The Pentecost
(Gaetano Gandolfi)


This painting is a depiction of the descent of the Holy Ghost to the gathering of the Apostles on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost, as described in Acts, Chapter 2, vv. 1-4. Carlo Volpe (in the catalogue of the 1979 exhibition) described it as Gaetano’s sketch for the altarpiece of the same subject formerly in SS. Giovanni and Paolo in Rimini, destroyed in 1944.[1] This seems entirely likely, although impossible to verify since the Rimini altarpiece seems never to have been photographed or otherwise recorded before its destruction. Oretti,[2] Gaetano’s biographer, reported the altarpiece as inscribed Gaetanus Gandolfi 1766. Mimi Cazort points out that Gaetano’s style in the 1760s was very close to Ubaldo’s and that the painting is certainly by Gaetano.[3] However, according to Volpe nineteenth century guidebooks describe it as a work of Gaetano’s son, Mauro, though some guides just note the painting as being the work of ‘Gandolfi’. If one trusts Oretti, a Mauro hypothesis seems unlikely as Mauro was only born in 1764.[4] In 1976 Mimi Cazort (loc. cit.) discussed a drawing of Aeolus releasing the winds in the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is an early work by Gaetano and in his own hand on the verso is an inscription mentioning a ‘Quadro della Venuta dello spirito santo sopra degli apostoli e terminato . . . che li sara pagato da Quel Signor di Rimini’ with the date 1766. There can be little doubt, therefore, that the Rimini painting was by Gaetano and that our painting is the preparatory model for it.

Giaquinto and Ubaldo were also both conspicuous influences at this time. Gaetano spent the year 1760 in Venice, and the bravura colouristic effects of the exhibited painting testify to the continuing impact of that visit.[5] Gaetano obviously studied Titian’s altarpiece of the same subject in Santa Maria della Salute, although he conceives of a more dramatic composition with a greater emphasis on the figure of the Virgin. A model closer to hand was Francesco Monti’s masterpiece of the subject, painted around 1710 for Santo Spirito in Reggio Emilia, in which the figure of the Virgin is accentuated, although Gandolfi later reacted against its high classicising style. It seems possible that Ubaldo would have remembered the Rimini painting and that it would have served as a point of departure for his own version of the subject, painted in 1774 for the Confraternity of Santo Spirito in Vercelli.

Mimi Cazort has suggested that a drawing in the Cini Foundation for an angel which she previously published as being preparatory for the Santa Maria della Carità altar frontal is more probably a preparatory drawing for this Pentecost.[6]


[1] Carlo Volpe in fact recognised that the bozzetto was for the painting in Rimini after Mimi Cazort suggested this in a letter in 1979 when working together on the Settecento Emiliano exhibition catalogue.

[2] Biblioteca Communale, Bologna, Ms. B. 134 c. 182. Lanzi described the Rimini painting as being by Ubaldo, as did Oretti at one point in his Notizie despite transcribing the signature and date. Thus the sketch becomes a key document in separating the style of the Gandolfi.

[3] Ms. Communication of 6 August 1993. In a Ms.Communication dated 18 Oct.1998 Mimi Cazort states ‘The Mauro attribution is a red herring, only occurring in the 19th century Rimini guidebooks. Lanzi’s confusion of the Gaetano and Ubaldo is more serious, but understandable as in the 1760s their styles were close.’

[4] For a discussion of this question see Giovanna Perini’s introduction to the catalogue of the exhibition Bella Pittura:The Art of the Gandolfi, Ottawa 1993.

[5] Mimi Cazort , in an unpublished Ms. catalogue entry, describes this Pentecost as being important for defining Gaetano’s early free style in paint ‘…the paint is rich and fat, the technique of delineating highlights on the drapery by a calligraphic swirl is an exact corollary of the artist’s pen style of the same years. Gaetano quotes himself in an earlier work in the graceful figure of the angel in the upper left, which is seen in the altar frontal for the Santa Maria della Carità of two years earlier.’ Ms. Communication of 18 Oct. 1998.

[6] Cf. Settecento Emiliano, op.cit., 1979, no.272, fig.283

25 1/4 x 20 1/8 in. 64 x 51 cm
Oil on canvas

PROVENANCE: J. Hahn Collection, Paris.


LITERATURE: M. Cazort, Master Drawings, 1976, vol. XIV, 2, pp.139 and 164, notes 10-11; D. Biagi Maino, ‘La pittura in Emilia Romagna nella seconda metà del Settecento’ in La pittura in Italia: Il Settecento, ed. G. Briganti, Milan, 1989, p. 257 and 1990, I, pp. 282 and 299, note 18; D.Biagi Maino, ‘La pittura in Emilia Romagna nella seconda metà del Settecento: S.Barozzi; J.A.Calvi; U.Gandolfi; G. Gandolfi; M.Gandolfi; G.B.Frulli; D.Pedrini; F.Pedrini; G. Santi’ in La pittura in Italia. Il Settecento, Vol. II. Milan 1990, p. 728; La pittura bolognese del’700. Edited by A.Cera, Milan, 1994, G. Gandolfi, pl. 5; D.Biagi Maino, Gaetano Gandolfi, Turin, 1995, p. 352, no. 30, figs. 36 and 37.

Matthiesen & Stair Sainty Matthiesen, Collectanea 1700-1800, London-New York, 1999, pp. 161-164, ill.


EXHIBITED: Bologna, Palazzi del Podestà e di re Enzo, L’Arte del Settecento Emiliano. La Pittura: L’Accademia Clementina, 8 Set.-25 Nov., 1979. pp.116-7, no.232, pl. 139.
Matthiesen Gallery, London, ‘The Settecento’, 1999

Historical Period
Rococo - 1720-1780
Religious: New Testament
Italian - Bolognese
1987-The Settecento: Italian Rococo and Early Neoclassical Paintings,1700-1800.
An exhibition held on behalf of Aids Crisis Trust (UK) and The American Foundation for Aids Research (USA). Introduction by Charles McCorquordale. Essays by Francis Russell, Edgar Peters Bowron, and Catherine Whistler. 200 pages, 31 colour plates, 88 black and white illustrations. £15 or $23 inc. p.& p.

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