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Art in Eighteenth-Century Rome


Pier Leone Ghezzi
Rome 1674 – 1755 Rome

Four Samples of Classical Polychrome Marbles

watercolor on paper
from top left clockwise:
‘Diaspro Verde Fiorito, 6 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 165 x 210 mm
‘Bianco e negro antico’, 7 5/8 x 9 1/2 inches ,195 x 240 mm
‘Broccatello’, 7 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, 190 x 215 mm
‘Alabastro Orientale’, 7 1/2 x 9 inches, 190 x 230 mm



Private Collection, Italy



To be published by Dr. Adriano Aymonino in his upcoming book by MIT press, Paper Marbles: Pier Leone Ghezzi’s Studio di Molte Pietre (1726).

Ghezzi, in addition to his talents as a caricaturist, designer of ephemeral celebrations such as the ‘fire machine’ erected at the Palazzo Altemps to mark the wedding of Louis XV of France in 1725, and painter of portraits and of altarpieces, was also an enthusiastic and erudite antiquarian. He was close to intellectuals and collectors with similar interests such as Cardinal Alessandro Albani and Francesco De’ Ficoroni and produced a volume of engravings for Cardinal Polignac (see cat. 33–38) of classical remains and numerous drawings of goods from graves, frescoes and sculptures which were being excavated in early 18th-century Rome.

Among the most remarkable of all his drawings is a series of 265 watercolor studies of classical polychrome marble, Studi di Molte Pietre, now in the Biblioteca Universitaria Alessandrina, Rome which are signed by Ghezzi and dated 1726. Each one identifies the stone, as do our sheets, in Ghezzi’s distinctive handwriting beneath the watercolor study. Although our sheets do not appear to be from the same album as the Studi di Molte Pietre, they must have been contemporaneous and related to that project. Ghezzi’s interest in faux marbre is nowhere more evident than in his splendid self-portrait in the Villa Falconieri fresco in Frascati painted in 1727, where we see the splendidly costumed artist turning towards the viewer seated on a parapet before an enfilade of sumptuous, colored marble columns.

We are grateful to Prof. Francesco Leone for the preparation of this entry.❖

Fig. 1 Pier Leone Ghezzi, ‘Alabastro fiorito’ from ‘Studi di Molte Pietre’ album, 1726
Fig. 2 detail of Ghezzi’s self-portrait fresco at Villa Falconieri, Frascati
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