Two important Spanish paintings will be on view at Sotheby’s in the days preceding the Old Masters Evening Sale on 3 July.
The sale will feature a portrait of Donna Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj (1591–1657) likely painted by Velázquez during his second roman period. Donna Olimpia was an enormously influential figure at the court of pope Innocent X, sometimes referred to in sources as the ‘Papessa’ (lady pope). In the collection of Cardinal Pompeo Aldrovandi by 1724, the painting was later misattributed to the Dutch school and remained unseen for several years. Unusually for a work of this date, the painting’s commission is recorded in great detail in a letter written by Francesco Gualenghi, a resident of Modena living in Rome, to Francesco I d’Este, Duke of Modena (1610–1658) on 13 July 1650: ‘On Monday Sra Donna Olimpia was occupied all day with various ladies…in fact I mean that after lunch on Monday she allowed for her portrait to be painted by a very talented Spanish painter, who is said to be chamberlain to the King of Spain.’
Ribera’s celebrated painting A Girl with a Tambourine will also be offered in the sale. The work is thought to be a personification of the sense of hearing, and to have formed part of a lost series dedicated to the five senses. It is likely a pendant to Laughing drinker with a bottle, once in the Spanish royal collection. While Ribera painted several personifications of the sense of hearing, this is his only signed representation of the subject. The artist’s allegories of the senses are novel in their composition, as he focused on ragged peasants and vivid, everyday figures rather than idealised beauty. This painting is a particularly striking example of Ribera’s ability to capture expression with empathy and skill.