I am trying to find the pre-1928 provenance of this 18th-century oil
portrait, and if possible determine the sitter:
Portrait Background: On 1 October 1928, Ugo Bardini (son of the
internationally renowned art collector and connoisseur Stefano
Bardini) sold this portrait to the art dealer ?Thos. Agnew & Sons,
London.? The canvas, signed B. N. De La Pierre [Nicholas-Benjamin
Delapierre] and dated 1785, measures 29-1/2 inches (height) by 24-1/2
inches (width). It shows an 18th-century gentleman sitting at a desk
and beginning to write on a single sheet of paper. On the desk in the
foreground is a copy of ?De la Caisse d?Escompte,? a financial
pamphlet published on 17 May 1785 by the famous French orator and
statesman Mirabeau (Honore-Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau). The
Delapierre painting does not depict Mirabeau, as can be seen by
comparison with the following image of Mirabeau:
The Delapierre painting was subsequently sold by Thos. Agnew & Sons to
the renowned art collector and New York Philharmonic Orchestra
conductor Josef Stransky (5 March 1929); passed to Stransky?s widow
upon his death (6 March 1936); sold at auction by Parke-Bernet
Galleries in New York to the wealthy entrepreneur and art collector
Mr. O. Roy Chalk (16 October 1954) following Mrs. Stransky?s death;
passed to Mrs. O. Roy Chalk (Claire Chalk) upon Mr. Chalk?s death (1
December 1995); and most recently sold at auction by Mrs. Chalk at C.
G. Sloan & Company in Bethesda, Maryland, on 14 April 1996. (Mrs.
Chalk died at age 95, on 1 May 2006.)
Stefano Bardini died in 1922, and the portrait in question may have
been owned by him and passed to his son Ugo upon Stefano?s death. If
Stefano owned the painting, it might have been documented and
photographed for the Museo Bardini archive in Florence, Italy.
Stefano created this photographic archive of his massive holdings in
the 19th century?the first ?museum? photographic archive created on
such a large scale. The portrait might be recorded among the more
than 8,000 photographs and negatives stored there. But Museo Bardini
currently is closed for restoration, and I have not been able to
access their records.
The painting does not appear to be mentioned in Everett Fahy?s
compilation book, ?L?Archivio Storico Fotografico Di Stefano Bardini?
[?The Historical Photographic Archive of Stefano Bardini?], published
in 2000. This source contains 810 illustrations, encompassing many of
Stefano Bardini?s holdings.
Artist Background: Nicholas Benjamin Delapierre (1739-circa 1800) was
well-known and highly regarded in the second half of the 18th century.
Although he began and ended his painting career in France?he was a
student of Carle van Loo and of Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin?for many
intervening years he painted in Russia. He was active in Moscow
(1767), and later in St. Petersburg (1768-?), where he taught at the
Imperial Academy. In 1770 he became the ?title agree? at the Academy
for a portrait of Catherine II, and also became ?royal
painter??executing portraits of the principal members of the imperial
By 1786 Delapierre had returned to France and was well-established in
Lyon, where he exhibited four of his portraits at the ?Salon des Arts?
of Lyon (25 August 1786 ? 11 September 1786). Earlier, he might have
attended the month-long ?Salon de 1785? biennial art exposition in
Paris that began on 25 August 1785, because this event was enormously
popular among artists and art enthusiasts and attracted people from
all over Europe. But I have found no specific evidence indicating
that Delapierre was there or had anything on exhibit.
Question: Using sources at your disposal, can you tell me from whom
the Bardinis (either Stefano or Ugo) acquired this 1785 Delapierre
portrait? I will pay the research fee plus the maximum tip for
verifiable documentation indicating who sold the painting to either
Bardini, or for verifiable documentation naming the sitter depicted in
the portrait. I will pay the same fee and tip for verifiable
documentation indicating any possessor of this painting prior to its
ownership in the Bardini family (including dealers, exhibitors, or