Gaspare Diziani (1689–1767)

Gaspare Diziani (1689–1767)

Gaspare Diziani (Belluno 1689 – 1767 Venice)

Christ on the Way to Calvary Meeting the Virgin

Red chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, 264 x 285 mm (10.4 x 11.2 inch)

Inscribed ‘Sebastiano Ricci’ (lower right)

- Achille de Clemente (1874–1940), Florence (Lugt 521b, applied lower right)
- Anonymous sale, Christie’s, South Kensington, 17 December 1998, lot 104, repr.
- Barbara Piasecka Johnson (1937–2013)

Justyna Guze (ed.), The Masters of Drawing. Drawings from the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Collection (Mistrzowie Rysunku), Warsaw (Royal Castle), 2010-2011, p. 66, repr. (colour) p. 67

The Masters of Drawing. Drawings from the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Collection (Mistrzowie Rysunku)
, Warsaw (Royal Castle), 2010-2011, catalogue ed. by Justyna Guze, pp. 66-67


Over a successful career lasting more than fifty years, Gaspare Diziani painted frescoes, designed stage scenery, and worked as an art restorer.1 He was also one of the most prolific draftsmen in eighteenth-century Venice. Diziani trained first in Belluno and then Venice, where he joined the workshop of Sebastiano Ricci, who greatly influenced Diziani’s development – the early attribution of the present drawing to Ricci is an example of Diziani’s assimilation of his master’s style. Diziani quickly became renowned not only for his art but for the rapidity with which he worked. This speed of execution was especially evident in Diziani's oil sketches, where he quickly and confidently applied colour.

In 1717, Diziani accepted several commissions in Munich and Dresden and painted decorative panels and theatre scenery. He returned to Venice in 1720 and remained there for the rest of his life. From 1748 to 1760, his output was especially prodigious; he painted numerous church altarpieces and fresco decorations for villas and palaces in the city and throughout the Veneto. In addition to working in oil and fresco, drawings formed a significant part of Diziani's activity. At the end of his long and distinguished career, Diziani died suddenly in a coffee shop in the Piazza San Marco in 1767.

The technique of the present drawing is typical for Diziani. The red chalk underdrawing was worked out in pen and brown ink, and applications of wash in several gradations of darkness lend a particularly painterly effect to the sheet, characteristic  of Venetian draftsmanship. Drawings by Diziani are preserved in all the main printrooms, with good examples for instance in the British Museum, London, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Louvre, Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Our sheet can be compared with the drawing of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Metropolitan Museum (see fig.).2 The angular and rather sharp style is most distinctive for the artist. Diziani treated the theme of Christ Carrying the Cross again in a drawing sold at Sotheby’s in 2010 (see last fig.).3 Both our and the Sotheby’s drawing may have been made in connection with a serious of compositions depicting the Passion, such as those that Diziani painted for the Duomo of Motto di Livenza, near Treviso.4

The drawing was previously owned by the Polish-born billionaire philantropist and art collector Barbara (‘Basia’) Piasecka Johnson, and was exhibited with other drawings from her collection at the Royal Castle in Warsaw in 2010-2011, together with drawings by Sandro Botticelli and drapery studies from Verrocchio’s workshop, traditionally attributed to Leonardo. She also owned the Badminton Cabinet (now in the Liechtenstein collections) and Mantegna’s masterpiece of the Descent into Limbo.


1. For the artist, see: A.P. Zugni-Tauro, Gaspare Diziani, Venice 1971 and U. Ruggeri, ‘Gaspare Diziani e il Maestro dei fiori guardeschi: una collaborazione’, Arte Veneta 63 (2006), pp. 161-63.

2. Red chalk, pen and brown ink, grey wash, 198 x 166 mm; inv. no. 2006.393.8.

3. Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over red chalk, 183 x 276 mm; Sotheby’s, London, 6 July 2010, lot 55, repr. (sold GBP 7500).

4. Zugni-Tauro, op. cit., pp. 78-79, no. 14, figs. 122-31.

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Gaspare Diziani (1689–1767)
Gaspare Diziani (1689–1767)
Gaspare Diziani (1689–1767)
Gaspare Diziani (1689–1767)
Gaspare Diziani (1689–1767)
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