Saturday, February 7, 2015

Birth of Bacchus

Giulio Romano
Birth of Bacchus

Giulio Romano's bold narrative painting of the 1530s known as The Birth of Bacchus has found its latest home in Los Angeles at the Getty Museum. Juno, in the clouds at upper left, has incited Zeus (with thunderbolts, at upper right) to reveal himself in full splendor to his human paramour, Semele. Poor Semele gives birth to Bacchus (caught in the air by nymphs) at the same instant she is incinerated by exposure to the god's glory.

The journeys of this picture over the past five hundred years have been epic. It endured forced sales during both the English Civil War (when it was seized from Charles I) and during the French Revolution (alienated from a branch of the French royal family). The Getty provides a provenance (summarized below) tracing the picture's fortunes and wanderings. It was back in London during much of the 19th century and went up for auction there three different times without finding a buyer (so deeply did the Victorians dislike and devalue Mannerist painting). After the final unsuccessful auction attempt, in 1859, there is no more news of The Birth of Bacchus until it turns up eighty years later in the hands of a private individual in Los Angeles 

1530s     Federico II Gonzaga, fifth marchese and first duke of Mantua, commissioned from the artist  by inhertiance to his son, Francesco III Gonzaga, 1540

1540-1550     Francesco III Gonzaga, second duke of Mantua  by inheritance to his son, Guglielmo Gonzaga, 1550

1550-1587     Gugliolmo Gonzaga, third duke of Mantua  by inheritance to his son, Vincenzo I Gonzaga, 1587

1587-1612     Vincenzo I Gonzaga, fourth duke of Mantua  by inheritance to his son, Francesco IV Gonzaga, 1612

1612     Francesco IV Gonzaga, fifth duke of Mantua  by inheritance to his son, Ferdinando Gonzaga, 1612

1612-1626     Ferdinando Gonzaga, sixth duke of Mantua  by inheritance to his brother, Vincenzo II Gonzaga, 1626

1626-1627     Vincenzo II Gonzaga, seventh duke of Mantua  sold to Charles I, probably between 1627 and 1632

early 1630s-1650     King Charles I of England  upon his death, held by the Commonwealth

1649-1650     Estate of King Charles I of England  sold, Charles I sale, Somerset House, London, May 3, 1650, to Nicholas Lanier

1650     Nicholas Lanier (London, England)

by 1652     John DeCritz (Austin Friars, London, England)

by 1696     Everhard Jabach (Paris, France)

- 1723     Philippe II, duc d'Orleans, Regent of France  by inheritance to Louis, duc d'Orleans, 1723

1723-1752     Louis, duc d'Orleans  by inheritance to Louis-Philippe, duc d'Orleans, 1752

1752-1785     Louis-Philippe, duc d'Orleans  by inheritance to Louis-Philippe-Joseph, duc d'Orleans, 1785

1785-1792     Louis-Philippe-Joseph, duc d'Orleans  sold to Edouard de Walkuers, 1792

1792     Vicomte Edouard de Walkuers (Brussels, Belgium) -- sold to his cousin, Francois-Louis-Joseph de Laborde-Mereville, 1792

1792-1793     Francois-Louis-Joseph de Laborde-Mereville (Paris, France; London, England) consigned to Jeremiah Harman, 1793

1793-1798     Jeremiah Harman, sold as part of entire Orleans collection of Italian paintings to a consortium of George Granville Leveson-Gower, Frederick Howard, and Francis Egerton, 1798

1798-1800     George Granville Leveson-Gower, first duke of Sutherland, and Frederick Howard, fifth earl of Carlisle, and Francis Egerton, third duke of Bridgewater  possibly in sales exhibition, London, Lyceum in the Strand (December 26, 1798 to possibly August 1799), no. 230, unsold  [possibly sold, Orleans Collection, Coxe Burrell and Foster, London, February 14, 1800, lot 48]

- 1806     Sir Richard Joseph Sullivan, first Bart. (Thames Ditton, Surrey, England) [unsold, Sullivan sale, European Museum, London, December 29, 1806, lot 1898]  by inheritance to Henry Sullivan, 1806

1806-1814     Sir Henry Sullivan, second Bart. (Thames Ditton, Surrey, England)  [unsold, Sullivan sale, Christie's, London, April 9, 1808, lot 12]  by inheritance to his son, Charles Sullivan, 1814

1814-still in 1859     Sir Charles Sullivan, third Bart. (Ember Court, Surrey, England) [unsold, Sullivan sale, Christie's, London, June 18, 1859, lot 62]

1939-1941     O.E. Ruggles (Los Angeles, California)  consigned to Armand du Vannes

1941-     Armand du Vannes (West Hollywood, California)

by 1948     Arnold Prilucker (Los Angeles, Calfiornia)

1948-1969      Paul Metcalf Galleries (Los Angeles, California)  sold to J. Paul Getty Museum, 1969