This is a modello (a preparatory sketch of an entire composition) for a large picture commissioned to celebrate the marriage of Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine, and Anna Maria Luisa de‘ Medici, daughter of Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, which had taken place in 1691.
The groom, dressed in Roman costume with a plumed helmet, is surrounded by mythological figures. The goddess Juno blesses the marriage flame, tended by Hymen, god of marriage. The bride approaches from the left, her head lowered to suggest modesty and subservience, both seen as wifely virtues.
In 1713–14 Pellegrini worked on a series of 14 pictures that celebrated Johann’s life and reign, which were intended for Bensberg Palace, near Düsseldorf. This series (now in the Schleissheim Palace, near Munich) is generally considered his most important work. Pellegrini travelled extensively throughout his career and in doing so established himself as one of the most sought-after decorative painters in Europe during the early eighteenth century.
The subject is treated as an allegory. Surrounded by mythological figures, the groom stands centre stage dressed in Roman costume with a plumed helmet, while his bride, wearing a yellow gown, approaches from the left, escorted by her maid and several armed guards. Her head is lowered to suggest her modesty and subservience, both seen as wifely virtues. The goddess Juno, patron of faithfulness in marriage blesses the marriage flame, which is tended by Hymen, god of marriage. Iris, goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods, appears high up in the sky; she was considered an important link between humans and the gods. In the foreground, two water nymphs disturb a pair of swans, which are a symbol of courtship. On the right, classical columns and a weighty red curtain held by winged cherubs frame the scene and give it the appearance of a stage, with actors performing a play.
In 1713–14 Pellegrini worked on a series of 14 pictures that celebrated Johann’s life and reign, which were intended for Bensberg Palace, near Düsseldorf. This series (now in the Schleissheim Palace, near Munich) is generally considered his most important and ambitious work. This sketch was likely made shortly after the artist arrived in Düsseldorf in 1713 to start work on Johann’s commission. It may have been presented to Johann for his approval, giving him an idea of the artist’s capabilities and allowing him to decide if he wanted changes. There is little difference between the composition of this sketch and the final painting, suggesting that the design was well established at this stage.
Pellegrini travelled almost continuously for more than 20 years and in doing so established himself as one of the most sought-after decorative painters in Europe during the early eighteenth century, together with his Italian contemporaries Sebastiano Ricci and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. After spending three years in Düsseldorf, he worked in Holland, Flanders and Vienna before returning to his home of Venice.
This sketch uses a relatively muted colour palette, with vivid reds and yellows to pick out figures and key details, such as the groom and the wedding flame. The pink-tinged clouds and faded blue sky are commonly found in Venetian painting during the early eighteenth century.
Download an 800px wide, 72dpi copy of this image.
License and download a high resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.
This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.
Examples of non-commercial use are:
The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.
As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.
You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.