Auction House

Auction: Old Master Paintings

08. November 2022, 3:00 pm

Object overview


Francesco Fontebasso

(Venedig 1709 - 1769 Venedig)

„Saint Barbara (Design for the altarpiece of the Church of St. Francis in Corfu)“
c. 1739
oil on canvas
42 x 34 cm


Galerie St. Lucas, Vienna, 1974/75;
collection Erna Weidinger (1923–2021)


Winter 1974/75 Vienna, Galerie St. Lucas, old master paintings, no. 26


Marina Magrini, Francesco Fontebasso, Vicenza 1988, p. 224, cat. no. 237, ill. 30 and p. 135, under no. 38

Estimate: € 15.000 - 30.000
Reserve Price: € 15.000 + fees + if applicable Droit de Suite

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With a sword in one hand and the martyr's palm in the other, Saint Barbara, depicted as a noble virgin, stands in a fallow landscape. Behind her, her most prominent attribute, the tower of her imprisonment, rises into the sky overlaid by a dramatic group of clouds. Above the sublime martyr, surrounded by moving fabric, the putti, typical of Fontebasso and richly varied in their depiction, hover in the glistening sunlight breaking through the clouds.
Popularly known as one of the "three holy maidens", along with Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch, Barbara is invoked as the patron saint of miners and artillery, among other things, which is the origin of the cannon barrel depicted as an attribute.
Francesco Fontebasso is considered the most talented pupil of Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734). The decorative artistry, highlighted both by his mastery of expressive foreshortening and the intensity and vibrancy of the colours in his works, earned him a leading role in the great period of Venetian Rococo until the middle of the 18th century. According to Marina Magrini, the present painting is a preparatory study for an altarpiece in the church of St. Francis in Corfu, which is dated 1739 (Magrini 1988, p. 135).