The Uffizi acquires a sketch by Giuseppe Sabatelli for a lost painting

Major acquisition for the Uffizi: Florence museum secures Giuseppe Sabatelli's sketch for 'The Sorceress of Endor evokes before Saul the spectre of Samuel," a work thought to be long lost.

The Uffizi Galleries announce that they have finalized an important acquisition: it is a sketch of a 19th-century painting by Romantic artist Giuseppe Sabatelli (Milan, 1813 - Florence, 1843) thought to have been lost for some time in the United States. It is the work with the subject of The Sorceress of Endor evokes before Saul the spectre of Samuel, made in 1841 by the Milanese painter: it is the preparatory work for a painting that wealthy U.S. landowner Meredith Calhoun, who was traveling to Italy in those years, bought for her summer villa in Huntsville, Alabama, or for her winter villa in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Uffizi announcement thus comes in conjunction with U.S. Independence Day.

The completed painting was sent to America: as of today it is missing, as are two others created by Sabatelli in those years for the same patron, depicting Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, and Torquato Tasso, reading his poetry to Eleonora d’Este: of the latter the Uffizi preserves preparatory drawings, while no trace remains of the Cornelia. As early as the next few days La Maga di Endor will be exhibited in the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Palazzo Pitti.

Giuseppe Sabatelli, son of painter Luigi Sabatelli, trained under his father’s teaching and in 1834 moved to Florence, along with his older brother Francesco, also a painter, born in 1803. From 1839 Giuseppe Sabatelli taught painting technique at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. He became known as a painter of sacred and historical subjects and as a portraitist. Among his works: Christ Liberates the Obsessed (1828), a painting that was exhibited at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence in 1837 and later purchased by Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany; Torquato Tasso reads his poem at the court of Ferrara; Farinata degli Uberti at the Battle of the Serchio. A self-portrait of him is preserved in the Uffizi collection. He died of consumption, as did his brother Francesco. His funerary monument, sculpted by Ulisse Cambi, is in the cloister of the basilica of Santa Croce in Florence.

“The purchase of the sketch,” explains Uffizi director Eike Schmidt, “offers us timely evidence of the romantic interpretation of the biblical text, famous in those years also thanks to Vittorio Alfieri’s tragedy dedicated to the first king of Israel (1782). In the sketch, the supernatural appearance of the prophet in a dramatic atmosphere, characterized by strong chiaroscuro and the reduction of the color palette to a few brown hues are reminiscent of the English Romanticism of Füssli and his followers-a stylistic interpretation that probably met the tastes of the wealthy landowner and slave owner in the Deep South of the United States. Although Grand Duke Leopold II, known as ’Canapone,’ failed to stop the painting’s departure for the New World, the original sketch, now returned to the community, most effectively presents the talents of Sabatelli, who died prematurely at only 30, and documents the artistic preferences of early American collectors traveling through Italy in search of masterpieces. But it is also a fundamental document of artistic relations between Florence and the United States in the early 19th century. This was the crucial moment in history when Tuscany, after the political and administrative reforms of Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine and despite some attempts at restoration under Ferdinand III, had become one of the most modern states in the world, with features of democracy that could well serve America also as a glorious example of good government.”

The case of the missing painting opens, with a contribution by Director Schmidt himself, issue 5 of Imagines, the Uffizi’s scholarly journal, dedicated to the conference The United States and Florence (1815-1915): artistic models, inspirations, suggestions, organized by the Galleries on September 23 and 24, 2019. The publication is now freely available on the museum’s website.

The Uffizi acquires a sketch by Giuseppe Sabatelli for a lost painting
The Uffizi acquires a sketch by Giuseppe Sabatelli for a lost painting

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.