This unpublished composition is a recent addition to Adeodato Zuccati’s catalog. The study of this painting by Gianluca Bocchi, an Italian art historian specializing in Italian still lives, is available upon request.
This composition is typical of the productions of Adeodato Zuccati, an Emilian painter of the second half of the XVII century recently rediscovered. Echoing the Roman compositions of the first half of the century, it presents us with a sumptuous bouquet of flowers, accompanied by a tray of fruits and a clock that reminds us of the brevity of life.
1. Adeodato Zuccati, a recently rediscovered artist
The dates of Adeodato Zuccati's birth and death are not known with certainty because historical sources have passed on little information about this artist. Zuccati was a painter of flowers active in Emilia-Romagna in the second half of the 17th century, his paintings are listed in the inventories of the collections of aristocratic families of Bologna, such as those of Count Annibale Ranuzzi (1697) and Giovanni Antonio Sedazzi (1700).
In the second half of the 17th century, Antonio Masini described him as an "expert in painting flowers in their natural state", recalling that he had been active since 1668. In the 18th century, Marcello Oretti said that he was "perhaps a pupil of Pier Francesco Cittadini, known as the Milanese", while admitting that he was not familiar with his works. In the 19th century, Pietro Zani described him as a "painter of flowers".
The rediscovery of the Basin of Flowers on a Carpet by Luigi Salerno in 1984 allowed us to begin the reconstruction of his corpus. Traces of this painting have since been lost and we have only an old black and white photograph. The painting bears an eighteenth-century inscription on the back: "Del Zuccati Pittor celebre di Bologna". Although this is not a signature, the indication immediately seemed plausible because it is consistent with the information provided by Masini and Zani on his botanical inclination: almost half of the painting illustrated by Luigi Salerno is in fact occupied by flowers resting on an elegant fabric.
A painter of flowers, Zuccati enriched his repertoire by staging sumptuous fabrics, fruits and pieces of silverware. It is obvious that Adeodato Zuccati was influenced in Bologna by Pier Francesco Cittadini, also called the Milanese (Milan 1616 - Bologna 1681), and we find in his art the tradition of the Roman still lives seen by Cittadini during his stay in the Eternal City around 1640. In conclusion we can say that Zuccati realizes a synthesis of the different pictorial traditions of the Po Valley which, starting from Pier Francesco Cittadini in Bologna, end up with Antonio Gianlisi the Younger (Rizzolo 1677 - Cremona 1727), a painter active between Piacenza and Cremona at the beginning of the 18thcentury.
2. Description of the artwork
The entire composition is illuminated by a light source to the left of the painting. A first table, set at a slight angle, is covered with a green velvet fringed with gold, on which a heavy orange brocade has been laid. The light enhances the contrast between these two colours and emphasises the folds of the brocade.
On this richly adorned table, in the centre of the composition, is a monumental table clock, which one imagines to be made of gilded and silvered bronze. The front of the clock is decorated with a statue of Athena, helmeted and armed with a spear and shield. An allegory of Justice, recognisable by its scales, crowns the aedicula. The slightly trapezoidal shape of the sides indicates that this composition was intended to be placed high up and could have been used as a doorway.
To the left of the clock is a silver tray in which three varieties of fruit are represented: grapes, peaches and figs. A curtain appears at the top of the composition, casting a studded leather box with a cup on it into shadow. On this bowl rest two long tulips that seem to be wilting and two glasses, rendered ghostly by the transparency of the pictorial material.
The entire right-hand side of the composition is taken up by an opulent bouquet of flowers in a baroque silver vase placed on a saddle below the sideboard. As is often the case in flower paintings, the painter has brought together species that bloom in different seasons: hyacinths and tulips, lilies and peonies, roses and orange blossoms.
The entire composition is animated by a ternary rhythm: three horizontal planes (from left to right, the sideboard with the table clock and the tray of fruit, the cup on the studded leather case and finally the saddle on which the bouquet of flowers is placed), three main motifs (the bouquet, the table clock and the fruit), three types of fruit in the tray.
While still lives no longer systematically have a symbolic value in the second half of the 17th century, it seems interesting to us to relate this ternary rhythm to the three ages of Man. Youth could be symbolised by the bouquet of flowers placed in full light, and maturity by the rich tray of fruit on the left. Finally, old age could be evoked by the enigmatic composition that we can barely make out in the shadows: two tulips placed on the cup and two glasses, already half erased by time, whose inexorable march is recalled by the predominant presence of the table clock.
The figure of Athena could be interpreted as an exhortation to wisdom, which is necessary to lead one's life with dignity, while the Justice that surmounts the aedicula reminds us that our actions will be judged at the end of time.
3. Related work
It seems interesting to us to relate this painting to two other works by Adeodato Zuccati.
The first one is kept at the Galleria Estense in Modena and comes from the Palazzo Ducale of the same city. This painting seems interesting to us because we find two glasses on a tray in the lower right that are very similar to those presented in the upper left of our painting, half hidden in the shadow of the curtain.
The second, presented for sale at Dorotheum in Vienna (October 12, 2011 - lot 434 - 30,000 euros with expenses) is particularly interesting. Bearing almost the same dimensions (91.5 x 143 cm) this painting has a very similar composition but on an inverted basis as if it were a counterpart to our painting. The large vase with flowers on a stone pedestal is on the left, the center and the right of the painting are occupied by a table covered with an Ottoman carpet on which, among other things, a baroque bronze statue and various pieces of silverware are placed. A curtain drapes the upper right corner of the painting.
The composition is again tripartite and offers a very similar combination of colors. The green of the curtain perfectly matches that of the tablecloth in our painting. The brightness of the silverware echoes those of the large baroque vase in which the bouquet is placed. The bright red of the fabrics, the brown with golden reflections of the bronze statuette evoke the clock with the effigy of Athena and the draperies of the brocade placed below.
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