Bacchus, Temperance and Cupid
After receiving a literary education, Giovanni Maria Bottalla was sent by his father to study painting in Rome. There he came into contact with cardinals Francesco Barberini and Giulio Sachetti, the last of whom became his patron and gave him the nickname Raffaellino and the important opportunity of studying under Pietro da Cortona. Bottalla worked as an assistant to Da Cortona, probably with Romanelli, on the frescoes in the Villa Sachetti at Castel Fusano, Rome and on the ceiling of the salone of the Palazzo Barberini, where he was probably responsible for painting the monochrome parts. According to Baldinucci’s highly coloured account, Bottalla and Romanelli attempted to take advantage of Da Cortona’s absence in Florence, where he was working on the Sala di Stufa of the Pitti Palace, to try to oust him from the Palazzo Barberini commission and take his place, but were thwarted when Da Cortona suddenly returned and destroyed all the cartoons. Though this story is probably apochryphal, it is quite possible, as Manzitti has suggested that the two assistants were responsible for making certain changes in Da Cortona’s absence which led to a rift between the artists and may account for Bottalla’s subsequent departure for Naples. There were other, aesthetic reasons, why Bottalla may have quarrelled with Pietro da Cortona. Temperamentally Bottalla was a much more classicising painter than Da Cortona, influenced by the work of contemporaries in Rome such as Poussin, by the art of the High Renaissance, above all Raphael, and also by Annibale Carracci’s Farnese Ceiling. During this period in Rome Bottalla also painted a number of easel paintings, including two canvasses for the Sacchetti Family of the Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau and Joseph Sold into Slavery by his Brothers, both now in the Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome.

In the early 1640s, after a brief sojourn in Rome, Bottalla moved to Genoa. There he painted a Deucallian and Pirra (Museu Nacional de Bellas Artes, Rio de Janiero) and, probably around the same moment, a recently published painting of Bacchus and Ariadne on the Island of Naxos, which was included in an exhibition in 2005 at the Maison d’ Art, Montecarlo. In 1643 Bottalla embarked upon what was to be his last commission: a mythological fresco cycle in the Palazzo Ayrolo Negrone, Genoa, which shows a return to the classicising style of Annibale Carracci and the clear inspiration of the Palazzo Farnese. By a fatal irony, it was while at work on the figure of Atropos cutting off the thread of life, that Bottalla was struck down by a terminal illness.

The Colnaghi painting, with its frieze-like composition and bright colouring, has much in common with these late classicising works which hark back to the High Renaissance. Moreover the strong affinities between our picture and, in particular, the Montecarlo Bacchus and Ariadne, support an attribution to Bottalla and a dating to the early 1640s. The almost caricatural painting of Bacchus’s panther with the rather “hang-dog” expression in its eyes is very similar to that of the panther nearest the viewer in the Montecarlo painting, and the facial type of the figure of Temperance, with her long straight nose and pursed lips, is similar to that of the left hand bacchante in the Montecarlo picture, while the muscular anatomy and slightly, almost Strozzi-esque physiognomy of Bacchus, is comparable with that of the figure of Deucallian in the Deucallian and Pirra (Museu Nacional de Bellas Artes, Rio de Janiero) and the heavily muscular figure of Bacchus also has some affinities with Bottalla’s ignudi in the Palazzo Ayrolo Negrone. The fact that both the Colnaghi picture and the Montecarlo painting have a Spanish provenance, are the same width and are connected iconographically may just be coincidental, but there is a possibility that they may have been commissioned at the same time along with five other pictures from the de Velasco Collection sold recently at auction illustrating Hercules with Justice, Peace Crowning Learning, The Head of Argus Presented to Juno and Juno Appearing to Io and Argus, themes that would have been appropriate for a dining-room or a library. The iconography of the painting is intriguing and very unusual. It was formerly thought to represent Bacchus and Ariadne and (?) Cupid in a Landscape. Representations of Ariadne filling Bacchus’s wine cup are not uncommon , the subject being connected with the marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne, but here it would seem to be water rather than wine that is being poured into his cup from a jug that has been filled from a Roman Vase depicting the suitably watery theme of Pan chasing Syrinx. The iconography of the boy remains mysterious, but the figure of the woman, who is clothed, rather than naked and more demure than in traditional depictions of the marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne, more probably represents Temperance . The meaning of the painting would seem to be an encouragement to water down one’s wine and an exhortation to Temperance, a theme consistent with the high-minded iconography of the other paintings formerly in the de Velasco Collection.




Possibly in the collection of Don Miguel Martinez de Pinillos y Saenz de Velasco during the early 19th century, but probably acquired by his son Don Antonio Martinez de Pinillos (1865 - 1923), Cadiz. By direct descent to his daughter Doña Carmen Martinez de Pinillos, Cadiz; thence by family descent to the previous owners.
Dimensions
Height 116.50 cm (45.87 inches)
Width 161.00 cm (63.39 inches)
Medium
Oil on canvas
P & D Colnaghi & Co Ltd

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