Artist active in Lombardy in the first quarter of the seventeenth century
Still life with fruits, vegetables and vase with flowers on a stone shelf
Oil on canvas cm. 115 x 170
Data sheet of Dr. Gianluca Bocchi
The great Still Life with fruits, vegetables and vase with flowers on a stone shelf presented here is an unprecedented work to be ascribed to the current of Lombard naturalism of the first quarter of the seventeenth century, with particular reference to the area between Cremona and Milan.
This is the geographical area where Vincenzo Campi had conceived at the end of the sixteenth century his well-known scenography with the sellers and sellers of fruits, poultry, fish and more. These paintings, based on crafts and the popular narration of Flemish taste, were soon supplanted by others conceived without the intervention of human figures, more specifically adhering to nature in pose.
While in Milan, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, small and elegant fruit compositions appeared and met with considerable success presented on metal backsplashes and inside ceramic crespine entrusted to the skilled brushes first of Galicia Faith and then of Panfilo Nuvolone, In the rest of the Po plain and mainly in the Cremona area, lesser known painters continued to arrange fruits, vegetables and flowers in the manner of Vincenzo Campi, to single homogeneous groups or mixed together on stone shelves and wooden tables. We have numerous examples of these small paintings with the elements depicted vertically, with a visual grip from top to bottom according to an unconstrained perspective.
In past years, literature has always framed such small compositions with an almost metaphysical appearance within the school of Vincenzo Campi, sometimes even crediting them to Vincenzo himself. These were approximations induced by the lack of information on the existence of other characters little or not at all known and the kind of depictions to which they applied.
To stay in Cremona, an artist to be investigated more in depth would certainly Pietro Martire Alberti, of which we have certain news until the year 1631. Of this painter we know two paintings preserved at the Museo Civico Ala Ponzone very different from each other, one signed depicting Bouquet of turnips, thistle, roots and garlic, the other copper Rinfrescatoio with bottle of wine, bunch of grapes and biscuits (G. Bocchi-U. Bocchi, Naturaliter. New contributions to still life in northern Italy and Tuscany between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Calenzano 1998, pp. 56-57, figs. 43-44). The reconstruction of his artistic production has been tackled in recent years with the recovery of other paintings but has not yet been formalized in a publication.
The illustration of these paintings explains well the attitude of their authors to work in small and justifies a realization of larger scenographies, on the model of the one presented here, by the combination of homogeneous groups of fruits and vegetables, almost always without visual overlaps, sign of a compositional archaism typical of the Lombard school of the beginning of the century. They are fantasy settings dominated by a precise illustrative rigor, to which the neutral backdrops give, as already mentioned, an almost metaphysical aura, alien to decorative intent.
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