Lot 76

Mary of Egypt
oil on canvas
38 3/4 x 52 in. (98.4 x 132.1 cm.)

Anonymous sale; Christie’s, Rome, 3 June 1997, lot 430.

Karin Wolfe has confirmed the attribution after first-hand inspection.

This is an autograph version of the original in the Galleria Nazional d’Arte Antica, Rome. Though the subject of the prime version is described as being Mary Magdalene, it has recently been discovered that both the present lot and the version in Rome include three loaves of bread, traditionally the only food that Mary of Egypt took with her into the desert after her conversion to Christianity. 

The story of St. Mary of Eygpt originated in Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend. She was a prostitute in ancient Alexandria before she went to Jerusalem, where she became a Christian. She lived in the desert as a hermit, going without food for years. According to the Legend, the three loaves of bread lasted her for seventeen years.

Francesco Trevisani was taught how to draw by his father Antonio, an architect, and trained under the artist Antonio Zanchi (1631-1722) in Venice. He settled in Rome and counted Cardinal Flavio Chigi (1631-1693) and Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740), nephew of Pope Alexander VIII, amongst his patrons. Ottoboni was Trevisani’s most significant supporter for over 35 years. Trevisani shared the Cardinal’s enthusiasm for art in all its forms, in addition to being a painter, he was also a poet, amateur actor and dramatist. By 1713 Trevisani became one of the most prolific and prosperous painters in Rome. His works were greatly in demand from the clergy, Roman nobility and across Europe.

Estimate: £5,000-£7,000