Alessandro Magnasco,

Il Lissandrino

(1667 – Genoa –  1749 )



Saint Ambrose standing in a niche - 

en grisaille, a bozzetto


Oil on paper, laid down to canvas

15 x 7 1/8 inches (38.1 x 18.1 cm)


Property from the Estate of Giancarlo Baroni; Sotheby’s, London, 29 January 2013, lot 13; Christie’s, London, 7 July 2017, lot 209.



L. Muti & D. De Sarno Prignano, Magnasco, Faenza, 1994, p. 227, cat. No. 153, fig. 312 (with incorrect dimensions of 85 x 61 cm).


The following note was written for the Christie’s catalogue:

Muti and De Sarno Prignano recognized this vibrant depiction of St Ambrose as a later work of Alessandro Magnasco, executed around 1725-1726 (op. cit.). For the painting of the following lot, showing Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Guelfi endorsed an attribution to Magnasco in 2013, suggesting its execution in the 1720s. Featuring the same dimensions and closely resembling each other in compositions, both these small canvases might have originally belonged to a group of grisaille paintings depicting the four great Latin Fathers of the Church and were probably intended as preparatory bozzetti for sculptures or large-scale paintings. Another series by Magnasco, designed for a private chapel around 1715-1720, displays figures of the Twelve Apostles, similarly placed within illusionistic stone niches (F.F. Guelfi, ‘La pittura di Alessandro Magnasco dalle fonti figurative e culturali alle tenebre della realtà’, Alessandro Magnasco 1667-1749, Milan, 1996, pp. 24 and 26, illustrated). 

Trained by Filippo Abbiati in Milan, Magnasco’s early works were influenced by the dramatic and contrasting style of seventeenth century artists from Lombardy. Swift and disjointed brushstrokes, an almost monochromatic palette and broad impasto became characteristic for his later oeuvre, which inspired artists such as Guiseppe Bazzani, Marco Ricci and Francesco Guardi.