fig. 1
Sebastiano Ricci (currently attributed to)

The Finding of Moses (fig. 1), currently attributed to Sebastiano Ricci, has been the source of much critical debate for the better part of fifty years. This painting represents an artistic fusion of styles and iconographic motifs from the Venetian Renaissance, and the debate around The Finding of Moses stems in part from the fact that this work is such a fine example of the Veronese revival in eighteenth-century Venice. Given the peculiarly archaising demands of eighteenth-century patrons, it is no wonder that arguments have raged as to the work’s true authorship. This paper will consider the arguments for reattributing the authorship for one of the most intriguing paintings within the Gallery’s collection.

Acquisition

In August 1958 A. J. L. McDonnell, the London-based Felton Adviser to the National Gallery of Victoria, alerted the Felton Committee to the sale for £3000 of an eighteenth-century Italian painting depicting the Finding of Moses. The Biblical scene from Exodus (2:1–10) was attributed to Sebastiano Ricci and thus fitted well into the NGV’s renowned collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian paintings. The jewel in the crown was and still is The banquet of Cleopatra by Giambattista Tiepolo (fig. 2), and McDonnell astutely used this masterpiece as a comparison with the painting on sale in London, observing: ‘It is not a great picture in the sense that the Tiepolo is great but to say that it would make a worthy pendant to it, is to give some idea of its quality’. He also commended the work’s affordability:

As to the price, it seems to me very reasonable. Mr. Francis Watson of the Wallace Collection has described it to me as ‘a bargain’. A month or two ago a Sebastiano Ricci was sold at Christie’s for £8,400 – a smaller picture … but much less important and less fine than this picture.1A. J. L. McDonnell, letter to the Felton Bequests’ Committee, 5 Aug. 1958, National Gallery of Victoria files.

This seemed to sway the committee, who released funds for the painting. It arrived in Melbourne by December of that same year. Since then The Finding of Moses has remained officially attributed to Sebastiano Ricci in the NGV’s publications, and at all times when the work has been on display.

Even at the earliest stage of the work’s acquisition, however, there were questions raised as to the painting’s true authorship. In a letter to Dr Ursula Hoff in 1959, soon after the Gallery’s purchase of the supposed Ricci, the Italian Tiepolo scholar Antonio Morassi wrote, ‘In my opinion [the painting] is not by Ricci but by Tiepolo’. He ended his letter with the words, ‘I know my opinion is not partaken by my English friends’.2Antonio Morassi to Ursula Hoff, 31 Aug. 1959, National Gallery of Victoria files.

Over the past five decades, a number of other scholars have rejected Ricci’s hand in the painting. The first aim of this article is to dispel the Ricci attribution in anticipation of the painting’s completed restoration. The second is to examine the availability and transmission of the Veronesean prototypes upon which the Melbourne Moses is dependent and thus, in conjunction with preliminary technical evidence from the NGV’s painting conservators, bring us closer to considering a different author for this fine example of an eighteenth-century homage to Paolo Veronese (1522–1588).3 Early in 2008 this large history painting was removed from its usual place in the European painting galleries flanking The banquet of Cleopatra and went into conservation for its second major treatment in over a century. Hoped-for answers regarding this enigmatic picture may be revealed at the end of the conservation treatment.

Provenance

The provenance of the Melbourne Moses can currently only be traced back to the late nineteenth century when Sir William Ingram, 2nd Bart (1847–1924) bought the painting at a country sale in Lincolnshire.4 Although the painting was bought at this country sale by Sir William Ingram, his family had no other information as to its earlier history (see James Byam Shaw, letter to Ursula Hoff, 10 Nov. 1959, in Ursula Hoff, European Painting before 1800 in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1995, p. 243). The work was then attributed to Paolo Veronese and remained so when sold by the Ingram family to Francis Stonor in November 1949. It was from Stonor that the National Gallery of Victoria bought the painting through Colnaghi’s of London.5 ibid. Paolo Veronese’s numerous versions of The Finding of Moses were well known, which doubtless encouraged the early supposition that this painting was yet another from that particular iconographic genre.

From the early 1950s, however, literature in Britain regarding the Melbourne Finding of Moses no longer mentioned Veronese as its creator. Scholars such as Francis Watson and James Byam Shaw suggested Ricci as the undeniable creator not long after the painting’s first restoration in 1949 by Sebastian Isepp. They did not actually provide arguments to support this Ricci thesis but simply stated the attribution as fact.6 See Francis Watson, ‘Venetian paintings at the Royal Academy 1954–55’, Arte Veneta, 1955, p. 262, fig. 293. Shaw to Hoff, 10 Nov. 1959, in Hoff, p. 243. The first recorded conservation treatment of the Melbourne painting was in 1949 by Sebastian Isepp (see Hoff, p. 242).

Veronese and The Finding of Moses

The Finding of Moses depicts the moment from the Old Testament narrative when the baby Moses, having been set afloat on the river Nile to escape the massacre of the Israelite children at the hands of the pharaoh, was discovered among the bullrushes by the pharaoh’s daughter. During the sixteenth century, Paolo Veronese and his workshop produced a considerable number of paintings of this subject.7 Paolo Veronese, The Finding of Moses, c.1570, 178.0 x 277.0 cm, Gemäldegallerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Gal-Nr. 229; The Finding of Moses, 129.5 x 115.0 cm, Musée des Beaux-Artes, Lyon, inv. A. 66; The Finding of Moses, c.1580, 50.0 x 43.0 cm, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, cat. no. 502; The Finding of Moses, c.1582, 58.0 x 44.5 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, inv. 38; Workshop of Veronese, The Finding of Moses, c.1582, 337.0 x 510.0 cm, Galleria Sabauda, Turin, inv. 575; The Finding of Moses, c.1582, 153.0 x 255.0 cm, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, inv. 2854; The Finding of Moses, post-1580, 122.0 x 175.0 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, inv cat. 13. Florence Ingersoll-Smouse presents a possible chronology of the Moses paintings in her article ‘L’Oeuvre peint de Paul Véronese en France’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. 18, no. 5, 1928, p. 31. For more regarding the continuing production of Veronese’s workshop following his death, see Hans Tietze & Erika Tietze-Conrat, The Drawings of the Venetian Painters in the XVth and XVIth Centuries, J. J. Augustin, New York, 1944, pp. 352–3. Since these became scattered across well-known European collections over the course of the following three centuries, it is perhaps not surprising that the Melbourne Moses was also first attributed to Veronese when it surfaced in Lincolnshire in the late nineteenth century.

Veronese’s paintings had enjoyed a renewed popularity in Venice in the eighteenth century when, after the tenebrism and chiaroscuro of the Baroque, a return to the brilliance of the Venetian Renaissance palette was demanded by patrons. The colour, light and luxuriousness of Veronese’s paintings were major factors in their appeal.8 ‘Le belle immagini di ricchezza, di magnificenza, di venustà, di leggiadria gran forza’, [writer’s translation] commented Antonio Maria Zanetti, printmaker, art dealer and friend of many Venetian artists, ‘ebbero sempre sul cuore umano’ [writer’s translation] (Antonio Maria Zanetti, Della Pittura Veneziana e delle Opere Pubbliche de’ Veneziani Maestri, Venice, 1777, p. 162). For more about the reception of Veronese during this period, see P. Sohm, ‘The critical reception of Paolo Veronese in eighteenth-century Italy: The Example of Giambattista Tiepolo as Veronese Redivivus’, in B. Roeck, Paolo Veronese. Fortuna Critica und Künstliches Nachleben, Sigmaringen, 1990, pp. 87–107.

Ricci as imitator of Veronese

In eighteenth-century Venice numerous artists thrived upon their skills of copying, synthesis and constant reinvention of the Renaissance old masters. Sebastiano Ricci was one of the first significant artists to revel in the possibilities afforded by mimicry and homage to Veronese in particular.9 The artist Charles de Lafosse famously told Sebastiano Ricci ‘for the future, take my advice, paint nothing but Paul Veronéses, and no more Riccis’ (quoted in Walpole, Anecdotes, 1849, vol. II, p. 628, in Sohm, 1990, p. 87). His copies after Veronese entered collections as prestigious as that of the Duke of Devonshire and King George III.10 Francis Watson, ‘Sebastiano Ricci as pasticheur’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 90, no. 547, 1948, p. 290. The Royal Collection still holds sketches by Ricci of heads from Veronese’s Feast in the House of Levi now in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice (see Michael Levey, ‘Sebastiano Ricci’s ‘heads’ after Veronese’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 104, issue 713, 1962, p. 351). The English monarch’s version of The Finding of Moses by Ricci was actually sold to him as a bona fide Veronese by the English consul in Venice, Joseph Smith (fig. 3). This copy was probably produced between 1726 and 1729 when Ricci was engaged by Smith, but whether Ricci worked from the original Veronese (now lost) or from an engraving or etching after the painting, is unknown.11 See Rodolpho Pallucchini, ‘Sebastiano Ricci e il Rococo Europeo’, in Biennali d’Arte Antica, Udine. Atti del Congresso Internazionale di Studi su Sebastiano Ricci e il suo Tempo, Anna Serra (ed.), Milan, 1976, p. 15. In 1982 Howard Coutts even went so far as to suggest that Smith not only palmed off the Ricci as a Veronese, he may even have owned the original and sold that one at an earlier date, commissioning a woodcut by J. B. Jackson upon which Ricci based his work (see Howard Coutts, ‘A Ricci pastiche or a copy of a lost Veronese?’, Arte Veneta, vol. 36, 1982, p. 230–3). Richard Cocke identifies gestures and compositional groupings amongst Veronese’s preparatory sketches that cannot be found in any of the extant versions of The finding of Moses by him or his workshop. The only places they are reproduced are in the painting by Sebastiano Ricci in the Royal Collection and the J. B. Jackson woodcut, a copy of which is now at the Victoria and Albert Museum (see Richard Cocke, Veronese’s Drawings, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 1984, p. 242). Ricci’s painting, apparently sold fraudulently to the Royal Collection, remained attributed to Veronese until as late as 1913.12 See Lionel Cust, ‘Notes on pictures in the Royal Collections – XXV: The paintings bought for George III in Italy, Consul Smith, and Antonio Canale – I’, Burlington Magazine for Conoisseurs, vol. 23, issue 123, 1913, p. 154. It was not until the 1940s that the correct attribution was given; see Anthony Blunt, ‘Paintings by Sebastiano and Marco Ricci in the Royal Collection’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 88, no. 524, 1946, pp. 263–8.

During the 1940s and 1950s, English scholars published a number of articles discussing Sebastiano Ricci’s talents as a copyist and pasticheur. Anthony Blunt, Keeper of the Royal Collection, and Francis Watson, director of the Wallace Collection, wrote two of the most important articles. In his Burlington Magazine article ‘Paintings by Sebastiano and Marco Ricci in the Royal Collection’ of 1946, Blunt noted Ricci’s skilled copies of elements from Veronese’s The Magdalen anointing Christ’s feet, that is now in Turin.13 Blunt, 1946, p. 264. Blunt also confirmed the reattribution of George III’s Finding of Moses, from Paolo Veronese to a copy by Sebastiano Ricci, describing the painting as Veronese with an eighteenth-century twist.14 ibid. The same year as Blunt’s article was published, Francis Watson described two other examples of Ricci’s pictures after Veronese in the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth, Derbyshire.15 Watson, ‘Sebastiano Ricci’, p. 290. Conservators found Ricci’s signature on all the paintings after restoration.16 ibid.

The European Masters of the Eighteenth Century exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Arts in the winter of 1954–55 was a phenomenal success. Containing over six hundred works on canvas and paper, it occasioned a renewed interest in the paintings of Ricci and his Venetian peers.17 See European Masters of the Eighteenth Century, Royal Academy of the Arts, London, 1954. Present was Melbourne’s own The banquet of Cleopatra (catalogue number 51) and there were no less than four Riccis on display.18 The Ricci works on show were The Marriage of Cana (cat. 307), Moses Striking the Rock (cat. 312), The Holy Family (cat. 325) and The Last Supper (cat. 327), London, 1954. Amid the excitement aroused by the Royal Academy exhibition, the attribution of the Melbourne Finding of Moses, which was still in the private collection of Francis Stonor at this time, quietly changed from Veronese to Sebastiano Ricci. In his review of the exhibition, Francis Watson noted that the work had been considered by the selection board and deemed appropriate for the show but was later rejected due to its scale. Watson quite firmly declared the Melbourne work to be a painting by Sebastiano Ricci in collaboration with his nephew, Marco, who painted the landscape background – but, as noted earlier, provided no evidence to corroborate this statement.19 Watson, ’Venetian paintings’, pp. 253–64. Indeed, Watson’s acceptance of the NGV’s painting as another of Ricci’s successful Veronesean copies seems to have completely disregarded the contrasts in style between the Melbourne Moses and that in the Royal Collection.

Sebastiano Ricci himself worked in London in 1712–16 under the patronage of Richard Boyle 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694–1753). This fact, coupled with the (albeit nineteenth-century) English provenance of the NGV painting, has also helped support its attribution to Ricci. The painting’s frame is reminiscent of a style created by William Kent, another protégé of the Earl of Burlington, which could suggest that the NGV work might have been painted by Ricci for Burlington, who at the same time commissioned a new frame for the painting from Kent.20 Hoff, p. 243. Although the frame was quite probably created for the Melbourne Moses and appears to have been attached to the painting from an early date,21 Around the edge of the canvas, particularly on the right-hand side of the work, it is possible to see a centimetre-wide band of painted canvas that is much flatter in comparison to the rest of the painted surface. This may suggest that the edges of the paint were compressed by the frame rebate (Carl Villis, conservator of painting, NGV, discussion with the author, 15 Sept. 2005). Transportation of such a large canvas from Italy to Britain would have been relatively simple for, if we accept that the British frame was created specifically for The Finding of Moses upon its arrival in England, no cumbersome frame would have hindered the movement of the work across the Continent. The transport of The banquet of Cleopatra from Venice to Dresden in 1743 had involved folding the canvas in half before Algarotti commissioned a frame when it reached Dresden: ‘We are reasonably confident that it the “Banquet of Cleopatra” was folded in half … A line of paint loss through this section may not necessarily be from the initial folding but might be a consequence of the paint and ground leading to later failure’ (Jaynie Anderson, Tiepolo’s ‘Cleopatra’, Macmillan, Melbourne, 2003, p. 205). It is possible that the Finding of Moses underwent similar treatment went it was moved to Britain. the Palladian style of Kent’s frame remained fashionable in Britain until as late as the 1770s;22 ‘The Palladian frame was unique to Britain, and it was a long-lasting style feeding into the later Neo-classicism of Adams and his followers’ (Paul Mitchell & Lynn Roberts, Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames, London, 1996, p. 62); see also Mitchell & Roberts, A History of European Picture Frames, London, 1996, p. 180. and the inability to date the frame with certainty to the early eighteenth century therefore arguably lessens the connection of the NGV painting to Ricci.

George III’s Moses and the Melbourne Moses

Comparison between Ricci’s most successful painting in the manner of Veronese (The Finding of Moses sold as an actual Veronese to King George III by Consul Smith) and the NGV’s painting is telling. The brushwork of the Royal Collection’s Moses is somewhat hasty and loose, an aspect particularly apparent in the ragged edges of the clouds, foliage and cityscape. This is in contrast to the more defined props in the landscape of the Melbourne painting. Another disparity lies in the figures: those in the Melbourne Moses convey a greater sense of solidity with much rounder faces than the aquiline visages of Ricci’s work. Most revealing though is the different manner in which the hounds are treated in both pictures. The polish and naturalism that the Melbourne artist imparts to his greyhound imbue an elegance and grace that are absent from the more prosaic animal in Ricci’s painting. If the Melbourne work was produced in the 1720s, the date currently accompanying its attribution to Ricci, it is thus considerably different in style from the copy after Veronese’s Moses that was most probably painted by Ricci for Consul Smith between 1726 and 1729. This offers grounds for questioning Ricci’s authorship of the Melbourne Moses.

Echoing this sentiment, Italian scholars of Ricci have been reluctant to even mention the Melbourne painting.23 See Pallucchini in Serra (ed.), pp. 9–17. Even though presenting a thorough discussion pertaining to Ricci and the influence of Paolo Veronese upon the latter’s oeuvre, no mention is made at all here of the Melbourne painting, which is so clearly derived from Veronese; see also Annalisa Scarpa, Sebastiano Ricci, Bruno Alfieri, Milan, 2006, which does not mention the NGV’s The finding of Moses either. In the 1970s Jeffery Daniels, in both his monograph on the artist and a letter to Dr Ursula Hoff of the NGV, said the painting could not be by Ricci, commenting that, if the proposed date of c.1720 was correct,

the technique is utterly different from … Sebastiano’s … The facial types are uncharacteristic … and if you compare the Melbourne Moses with the Royal Collection’s Moses the differences are much more noticeable than the similarities … it is in any case too archaeological for Ricci, whose pastiches of Veronese are always small and sketchy, with nothing like the wealth of authentic detail there is in your picture.24 Jeffery Daniels to Ursula Hoff, 19 July 1973, National Gallery of Victoria files; see also Jeffery Daniels, Sebastiano Ricci, Hove, 1976, p. 222.

Daniels proposed another attribution instead – that the painting is actually by Giambattista Tiepolo. As noted earlier, the respected scholar of Tiepolo, Antonio Morassi, had first proposed this hypothesis in 1959, when he categorically stated in correspondence with the NGV:

In my opinion the painting is not by Ricci, but by Tiepolo … I am convinced that Ricci is out of the question, because the painting does not show his characteristic and a little dissolved brushwork, but the almost crystalline design which distinguished Tiepolo.25 Antonio Morassi to Ursula Hoff, 31 Aug. 1959, National Gallery of Victoria files.

Other copyists of Veronese, notably Tiepolo

Sebastiano Ricci, of course, did not hold a monopoly on the creation of copies after Veronese. In the late 1940s and 1950s the attention of scholars also focused upon Tiepolo’s witty imitations of and stylistic repetitions after Veronese. This began in 1949 with Giles Robertson’s article ‘Tiepolo and Veronese’s Finding of Moses’, noting the influence of the Veronese Finding of Moses in Dresden upon Tiepolo’s Finding of Moses in the National Gallery of Scotland.26 Giles Robertson, ‘Tiepolo and Veronese’s “Finding of Moses”’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 91, no. 553, pp. 99–101. The connection between Tiepolo and Dresden is significant, since one of the artist’s most influential patrons, Count Francesco Algarotti, worked in the royal court at Dresden and had a notable effect upon Tiepolo’s artistic production of the 1740s and 1750s.27 See Peter Tomory, ‘Eighteenth-century Italian paintings’, Apollo, vol. 118, no. 262, 1983, p. 478.

Count Francesco Algarotti (1712–1764) was the son of a merchant who became ‘one of the most discerning commentators on art in Europe, a patron and dealer of a refined kind, an untiring traveller, and a charming courtier and diplomat in the best salons’.28 Anderson, p. 98. A prolific author, he commenced his writing career with Il Neutonianismo per le Dame, ovvero dialoghi sopra la luce e I colori (Newtonism for Ladies, or Dialogues on Light and Colour) in 1737.29 ibid., p. 99. His most significant treatise on contemporary art was penned in 1757, Saggio sopra la Pittura, after more than two decades of involvement with European art circles. Algarotti worked for a number of years as an art consultant of sorts to Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. From 1742 onwards, his brief was to increase the royal collection in Dresden with old masters as well as contemporary works. His most famous acquisition for Dresden was, of course, Tiepolo’s The banquet of Cleopatra, which he first saw in the artist’s studio in Venice in late 1742.

Tiepolo was subsequently commissioned by Algarotti to produce at least two known copies after Veronese that became part of the count’s collection. In 1743 he painted a ricordo or souvenir of Veronese’s Rape of Europa.30 Giambattista Tiepolo, The rape of Europa, 1743, oil on canvas, 75.0 x 66.0 cm, collection of Sir Steven Runciman, London; Morassi, 1962, p. 18. Algarotti bought the sixteenth-century original on behalf of Augustus III, but he wanted a copy for his own personal collection. Veronese’s work was put on the market in 1742 and Tiepolo painted his ricordo in June the following year before the original was sent to Dresden.31 It is important to note that Algarotti and his contemporaries deemed the original Rape of Europa to be by Veronese himself. In 1960, however, Michael Levey re-assigned the attribution to Veronese’s workshop (see Michael Levey, ‘Two paintings by Tiepolo from the Algarotti Collection’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 102, no. 687, 1960, pp. 250–3; see also Terisio Pignatti & Filippo Pedrocco, Veronese, vol. 1, Electa, Milan, 1995, p. 357). The issue regarding the lack of distinction by eighteenth-century artists and patrons between the hand of Veronese’s workshop and the maestro himself is also pertinent to consideration of the Melbourne Moses.

Twenty years later, Tiepolo produced another copy for Algarotti, this time a Christ in the House of Simon the Pharisee based on an altarpiece by Veronese that was formerly in the Benedictine Abbey in Verona.32 Giambattista Tiepolo, Christ & the Magdalen in the House of Simon the Pharisee, 1760–61, oil on canvas, 132.0 x 159.0 cm, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (see Pignatti & Pedrocco, p. 136). The Veronese painting is now in the Galleria Sabauda, Turin. Tiepolo makes references to the Cena in his letters to Algarotti on 16 March and 4 April 1761 (Morassi, 1962, p. 11). The skill and polish with which Tiepolo painted the greyhound on the left in this copy is manifestly evident, inviting comparison with the deliciously painted hound in the Melbourne picture.

Algarotti’s letters to Count Brühl, adviser to Augustus III, proudly noted the skills with which Tiepolo could paint in the manner of Veronese. In June 1743, for example, he wrote of ‘Tiepoletto, entr’autres, qui a etudié toujours d’après Paul Veroneze m’a dit lui-même’. (Tiepoletto, above all, had always studied after the manner of Paul Veronese, so he told me himself.)33 Algarotti to Brühl, Venice, 17 June 1743, HstA, loc. 18213, cap. vii, nr. 27, 3; see Hans Posse, ‘Die Briefe des Grafen Francesco Algarotti an den Sächsischen Hof und seine Bilderkäufe für die Dresdner Gemäldegaleries 1743–47’, in Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, vol. 52, 1931, p. 41. In July of the same year Algarotti wrote further to Brühl: ‘J’ai consulté particulerement Tiepolo qui a etudié toujours et invite si bien la maniere de Paul Veroneze’ (Algarotti, letter, HStA, loc 379, 25; Posse, 1931, p. 45). This was in conjunction with Algarotti’s notorious claim of the ease with which contemporary paintings could be passed off as fake old masters,34 Anderson, p. 103. and thus gives us an idea of the context within which the Melbourne Finding of Moses was probably produced, should we consider giving credence to Morassi’s and Daniels’s attribution of this work to Tiepolo.

It was, in fact, Morassi who first proposed the Algarotti–Tiepolo connection, as a possible raison d’être for the Melbourne Moses being painted in the manner of Veronese.35 Antonio Morassi to Ursula Hoff, 31 Aug. 1959, National Gallery of Victoria files. In the early 1980s Peter Tomory returned to the Algarotti connection, positing the notion that Algarotti had demanded a ‘perfect’ Veronese, created from all the best elements of the sixteenth-century master’s oeuvre by one of the greatest contemporary artists of his own day.36 For a full discussion, see Tomory, pp. 476–85. Algarotti was keen to challenge artists with his complex commissions and a request by a patron for a novel synthesis of Renaissance style and theme in a pastiche was nothing new within the framework of contemporary patron–artist relations.37 See M. Loh, ‘New and improved: Repetition as originality in Italian Baroque practice and theory’, Art Bulletin, vol. 86, no. 3, 2004, pp. 477–504. Certainly there was a wealth of portfolio prints and illustrated books available in eighteenth-century Venice to provide an iconographic repertoire for artists seeking to work with a Veronese-inspired visual vocabulary.38 Tomory, p. 478, convincingly discusses the European transmission of this Veronesean visual vocabulary with prints and book illustrations.

Two contemporary compendiums are of particular note in relation to the Melbourne Moses. These are the Recueil Crozat, Paris 1729–42, a compendium of engravings of Italian paintings in French collections and Notes Mss sur les Peintres et les Graveurs, Paris 1740–70, both published by Pierre-Jean Mariette.39 The details for the Recueil Crozat are: Joseph Antoine Crozat, Pierre-Jean Mariette & François Basan, Recueil d’estampes d’après les plus beaux tableaux et d’après les plus beaux desseins qui sont en France: dans le Cabinet du Roi, dans celui de Monseigneur le Duc d’Orleans, & dans d’autres cabinets: divisé suivant les différentes écoles: Avec un abrégé de la vie des peintres, & une description historique de chaque tableau, Paris, 1729. The Recueil Crozat contained an etching by Edme Jeurat after Veronese’s The Finding of Moses (fig. 4), a painting which was formerly in the French royal collection and is now at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon (fig. 6).40 See François-Bernard Lépicié, Catalogue Raisonné des Tableaux du Roy, Paris, 1752, cat. no. 11, pp 100–1. This painting had been in France since before 1683 when the Duchess of Crequy sold it, probably to Neret de la Ravoye, who in turn sold it to Loius XIV in 1685 (see Laura de Fuccia, ‘La satira À Vignon di Jacques Dulorens (1580–1655) e il Mosé salvato dalle acque di Paolo Veronese’, Bulletin de l’Association des historiens de l’Art Italien, no. 10, 2004, pp. 45–56). See also Edme Jeurat, The Finding of Moses, 1729–42, etching, 4.40 x 5.98 cm, Pierre-Jean Mariette, Paris; Recueil Crozat, Paris, 1729–42, plate XIV. Notes Mss sur les Peintres et les Graveurs contained an etching by Pierre Brébiette (fig. 5) after a Veronese Finding of Moses in the collection of the Duc d’Orléans, which is now at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool (fig. 7).41 This version had been in France since at least 1633 (De Fuccia, pp. 44–8). See also Pierre Brebiette, The Finding of Moses, 1740, etching, 2.6 x 4.3 cm, reproduced in Notes Mss sur les Peintres et les Graveurs, Pierre-Jean Mariette, Paris, 1740, p. 300. (While these works were given to the master during the eighteenth century, both paintings are also now considered to be by Veronese’s workshop.)

The argument is that Algarotti and Tiepolo ‘harvested’ iconographic elements from these French etchings after Veronese (an easy aide-mémoire in a busy artist’s studio) to create a perfect Finding of Moses. To strengthen this connection between such French prints after Veronese and contemporary studio practice in Venice, it is intriguing to note that Algarotti was an acquaintance of Crozat, and Tiepolo himself produced etchings and prints for the publisher Mariette.42 Francis Haskell, Patrons and Painters: A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1980, p. 349. For more regarding the professional relationship between both Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, their mentor and middleman, Antonio Maria Zanetti, and Mariette himself, see Lina Christina Frerichs, ‘Mariette et les eaux-fortes des Tiepolo’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. 78, no. 6, 1971, pp. 233–52. As mentioned earlier, Algarotti had commissioned a ricordo of a Veronese that was about to leave Venice for Dresden. It is a short step from this to Tomory’s notion that the Melbourne Moses is a carefully constructed homage to Veronese, combining elements of several original works by Veronese no longer in Venice – the result of a creative collaboration between artist and patron in the mid eighteenth century.

Prototypes for the Melbourne Moses

Leaving aside for the moment the question of who actually painted the NGV’s Finding of Moses, it is useful to examine various Veronese prototypes for the Melbourne work, starting with simple comparisons between paintings.

The Melbourne Finding of Moses at first glance appears quite similar to the Veronese in Dresden. Both are large-scale history paintings, destined for a significant domestic space such as an entire wall, rather than as small pieces within the collection of a studiolo. As the Dresden painting was in the Casa Grimani in Venice until 1747, before Algarotti spirited it away, Antonio Morassi argued that it was the main prototype for the Melbourne work.43 Morassi, p. 23. This thesis does not stand up to scrutiny though, since the pictorial elements and composition of the Melbourne Moses are more akin to another imposing (former) ‘Veronese’ Finding of Moses at the Galleria Sabauda in Turin and the Duc d’Orléan’s painting (engraved for Mariette), now at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

The connections between Melbourne and Liverpool paintings are particularly clear. In the Melbourne painting the compositional group containing the princess with supportive handmaidens is slightly to the right, with Moses lying in the arms of a beautiful young woman in the centre of the composition. The princess in Melbourne holds the hand of her maidservant, as she does in the Liverpool version, yet her other arm rests upon her hip, as it does in the Dijon picture. The Melbourne version has moved Moses’s bare-breasted mother from the right of the composition, taking the place of the young woman on the left in Liverpool and thereby shifting the chronology of the scene forward two Biblical verses. The compositional lacuna left by this change is filled by the dwarf, originally hiding among the skirts of the princess in Liverpool, along with support from a page and whippet hound found in the Turin and Dresden works, as well as an additional elderly woman.

All the versions include the paddling lady on the far left of the composition, an added element of colour and textured opulence that draws the eye away from the central group into the surrounding countryside and towards the cityscape in the background. The Melbourne paddling lady appears to be a combination of both the Liverpool and Turin versions, with the right twist of the upper body in the Melbourne lady similar to the one in Liverpool. The more compact handling of her skirts is found in Turin, in contrast to the energetic tugging seen in the Liverpool painting. The Melbourne version lacks the horse-drawn carriage of both sixteenth-century paintings and the familiar motif of a black servant.44 This black woman is a significant component of all Veronese’s variations on the theme of The Finding of Moses. Lépicié notes her presence in both the Dijon and Lyon versions. In Dijon, ‘il fait voir le moment où la fille de Pharaon regardé avec plaisir le petit Moyse, qu’elle a fait retirer de l’eau par un Nègre placé sur le premier plan’ (One must see the moment where Pharoah’s daughter looks with pleasure upon young Moyse, who on her orders had been pulled out of the water by the black one situated in the foreground.) Lépicié, p. 100. The eighteenth-century artist, however, has added a halberdier between the central entourage of women and the paddling female on the left. This fills the awkward gap between the two motifs as well as resolving issues of depth that are tangible in the Liverpool work.

Costume is also a vital component in the comparison between paintings. The ensemble sported by the princess in Melbourne is almost identical to Liverpool’s princess, with the overskirt tucked into the front of the bodice, in contrast to Turin where the red overskirt starts much further around the side of the bodice. Liverpool’s young lady holding Moses has also lost the striped material of her underskirt to the elderly woman of Melbourne, who now holds the fabric out as if ready to wrap the babe.

It is clear from these observations that the direct prototypes for the Melbourne Finding of Moses were predominantly the Walker Art Gallery’s sixteenth-century version of this subject, followed by the painting in Turin. Contrary to Morassi’s conjecture, the Dresden painting was not used as a primary pictorial model even though it may have been readily available to the artist (especially if that artist were Tiepolo). The Tomory thesis of Tiepolo and Algarotti using engraved copies after other Veronese paintings as sources for the Melbourne painting is seemingly vindicated, since the Liverpool painting was in France from at least 1633.45 De Fuccia, pp. 44–8.

Of course it could be argued that Sebastiano Ricci could equally well have combined such elements from diverse Findings of Moses by Veronese. But the Melbourne work’s stylistic variances from Ricci’s known manner of painting, its denial by Ricci scholars since the early 1970s, and the body of evidence linking Algarotti, Tiepolo and Mariette with copies after Veronese in the early 1740s, would seem to push it towards the Algarotti–Tiepolo dialogue.

It seems only fitting, therefore, that the Old Testament story of the Finding of Moses should also have held a particular significance for Algarotti. His Saggio sopra la Pittura of 1757 contains a section, Del Costume, that cites the Finding of Moses as the perfect vehicle for an artist seeking to fulfil certain pictorial demands:

And the artist, in order to better obtain his desired aim, which is deceit, must keep himself distant to mix the modern with the antique, the native with the foreign, to put together things which are inconsistent between themselves but do not require conviction. Only then will others believe that they find themselves present before the subject. When all these things enter into the composition, thus they must find themselves in agreement when they are not contradicted by the scene itself. The circumstances, or rather the accessories that they will place under the eyes in the discovery of Moses in the waters of the Nile, indeed they will not be the sides of a canal with the line of poplars, with the Italian-style tenement houses, but rather the banks of a grander river shadowed by groups of palm trees, a sphinx or the god Anubis placed in the countryside and there behind appear a group of pyramids. And generally speaking before you place your hand on the paper, the painter has to transfer with the fantasy of Egypt, to Thebes and to Rome; and imagining the inhabited area, physiognomy, textiles, site, plants, which are appropriate in the subject which [he] is intending to express and in the place of action, afterwards he has conveyed to the spectator with the magic of representation.46 Translated by the writer from Algarotti, 1963 edn, pp. 94–5: ‘E il pittore, per meglio appunto ottenere il fine dell’arte sua, che è lo inganno, dee tenersi lontano dal mescolare il moderno con l’antico, il nostrale col forestiero, dal mettere insieme cose che ripugnano tra loro e non possono altrimenti acquistarsi fede. Allora solamente altri crederà di trovarsi come presente al sogetto, quando le cose tutte ch’entrano nella composizione di esso, si trovino d’accordo tra loro, quando non venga dalla scena del quadro contraddetta in niun punto l’azione. Le circostanze o sia gli accessori, che porranno sotto gli occhi la trovata di Mosè dentro alle acque del Nilo, non saranno già le rive di un canale con dei filari di pioppi, con dei casamenti all’italiana, ma bensì le sponde di un gran fiume ombrate di gruppi di palme, una sfinge o un Dio Anubi che si vegga nel paese, una qualche piramide che spunti qua e là nello indietro. E generalmente parlando, prima di por mano sulla tela o sulla carta, il pittore ha da trasferirsi con la fantasia in Egitto, a Tebe, a Roma; e immaginando abiti, fisonomie, fabbriche, siti, piante, quali si convegno al soggetto che intende di esprimere e al luogo dell’azione, ha poi da trasferirvi lo spettatore con la magia della rappresentazione’.

This is reminiscent of Alberti’s celebrated fifteenth-century description of variatas as an important aesthetic element within a painting, although Algarotti’s eighteenth-century emphasis on an exotic setting threatens to undermine the fine balance between a profusion of aesthetic props and pictorial credibility. Yet this was a challenge for a contemporary artist in Tiepolo’s day, to take the rules of the Renaissance and use them as a springboard for his own talents. Although this passage was written some fifteen years after the Melbourne Moses was painted (if we situate it within the context of Algarotti’s and Tiepolo’s working relationship in the early 1740s), the text is clearly a compilation of a lifetime’s experience, of which the Melbourne Finding of Moses was almost certainly a part.

Conservation evidence

It is to be hoped that the lengthy treatment and analysis of the Melbourne Finding of Moses currently being conducted by the NGV’s painting conservators will help resolve many of the questions that still surround this intriguing painting.

Preliminary X-radiography of the painting, undertaken prior to its current removal for extensive treatment, certainly produced some unexpected results (fig. 8). It revealed, for example, that the folds of drapery and clothing worn by the older handmaiden on the right side of the painting are complete beneath the images of the page and hound who also occupy this sector of the composition. This intriguing dog and his young companion (fig. 9) were therefore added very late in the overall painting process, painted on top of an already finished section, perhaps even as an afterthought. This is the sort of discovery that conservators love, one that shows the mind of ‘a thinking artist’ at work,47 Carl Villis, email to the author, 15 Sept. 2005. an individual who could see that the circular composition of the central group was somehow lacking.

The insertion of the page and dog is not, however, the result of iconographic originality on the part of the artist but yet another example of his skill in the genre of Veronesean pastiche, imitating and synthesising motifs into a novel manifestation of a familiar theme. The sixteenth-century Finding of Moses at the Galleria Sabauda, Turin, also has a page and whippet in the bottom right-hand corner of the canvas. The motif is also apparent in many other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century renditions of the theme. Within the NGV’s own collection, no better comparison could be provided than that offered by one of Tiepolo’s most magnificent works, The banquet of Cleopatra. This contains a dog of superlative quality, arguably comparable to whippet in The Finding of Moses.

The calibre of The banquet of Cleopatra is of course much higher than that of The Finding of Moses, where we discover evident variation in the quality of the brushwork, suggesting the presence of more than one hand in the work’s making. For example, the face of the pharaoh’s daughter appears awkward and flat in comparison with the more subtle tonal contrast and dashing highlights of the page’s face. Such observations will perhaps need to be revised once the removal of old varnish layers from the painting and cleaning away of accumulated surface grime have been completed in the conservation laboratory.

Perceivable disparities of painting quality within the Melbourne Finding of Moses can be explained, however, by considering the workshop traditions of Venice. Since the time of Vivarini and Bellini in the fifteenth century, the family workshop was a powerful force to be reckoned with in the history of Venetian artistic production. The importance of sons, brothers and additional apprentices to the financial success of a workshop was paramount. Trained to copy the styles of the maestro, these successors ensured the ongoing production of paintings in the appropriate maniera demanded by the patrons – both during the lifetime of an artist when demand outstripped the production capability of one man and sometimes even after the master’s death.

While the latter scenario was apparent with Veronese’s workshop in the sixteenth century, the former was very much in play during the height of Tiepolo’s popularity two centuries later. Artists from all over Europe flocked to work with him, spending between five years and a decade under his tutelage.48 ‘There is no doubt that during his long career, Tiepolo had a number of skilled painters who devoted themselves to working mimetically alongside him in the execution of his most onerous projects. These artists included Giovanni Raggi from Bergamo, Francesco Zugno and Giustino Menescardi from Milan. All worked with Tiepolo during the 1740s’ (Filippo Pedrocco, Tiepolo: The Complete Paintings, New York, 2002, p. 107). Johann Balthasar Bullinger, a Swiss painter in the Tiepolo workshop, wrote of his experience in 1733:

There were about ten students, including two who had already turned forty, I was surprised to discover that people who already knew so much had gone to school to learn … I was the first to arrive every morning, and I kept on painting without stopping until evening, so that with the help and advice of my teacher, I made so much progress in the first year that I was able to copy as well as the others and even better than some.49 Johann Balthasar Bullinger, quoted in Pedrocco, p. 107.

Giambattista Tiepolo’s students included his son Giandomenico, who could copy the Tiepolo-senior style to such a proficient extent that the young artist later struggled for many years to shift the burden of his father’s legacy. It is not impossible that the Melbourne Finding of Moses was a collaborative piece between Giambattista Tiepolo and his broader workshop. In this scenario, the master himself might have painted-in the later Veronese-derived figures of pageboy and whippet hound, to add polish and finesse to a composition largely blocked-in by members of his studio.

Conclusion

In view of a growing body of evidence concerning the working relationship between Count Francesco Algarotti and Giambattista Tiepolo in the early 1740s, it seems clear that the long-held attribution of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Finding of Moses to Sebastiano Ricci is unlikely to be sustainable. Ricci’s well-known interpretation of this theme, his copy after Veronese preserved in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, is stylistically markedly different from the Melbourne example, and the evidence of the William Kent-esque frame as a basis dating the latter work to the 1720s is inconclusive. It is to be hoped that, following its current restoration, the Melbourne picture’s intelligent compilation of Veronesean motifs – forged through personal connections, the transmission of engravings and the desire for intellectual perfection – may prove the NGV’s Finding of Moses to be more than just ‘a worthy pendant’ (as A. J. L. McDonnell expressed it in 1958) to Tiepolo’s The banquet of Cleopatra.

Carl Villis,Conservator of European Paintings before 1800, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2008)

Notes

I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Carl Villis, Conservator of European Paintings before 1800 at the National Gallery of Victoria for his generosity of time, knowledge and expertise; Professor Jaynie Anderson for her counsel and comments; and Ted Gott for his guidance, encouragement and support in this endeavour.

1     A. J. L. McDonnell, letter to the Felton Bequests’ Committee, 5 Aug. 1958, National Gallery of Victoria files.

2     Antonio Morassi to Ursula Hoff, 31 Aug. 1959, National Gallery of Victoria files.

3     Early in 2008 this large history painting was removed from its usual place in the European painting galleries flanking The banquet of Cleopatra and went into conservation for its second major treatment in over a century. Hoped-for answers regarding this enigmatic picture may be revealed at the end of the conservation treatment.

4     Although the painting was bought at this country sale by Sir William Ingram, his family had no other information as to its earlier history (see James Byam Shaw, letter to Ursula Hoff, 10 Nov. 1959, in Ursula Hoff, European Painting before 1800 in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1995, p. 243).

 5     ibid.

 6     See Francis Watson, ‘Venetian paintings at the Royal Academy 1954–55’, Arte Veneta, 1955, p. 262, fig. 293. Shaw to Hoff, 10 Nov. 1959, in Hoff, p. 243. The first recorded conservation treatment of the Melbourne painting was in 1949 by Sebastian Isepp (see Hoff, p. 242).

7     Paolo Veronese, The Finding of Moses, c.1570, 178.0 x 277.0 cm, Gemäldegallerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Gal-Nr. 229; The Finding of Moses, 129.5 x 115.0 cm, Musée des Beaux-Artes, Lyon, inv. A. 66; The Finding of Moses, c.1580, 50.0 x 43.0 cm, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, cat. no. 502; The Finding of Moses, c.1582, 58.0 x 44.5 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, inv. 38; Workshop of Veronese, The Finding of Moses, c.1582, 337.0 x 510.0 cm, Galleria Sabauda, Turin, inv. 575; The Finding of Moses, c.1582, 153.0 x 255.0 cm, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, inv. 2854; The Finding of Moses, post-1580, 122.0 x 175.0 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, inv cat. 13. Florence Ingersoll-Smouse presents a possible chronology of the Moses paintings in her article ‘L’Oeuvre peint de Paul Véronese en France’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. 18, no. 5, 1928, p. 31. For more regarding the continuing production of Veronese’s workshop following his death, see Hans Tietze & Erika Tietze-Conrat, The Drawings of the Venetian Painters in the XVth and XVIth Centuries, J. J. Augustin, New York, 1944, pp. 352–3.

8     ‘Le belle immagini di ricchezza, di magnificenza, di venustà, di leggiadria gran forza’, [writer’s translation] commented Antonio Maria Zanetti, printmaker, art dealer and friend of many Venetian artists, ‘ebbero sempre sul cuore umano’ [writer’s translation] (Antonio Maria Zanetti, Della Pittura Veneziana e delle Opere Pubbliche de’ Veneziani Maestri, Venice, 1777, p. 162). For more about the reception of Veronese during this period, see P. Sohm, ‘The critical reception of Paolo Veronese in eighteenth-century Italy: The Example of Giambattista Tiepolo as Veronese Redivivus’, in B. Roeck, Paolo Veronese. Fortuna Critica und Künstliches Nachleben, Sigmaringen, 1990, pp. 87–107.

9     The artist Charles de Lafosse famously told Sebastiano Ricci ‘for the future, take my advice, paint nothing but Paul Veronéses, and no more Riccis’ (quoted in Walpole, Anecdotes, 1849, vol. II, p. 628, in Sohm, 1990, p. 87).

10     Francis Watson, ‘Sebastiano Ricci as pasticheur’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 90, no. 547, 1948, p. 290. The Royal Collection still holds sketches by Ricci of heads from Veronese’s Feast in the House of Levi now in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice (see Michael Levey, ‘Sebastiano Ricci’s ‘heads’ after Veronese’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 104, issue 713, 1962, p. 351).

11     See Rodolpho Pallucchini, ‘Sebastiano Ricci e il Rococo Europeo’, in Biennali d’Arte Antica, Udine. Atti del Congresso Internazionale di Studi su Sebastiano Ricci e il suo Tempo, Anna Serra (ed.), Milan, 1976, p. 15. In 1982 Howard Coutts even went so far as to suggest that Smith not only palmed off the Ricci as a Veronese, he may even have owned the original and sold that one at an earlier date, commissioning a woodcut by J. B. Jackson upon which Ricci based his work (see Howard Coutts, ‘A Ricci pastiche or a copy of a lost Veronese?’, Arte Veneta, vol. 36, 1982, p. 230–3). Richard Cocke identifies gestures and compositional groupings amongst Veronese’s preparatory sketches that cannot be found in any of the extant versions of The finding of Moses by him or his workshop. The only places they are reproduced are in the painting by Sebastiano Ricci in the Royal Collection and the J. B. Jackson woodcut, a copy of which is now at the Victoria and Albert Museum (see Richard Cocke, Veronese’s Drawings, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 1984, p. 242).

12     See Lionel Cust, ‘Notes on pictures in the Royal Collections – XXV: The paintings bought for George III in Italy, Consul Smith, and Antonio Canale – I’, Burlington Magazine for Conoisseurs, vol. 23, issue 123, 1913, p. 154. It was not until the 1940s that the correct attribution was given; see Anthony Blunt, ‘Paintings by Sebastiano and Marco Ricci in the Royal Collection’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 88, no. 524, 1946, pp. 263–8.

13     Blunt, 1946, p. 264.

14     ibid.

15     Watson, ‘Sebastiano Ricci’, p. 290.

16     ibid.

17     See European Masters of the Eighteenth Century, Royal Academy of the Arts, London, 1954.

18     The Ricci works on show were The Marriage of Cana (cat. 307), Moses Striking the Rock (cat. 312), The Holy Family (cat. 325) and The Last Supper (cat. 327), London, 1954.

19     Watson, ’Venetian paintings’, pp. 253–64.

20     Hoff, p. 243.

21     Around the edge of the canvas, particularly on the right-hand side of the work, it is possible to see a centimetre-wide band of painted canvas that is much flatter in comparison to the rest of the painted surface. This may suggest that the edges of the paint were compressed by the frame rebate (Carl Villis, conservator of painting, NGV, discussion with the author, 15 Sept. 2005). Transportation of such a large canvas from Italy to Britain would have been relatively simple for, if we accept that the British frame was created specifically for The Finding of Moses upon its arrival in England, no cumbersome frame would have hindered the movement of the work across the Continent. The transport of The banquet of Cleopatra from Venice to Dresden in 1743 had involved folding the canvas in half before Algarotti commissioned a frame when it reached Dresden: ‘We are reasonably confident that it the “Banquet of Cleopatra” was folded in half … A line of paint loss through this section may not necessarily be from the initial folding but might be a consequence of the paint and ground leading to later failure’ (Jaynie Anderson, Tiepolo’s ‘Cleopatra’, Macmillan, Melbourne, 2003, p. 205). It is possible that the Finding of Moses underwent similar treatment went it was moved to Britain.

22     ‘The Palladian frame was unique to Britain, and it was a long-lasting style feeding into the later Neo-classicism of Adams and his followers’ (Paul Mitchell & Lynn Roberts, Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames, London, 1996, p. 62); see also Mitchell & Roberts, A History of European Picture Frames, London, 1996, p. 180.

23     See Pallucchini in Serra (ed.), pp. 9–17. Even though presenting a thorough discussion pertaining to Ricci and the influence of Paolo Veronese upon the latter’s oeuvre, no mention is made at all here of the Melbourne painting, which is so clearly derived from Veronese; see also Annalisa Scarpa, Sebastiano Ricci, Bruno Alfieri, Milan, 2006, which does not mention the NGV’s The finding of Moses either.

24     Jeffery Daniels to Ursula Hoff, 19 July 1973, National Gallery of Victoria files; see also Jeffery Daniels, Sebastiano Ricci, Hove, 1976, p. 222.

25     Antonio Morassi to Ursula Hoff, 31 Aug. 1959, National Gallery of Victoria files.

26     Giles Robertson, ‘Tiepolo and Veronese’s “Finding of Moses”’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 91, no. 553, pp. 99–101.

27     See Peter Tomory, ‘Eighteenth-century Italian paintings’, Apollo, vol. 118, no. 262, 1983, p. 478.

28     Anderson, p. 98.

29     ibid., p. 99.

30     Giambattista Tiepolo, The rape of Europa, 1743, oil on canvas, 75.0 x 66.0 cm, collection of Sir Steven Runciman, London; Morassi, 1962, p. 18.

31     It is important to note that Algarotti and his contemporaries deemed the original Rape of Europa to be by Veronese himself. In 1960, however, Michael Levey re-assigned the attribution to Veronese’s workshop (see Michael Levey, ‘Two paintings by Tiepolo from the Algarotti Collection’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 102, no. 687, 1960, pp. 250–3; see also Terisio Pignatti & Filippo Pedrocco, Veronese, vol. 1, Electa, Milan, 1995, p. 357). The issue regarding the lack of distinction by eighteenth-century artists and patrons between the hand of Veronese’s workshop and the maestro himself is also pertinent to consideration of the Melbourne Moses.

32     Giambattista Tiepolo, Christ & the Magdalen in the House of Simon the Pharisee, 1760–61, oil on canvas, 132.0 x 159.0 cm, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (see Pignatti & Pedrocco, p. 136). The Veronese painting is now in the Galleria Sabauda, Turin. Tiepolo makes references to the Cena in his letters to Algarotti on 16 March and 4 April 1761 (Morassi, 1962, p. 11).

33     Algarotti to Brühl, Venice, 17 June 1743, HstA, loc. 18213, cap. vii, nr. 27, 3; see Hans Posse, ‘Die Briefe des Grafen Francesco Algarotti an den Sächsischen Hof und seine Bilderkäufe für die Dresdner Gemäldegaleries 1743–47’, in Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, vol. 52, 1931, p. 41. In July of the same year Algarotti wrote further to Brühl: ‘J’ai consulté particulerement Tiepolo qui a etudié toujours et invite si bien la maniere de Paul Veroneze’ (Algarotti, letter, HStA, loc 379, 25; Posse, 1931, p. 45).

34     Anderson, p. 103.

35     Antonio Morassi to Ursula Hoff, 31 Aug. 1959, National Gallery of Victoria files.

36     For a full discussion, see Tomory, pp. 476–85.

37     See M. Loh, ‘New and improved: Repetition as originality in Italian Baroque practice and theory’, Art Bulletin, vol. 86, no. 3, 2004, pp. 477–504.

38     Tomory, p. 478, convincingly discusses the European transmission of this Veronesean visual vocabulary with prints and book illustrations.

39     The details for the Recueil Crozat are: Joseph Antoine Crozat, Pierre-Jean Mariette & François Basan, Recueil d’estampes d’après les plus beaux tableaux et d’après les plus beaux desseins qui sont en France: dans le Cabinet du Roi, dans celui de Monseigneur le Duc d’Orleans, & dans d’autres cabinets: divisé suivant les différentes écoles: Avec un abrégé de la vie des peintres, & une description historique de chaque tableau, Paris, 1729.

40     See François-Bernard Lépicié, Catalogue Raisonné des Tableaux du Roy, Paris, 1752, cat. no. 11, pp 100–1. This painting had been in France since before 1683 when the Duchess of Crequy sold it, probably to Neret de la Ravoye, who in turn sold it to Loius XIV in 1685 (see Laura de Fuccia, ‘La satira À Vignon di Jacques Dulorens (1580–1655) e il Mosé salvato dalle acque di Paolo Veronese’, Bulletin de l’Association des historiens de l’Art Italien, no. 10, 2004, pp. 45–56). See also Edme Jeurat, The Finding of Moses, 1729–42, etching, 4.40 x 5.98 cm, Pierre-Jean Mariette, Paris; Recueil Crozat, Paris, 1729–42, plate XIV.

41     This version had been in France since at least 1633 (De Fuccia, pp. 44–8). See also Pierre Brebiette, The Finding of Moses, 1740, etching, 2.6 x 4.3 cm, reproduced in Notes Mss sur les Peintres et les Graveurs, Pierre-Jean Mariette, Paris, 1740, p. 300.

42     Francis Haskell, Patrons and Painters: A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1980, p. 349. For more regarding the professional relationship between both Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, their mentor and middleman, Antonio Maria Zanetti, and Mariette himself, see Lina Christina Frerichs, ‘Mariette et les eaux-fortes des Tiepolo’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. 78, no. 6, 1971, pp. 233–52.

43     Morassi, p. 23.

44     This black woman is a significant component of all Veronese’s variations on the theme of The Finding of Moses. Lépicié notes her presence in both the Dijon and Lyon versions. In Dijon, ‘il fait voir le moment où la fille de Pharaon regardé avec plaisir le petit Moyse, qu’elle a fait retirer de l’eau par un Nègre placé sur le premier plan’ (One must see the moment where Pharoah’s daughter looks with pleasure upon young Moyse, who on her orders had been pulled out of the water by the black one situated in the foreground.) Lépicié, p. 100.

45     De Fuccia, pp. 44–8.

46     Translated by the writer from Algarotti, 1963 edn, pp. 94–5: ‘E il pittore, per meglio appunto ottenere il fine dell’arte sua, che è lo inganno, dee tenersi lontano dal mescolare il moderno con l’antico, il nostrale col forestiero, dal mettere insieme cose che ripugnano tra loro e non possono altrimenti acquistarsi fede. Allora solamente altri crederà di trovarsi come presente al sogetto, quando le cose tutte ch’entrano nella composizione di esso, si trovino d’accordo tra loro, quando non venga dalla scena del quadro contraddetta in niun punto l’azione. Le circostanze o sia gli accessori, che porranno sotto gli occhi la trovata di Mosè dentro alle acque del Nilo, non saranno già le rive di un canale con dei filari di pioppi, con dei casamenti all’italiana, ma bensì le sponde di un gran fiume ombrate di gruppi di palme, una sfinge o un Dio Anubi che si vegga nel paese, una qualche piramide che spunti qua e là nello indietro. E generalmente parlando, prima di por mano sulla tela o sulla carta, il pittore ha da trasferirsi con la fantasia in Egitto, a Tebe, a Roma; e immaginando abiti, fisonomie, fabbriche, siti, piante, quali si convegno al soggetto che intende di esprimere e al luogo dell’azione, ha poi da trasferirvi lo spettatore con la magia della rappresentazione’.

47     Carl Villis, email to the author, 15 Sept. 2005.

48     ‘There is no doubt that during his long career, Tiepolo had a number of skilled painters who devoted themselves to working mimetically alongside him in the execution of his most onerous projects. These artists included Giovanni Raggi from Bergamo, Francesco Zugno and Giustino Menescardi from Milan. All worked with Tiepolo during the 1740s’ (Filippo Pedrocco, Tiepolo: The Complete Paintings, New York, 2002, p. 107).

49     Johann Balthasar Bullinger, quoted in Pedrocco, p. 107.