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Home | Articles | Ottavio Leoni, Portrait of the Countess Cantalmaggio

textOttavio Leoni, also known as Ottaviano, Il Padovano, or Il Paduano (Rome, 1578–1630)
Portrait of the Countess Cantalmaggio
Black, red, and white chalk on blue-gray laid paper
8 1/4 x 5 3/4 inches (217 x 146 mm)
Numbered by the artist in brown ink on lower left of recto: 149
Dated by the artist in brown ink on lower left and center of recto: agosto 1619
Inscribed by the artist in brown ink on upper center of verso: Contessa Cantalmaggio
Provenance available
Courtesy of L’Antiquaire and the Connoisseur

Ottavio Leoni, the son of medallist Ludovico Leoni (1542–1612), attended L’Accademia di San Luca in 1604 and was appointed its principal in 1614. Leoni later became a member of L’Accademia dei Virtuosi del Pantheon. In 1628 he presented an oil portrait of Gregory XV to the academy. However, he became famous not for oils, but for his series of drawings depicting members of seventeenth-century Rome’s most powerful noble families, such as this drawing of Countess Cantalmaggio. He also portrayed artists, writers, and lay people.

Although the present portrait, which recently emerged from a French private collection, was unknown when art historian J.T. Spike compiled his Leoni exhibition catalogue for the Ringling Museum in 1984, the artist’s number 149 and the date of 1619 allow its insertion in the aforementioned series of more than 400 portraits that the artist executed within fifteen years. Leoni dated and numbered many of his works, thereby demonstrating the sequence in which the drawings were made. Spike’s exhibition list mentions two portraits of unknown men, both in Berlin’s Kupferstichkabinet: One is numbered 137 and dated April 1619; the other is numbered 151 and dated September 1619. The elegant Countess was evidently drawn within this period.

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