Describing Seven Private Collections of Paintings & Sculpture

Carboni, Giovanni Battista (1725-1790)

Le pitture e sculture di Brescia che sono esposte al pubblico : con un'appendice di alcune private gallerie.

Brescia: Dalle stampe di Giambatista Bossini, 1760


Large octavo: Engraved frontis., xxiv-196 p., [1] f Collation: a8, A-M10


A very fine copy with deckled edges bound in original carta rustica. With an engraved allegorical frontispiece, an engraved allegorical vignette on the title, and two small, etched views, the first with a dedication to Luigi Chizzola, who encouraged the writing of the book.

An important guide to the art of Brescia, written by G.B. Carboni, son of the sculptor and engraver Rizzado Carboni. The guide remains a fundamental work for reconstructing the history of Brescian public and private art collections.

Carboni describes all of the churches in the city as well as the artworks in the grand public buildings such as the municipal palazzo and the Biblioteca Queriniana. However, Carboni’s work is of greatest value for the thorough descriptions of the sculpture and paintings in seven private collections: those of Giovanni Molino, bishop of Brescia (1705-1773); the Casa Gaifami; the Maffei “Contrada delle Grazie”; Palazzo Ugeri; Casa Arici; Palazzo Barbisoni-Bessoni “nella strada lunga”; and Palazzo Conti – Avogadri.

1. The collection of Giovanni Molino, bishop of Brescia (1705-1773)

The painting collection of Giovanni Molino, Bishop of Brescia (1705-1773) consisted of 28 works in total, with a number of important artists represented, including Guercino, Guido Reni, Van Dyck, Giorgione, Bernini, Poussin, Rubens, Sebastiano del Piombo, Agostino Carracci, Titian, and Andrea del Sarto. There are also two works attributed to Caravaggio and an oil study by Veronese.

2. Casa Gaifami

The description of the collection in the Casa Gaifami, like several of the others that follow, is valuable not only for its inventory but also because it records the original arrangement of that collection, as well as the decorative program in each room, including the library. The collection consisted of paintings and sculptures, including a number of paintings (some by Giulio Mazzoni “Il Piacentino”) grouped together that reflect the taste of Brescian collectors for still life, pastoral, and animal paintings.

The chapel has two paintings, one by the mannerist Palma Giovane and the other by his great uncle, Palma il Vecchio. There is also a painting by Tiepolo of Scipio freeing Massiva, which Garas has identified as the painting now in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.

3. The Maffei “Contrada delle Grazie”

A large collection of almost 200 paintings, occupying six rooms. Of note are the Three Fates by Tintoretto, Judith and Holofernes by Palma Giovane (now in Brake Castle, Lemgo, Germany), the Rich Man by Bonifacio Bordone (possibly in the Accademia, Florence), Tobias and the Angel by Titian, and an Andromeda Chained attributed to Titian (probably a copy of the masterpiece now in the Wallace Collection.)

4. Palazzo Ugeri (-Fenaroli)

This record of the Collections of Palazzo Ugeri-Fenaroli, located across from Santa Maria della Pace, is especially important because a number of the works were later (in the 19th c.) moved to the Maffei palazzo (see above.) Here are listed some impressive works, including Titian’s portrait of Pope Paul III, a Resurrection on panel by Raphael, and Saint Jerome in the Wilderness on panel by Giorgione.

5. Casa Arici

A fine collection of choice paintings including an Elizabeth of Aragon by Pietro da Cortona, a portrait on wood attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, an Ecce Homo by Bassano, a Supper at Emmaus by Veronese (now in the Louvre), and other paintings by Guido Reni, Pietro da Cortona, Giorgione, Veronese, Caravaggio, Correggio, and Giovanni Bellini.

6. Palazzo Barbisoni-Bessoni

The description of this large collection includes the locations of the paintings, which occupy five large stanze, two passageways, and a spacious gabinetto. This is especially valuable because the palazzo, by the architect Antonio Marchetti, was extensively remodeled in the 19th century. Artists include Pietro da Cortona, Bordone, Guercino, the contemporary Venetian Rococo painter Giambattista Pittoni, and the 16th c. Brescian painters Moretto and Romanino; there is also a painting by Titian’s son Orazio Vecellio, a “Charitas” by Parmigianino, and a painting of the Doge of Venice in armor by Tintoretto.

The first two stanze again reflect the Brescian interest in still life, landscape, and pastoral scenes, and include a set of four paintings of fruit, flowers, hares, and birds by Bernardo Strozzi (“Prete Genovese”), and an unexpected pair of scenes of boats caught in gales, by Matthieu van Plattenberg, a noted Flemish Baroque painter famous for such depictions. The painting was displayed together with two unattributed Flemish landscapes and there are a number of other Flemish paintings throughout the palazzo.

There are an unusual number of perspective paintings and trompe l’oeil effects, among them two perspective sopraporte with columns by a member of the Galli da Bibiena family, a pair by the capriccioso painter Stefano Orlandini, and another by the French Baroque painter Charles Mellin.

The collection also has a number of drawings (including one by Tiepolo), Bolognese needlework portraits, a sudarium attributed to Raphael’s workshop, and, worthy of special note, a painting by José de Ribera and two paintings, now lost, by the Bresian Contessa, Ortensia Poncarali (1732-1811).

Appended to this inventory is a description of the “Boethius diptych”, a sixth-century pair of ivory panels commemorating the elevation of M. Manlius Boethius (father of the philosopher) to consular rank. This includes a description of the diptych, its history, a discussion of the international scholarly debates concerning its date, and the efforts by various other collectors (including Pope Benedict XIV) to acquire it from the Barbisoni family. It was passed down through several heirs until the 20th c., when it was given to the Museo Civico dell’Età Cristiana.

7. Palazzo Conti – Avogadri

Another large collection, more than 100 painting occupying nine rooms, with a few surprises such as a portrait by Velasquez, a Flagellation by Vasari, a Hercules by Rubens, and a Deposition attributed to Mantegna.