March 7, 2021

The "Papisa" by Velázquez, sold for 2.78 million euros

The picture of the "Lover of the Vatican" by Velázquez, a portrait of Olimpia Pamphilj, sister-in-law and lover of Pope Innocent X – also known as the "Papisa" – which has been lost for almost three centuries and has recently been discovered, has been sold at a Sotheby's auction for 2.78 million euros.

The work, which was part of the bid old masters of painting that the auction house has held this Wednesday in London, has been sold by 2,495,000 pounds (about 2.78 million euros), in the measured area of ​​the estimated price of between 2 and 3 million pounds.

This painting was part of the collection of the VII Marquis of Carpio, Gaspar Méndez de Haro y Guzmán, an "important collector and patron" of the seventeenth century in Italy, and its last record dates from 1724, when it disappeared "without a trace".

The whereabouts of the painting, made during the "golden period" of the artist, was unknown until a work without attribution sold in the 1980s as 'anonymous Dutch School' arrived at the office of Sotheby's Amsterdam, where specialists discovered the numbering on the back and started an investigation process.

In this sense, the senior specialist of Ancient Painting of London James Macdonald He explained that this work was painted in Rome between 1649 and 1650 during Velázquez's second trip to the city, while explaining that it is a representation of "one of the most powerful and dominant women of his time" lost during almost 300 years. For Macdonald, his rediscovery represents a "significant addition" to the work of the Spanish painter.

The Portrait of Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj belongs to a moment in which the artist produced some of his "most famous" masterpieces, including the "Portrait of Innocent X", and reflects "the unique ability of the artist to capture and transmit the personalities of the represented".

Commissioned by or for Olimpia itself, it is documented that the painting has been in the collections of numerous notable figures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, among which stands out the grandson of Cardinal Camillo Massimi, a famous expert and patron of art; that of Gaspar Méndez de Haro y Guzmán, VII Marqués del Carpio, who upon his death had collected more than 1,800 paintings, including at least six paintings by Velázquez.

The discovery

This portrait was documented for the last time next to the famous Velázquez portrait of his grandson, Cardinal Camillo Massimi, in the collection of Cardinal Pompeo Aldrovandi of Bologna and Rome, in 1724.

In this sense, the later ownership of Camillo's portrait is well documented to its current location in Kingston Lacy (Dorset, England), while the records of the portrait of Olympia end in Aldrovandi and the only clue that exists of his whereabouts for nearly 300 years before its reappearance in a Dutch auction house in 1986, it is an old customs stamp on the back of the previous frame, indicating that the painting left Italy in 1911.

Sotheby's specialists in Amsterdam, who recognized the mysterious numbering on the back of the painting as the VII Marquis of Carpio, initiated the process to establish who was the true creator of the work, examining it and following up several inventories of the centuries XVII and XVIII to trace its origin.

Likewise, the painting was shown to different experts in the field, who confirmed the attribution of the work, becoming the portrait in one of the few paintings by the great Spanish artist that remain in private hands, reports Ep.

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