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Giuseppe Cades

Italian (active Rome), 1750 - 1799

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Giuseppe Cades was born in 1750 and died at age forty-nine in his native city, Rome. He was outstanding for his variety and originality during the closing decades of the eighteenth century. Like Vincenzo Camuccini, a fellow Roman painter some twenty years his senior, Cades was remarkably precocious, winning conspicuous prizes for drawing before he was sixteen. Also like Camuccini, he enrolled as a student in the studio of Domenico Corvi but was expelled for some unacceptable display of independence.

Having departed from the standard route to professional advancement, Cades's career followed an eccentric path for some years. Capitalizing on his astonishing facility as a draughtsman, he began producing drawings "in the manner of old masters" to sell to the hoards of tourists seeking cultural souvenirs of the Eternal City at a time when the supply of actual old master drawings was fast drying up (though he never claimed these works as originals, some were artificially aged).

Another important ingredient in the Roman brew at this time, and one that had an impact on Cades's work, was the influx of artists into the city from all over Europe. An international coterie had assembled, which ranged from such Neoclassicists as Anton Raphael Mengs and Gavin Hamilton to eccentrics like Henry Fuseli, Johan Tobias Sergel, and Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard. Jacques-Louis David's presence in the city from 1775 to 1780 and in 1784 had a profound effect on Rome's artistic life. All these shifting currents manifested themselves in the young Cades through a remarkable drawing style that metamorphosed standard classical subjects into drawings of lyrical intensity. He could adopt such Neoclassical accoutrements as pure linearity and a preference for Roman profiles at will, but the results bore the unmistakable imprint of his original mind.

By the 1780s Cades had established a foothold in the official world of Roman patronage. His fame spread, and in 1784 he produced four mythological pictures for Catherine the Great's summer palace at Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg. His acceptance by the art officialdom of Rome was finally signaled by his election to the Accademia di San Luca in 1786. He continued to produce graceful decorative schemes for Roman palaces and villas and was greatly in demand as a painter of altarpieces for churches throughout the Papal States until the end of his life in 1799.

Cades was a prolific draughtsman, and significant groups of his drawings have been preserved in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon; the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett; the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg; and the Hungarian National Museum, Budapest. When Anthony Clark published his now-classic study of Cades's drawings in 1964, he stated: "No biography of Cades is known and the literature is all but non-existent" (Clark, Anthony M. "An Introduction to the Drawings of Giuseppe Cades." Master Drawings, vol. 2, no. 1 {l964}, p. 18). Clark continued to work on the artist's drawing style and chronology acquiring some sixteen sheets for his own collection, many of which formed part of his 1978 bequest to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2004), cat. 54.

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