symbols appearing on the Colbert coat of arms : a snake with a crown of marquis and encircled by collars of the king’s orders.

2. Francesco Trevisani (1656-1746)
Portrait of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, 1700
Oil on canvas - 134,3 x 98,5 cm
Barnard Castle, The Bowes Museum
Photo : Wikimedia Commons

A student of Antonio Zanchi in Venice, Trevisani arrived in Rome at the age of 22, towards 1678. His style was characterized by the tenebrism practiced at the time by his master in the city on the lagoon as well as others such as Giambattista Langetti and Johann Karl Loth. His contribution to the décor of San Silvestro in Capite in 1796 ensured his reputation as an artist and marked his progress to a lighter and more baroque manner [3].

The painting acquired by the Rijksmuseum dates from the artist’s mature period. It reflects at the same time the influence by Veronese, in the colors and the composition, combined with the Roman painting of the Seicento (Domenichino, Lanfranco, Cortone,…) felt in the representation of the martyrdom.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 4 septembre 2007


[1] ”with very generous support from a private benefactor and a contribution from the Rijksmuseum Fonds.”

[2] Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée and Pierre Rosenberg, “Francesco Trevisani et la France”, Antologia di Belle Arti, 1979, p. 265-276.

[3] Cf. Franck R. DiFederico, « Francesco Trevisani and the Decoration of the Crucifixion Chapel in San Silvestro in Capite », The Art Bulletin, Vol. 53, N° 1, March 1971, p. 52-67.
A learned reader has pointed out to us that Zanchi, Langetti and Loth are also Baroque painters. This is true, but we use the term here to evoke the Roman Baroque period of 1630-1640, influenced by Bolognese painting, as is easily understood by reading the following paragraph.

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