Oil painting on canvas measuring 90 x 73 cm without frame and 112 x 86 with a wonderful coeval frame, depicting Saint Jerome by the painter Giovanni Battista Merano (Genoa 1632 - Parma 1698); we recognize him for his large red cloak and because he is caught reflecting on the transience of earthly things, with one hand a skull, resting on a book.
He lived long after Peter, being born in Stridone in 347 and dying in Bethlehem in about 419/420: he was a wise man. as he is credited with the first version of the Vulgate, or the Latin translation of the Bible - written in order to make it more widely available - and an anchorite, founder of male and female monasteries, advocate of ecclesiastical celibacy.
We find in the canvas that portrays him many stylistic peculiarities already found in the St. Peter's, indicating that both works were performed by the same hand: we have the same dark background from which the figure emerges with strong volume, here even more vivid and plastically detected. In fact, the lapels of the dress are wider and more animated, giving a certain dynamism to the composition: the wisdom of the foreshortenings and a realistic excavation even more insistent than the matching canvas are striking: see the gnarled hands. nervously articulate in space, or the vigorous brushstrokes that return to the silty and tangible the wrinkles that dig the forehead, the grizzled beard, the important nose, the expression so intense and convincing, with the eyes that seem on the point of dripping tears while they turn to the skull, rendered with remarkable skill both in the foreshortening so difficult at the edge of the trompe l'oeil.
Convincing comparisons allow these two well-known canvases to be returned to Giovanni Battista Merano: I begin with this San Giovanni da San Facondo who purifies the factions of the Capuchin church of Savona, datable to the canonization of 1691 as the protagonist of the altarpiece bears the halo that qualifies as a saint. We find a very similar way of painting the drapery, with rich and continuously moved folds to enhance the volumes of the bodies they cover and the same elongated hands, with well-raised phalanges, foreshortened with diligence, intensely expressive. Furthermore, it is here the same use of an intense light that strongly identifies the figures, coming from my lateral source, which analytically stops on the reverberations it creates to restore the exact location in the pictorial space of the various elements of the composition. expressive verve of the Saint Peter in the face pathetically turned to the sky, with the well-marked features to identify without excessive idealization the physiognomy with prominent nose and chin, a marked light mouth that sparkles on the wrinkles and cheekbones to render the consistency.
We find a similar movement of the vestio where the folds are crisp and curl jagged with the edges a little sharp marked by light shades.
The wrinkled and thin hands, with the bony fingers we find broad correspondences instead with St. Jerome, comparable also with this particular taken from the frescoes already mentioned in Parma: the face of God who gives the tablets of the law to Moses is at the limit of congruence with that of our painting, and despite the difference in size and technique (a painting on the wall) we have the same beards and hair that frame the face flowing and fluffy, the same frowning and grave gaze, not to mention the way in which it is returned, in in this case, the unfolding of the curvilinear mantles for large floors whose volumes are detected by lines of shadow, to enhance their precise and skilful design.
Furthermore, it seems to me that all these works are united by a poetics in the balance between early seventeenth-century influences, between Giovanni Andra de 'Ferrari and a certain classical Emilian culture of which there were very high examples in Genoa (the San Pietro echoes prototypes of Guido Reni) and a formal breadth, a more 'modern' expressive verve.
The white pupils with very dark irises, the languor of the gaze turned to the sky, the red lips and a little fleshy peeking out from the beard, the pointed nose a little rounded and shiny detected by a stroke of white it seems to me that they denounce a same executive technique.
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