This beautifully worked black chalk portrait of Carlo della Torre di Rezzonico was made shortly after his election to the Papacy in 1758.
The drawing is signed and inscribed by the young engraver Francesco Bartolozzi. Rezzonico was from a wealthy Venetian family and was therefore undoubtedly known to Bartolozzi who was then studying in Venice under the prolific engraver and publisher Giuseppe Wagner. The drawing is a rare and significant early work by Barolozzi, made in the decade before he moved to Britain. Bartolozzi moved to London in 1763, becoming a founding Royal Academician and establishing a hugely successful career as a reproductive engraver. This incisive drawing was made when Bartolozzi was establishing his reputation, it shows what a talented and incisive draughtsman he was. The softly hatched image captures the new Pope in an act of benediction. Engraved by Wagner in 1758 the print was clearly made to capitalise on the recent elevation of the Venetian cardinal. Wagner himself offered a powerful commercial model for the ambitious Bartolozzi. Wagner had accompanied the Venetian painter Jacopo Amigoni to London in the 1730s where he had operated a successful print shop.