Maximilian Pfeiler (active Rome, circa 1694-circa 1721 Budapest)
Still life with peaches, grapes, figs and pomegranate
Oil on canvas, cm H 63,5 x W 47. With frame cm H 97,5 x W 85 x W 7,5
The canvas, of fine workmanship, represents a still life composed of a splendid composition of fruit set in an open space, of which we see some elements transpire on the bottom. At the centre of the canvas are placed, on a silver plate, peaches, figs and grapes. In the background, resting on stone steps, is depicted a rich bunch of white grapes, behind which lush foliage of trees are the background and fifth to the composition. In the foreground, next to the figs, there are white climbing bells. On the right, a pomegranate is partially depicted, as if it were partly hidden by the frame, useful expedient for the painter to enliven the composition and involve the observer as if it were part of the depicted environment.
The work is undoubtedly attributable to the still-life painter Maximilian Pfeiler, active in Rome in the early eighteenth century in the orbit of Christian Berentz (Hamburg 1658- Rome 1722) and documented from 1694 to 1721. There are still few documents related to his training and his life and artistic career. However Gianluca Bocchi and Ulisse Bocchi in 2000 draw a detailed examination of his works and those that can be returned, with reasonable certainty, to his body of works. It emerges the inclination of the artist to propose representations of naturalia decorative aspect supported by a talented pictorial performance expressed with "free and loose pictorial discursiveness". His artistic personality is autonomous, although he demonstrates the knowledge of Roman layout used by other contemporary painters.
The attendance of the great master Christian Berentz was a milestone in the formation of Pfeiler, able to motivate the refinement of his works and the scenic and capricious compositions of the mature period. According to a tradition of naturamortists, he used cartoons prepared in the workshop, proposing in his paintings typical and characteristic elements.
The painting presented here brings together many of the motifs experimented by Pfeiler during his successful activity. Some of them - figs and other fruits reflected on a silver plate; reddish peaches with long curled leaves; the sliced melon placed on a tray, the embroidered tablecloth - derive from the patterns of its first master, that Pfeiler includes in his repertoire, tirelessly combining them in increasingly exuberant compositions, typical of the decorative instances of late-Baroque still life.
The work in question can be traced back to a body of small-format works commissioned for the Roman bourgeois salons. For the variety of motifs and the quality with which they were made, this painting is particularly close to a painting in private collection, and placed here in comparison, in which we find the same characterizing elements and a composition quite similar. The comparison between the two canvases shows some variations, such as the lemons in the foreground, a pear between the bells and a leaf positioned in place of a fig. In the background, behind the bunch of black grapes, the painter inserts a pomegranate. Maximilian Pfeiler in his most mature production creates highly complex and rich compositions, in which he inserts putti, carpets, crystals and opulent sets of flowers and fruits.
Following a fashion that was very popular in Rome in the second decade of the eighteenth century, the artist collaborates with figurative artists for the creation of large decorative canvases. Among these we mention the paintings of the Count of Schönborn in Pommersfelden, where the putti are by Francesco Trevisani and the canvases dated 1721 of the museum of Budapest in which it was instead Michele Rocca to collaborate.
The Zeri Photo Library preserves an image of a very similar painting, classified by Federico Zeri as a work attributable to Christian Berentz or to a painter active in Rome in his circle. The photographic archive indicates as the last origin of the work the Museo Stefano Bardini in Florence, belonging to the Corsi collection.
Maximilian Pfeiler acquires a particular technical skill over time and we can now consider him a late Baroque painter "free, loose, exuberant and elegant, with a verve of Roman style pretto, grafted on plants of light dark Nordic, able to achieve results of absolute decorative excellence" (Bocchi, 2000).
The work is presented with a contemporary guilloche frame made of ebonized wood.
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