Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Punchinello
A drawing from Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Punchinello series – estimated at £150,000-200,000 at Dreweatts.

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The sale of the contents of Weston Hall, the seat of the Sitwell family since the early 20th century, is being offered by Dreweatts in Newbury on November 16-17.

The hook-nosed, humpbacked clowns who were stock characters in the 17th century commedia dell’arte, an early form of professional theatre, fascinated Tiepolo and he returned to the subject throughout his long career. He produced over 100 drawings on the theme and many are now in museums. Others have appeared at auction over the years, including Punchinellos feasting that made £995,250 including premium at Christie’s in December 2019.

The sketch at Dreweatts, which was rediscovered in one of the safes at Weston Hall, depicts a group of Punchinelli making gnocchi during the Verona carnival and suffering from the excesses of overindulgence. As part of the city’s custom, young boys from the poorest district of San Zeno, dressed up in costume and gathered at the Palazzo del Podestà to invite the mayor to the town square for a glass of wine and a plate of gnocchi, followed by a fiesta of eating and drinking until dawn.

The sketch had been purchased by the Sitwells at the Henry Oppenheimer sale of Old Master Drawings at Christie’s in 1936 and it is now estimated at £150,000-200,000.

Other lots collected by the Sitwells, the eminent family of writers, eccentrics and creatives, include a Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) portrait estimated at £60,000-100,000 and a rare Ottoman Atlas by Mahmud Raif Efendi described as ‘the first large folio world atlas printed in the Islamic world’ guided at £20,000-30,000.