The dazzling quality of one of the paintings up for auction in the Old Masters auction to be held by Bertolami Fine Art Nov. 17 is explained by the signature on the lower right margin of the work: "P. Batoni pinxit - Romae anno 176.." (The last digit is not clearly legible: 1765 or 1768?).
Not coincidentally notified for its relevant historical and artistic interest, the sumptuous canvas is therefore to be ascribed to a great protagonist of 18th-century painting, that Pompeo Batoni who, in that century, was with Canaletto the only Italian artist to enjoy international fame.
In addition to being a painter of sacred art, Batoni was a celebrated portraitist, as well as a sought-after author of mythological and allegorical subjects. Allegorical is precisely the theme of the splendid canvas at the enchantment, depicting La Clemenza che implorare la Giustizia, a work at the center of an intriguing controversy that has divided art historians for years: is this the canvas of the same title commissioned from Batoni by Poland's King Stanislaus II Augustus Poniatowski? Or is it the prototype of the one, which was instead lost? Or is it perhaps a replica executed soon after the version sent to Warsaw? These questions could be answered if the last digit of the date affixed to the painting could be deciphered. But the mystery for the time being remains unresolved.

(Montbéliard, 1590 - Toulouse, 1638),
Saint Peter and Saint Paul
Oil on canvas, 96×131 cm

Also leading to an enigma, this time of an attributive nature, is lot 210, a large and beautiful canvas depicting the monumental half-length figures of the apostles Peter and Paul, which Luca Bortolotti, head of Bertolami Fine Art's Old Masters department, automatically enrolls in the class of "Caravaggesque interrogatives." In short, it would be one of those works in the Caravaggesque field that, while notable for its high quality of execution, struggles to find an author.
Bortolotti likens the majestic composition to the Roman period of Nicolas Tournier, among the protagonists of that patrol of French artists who, between the second and the beginning of the third decade of the 17th century, adhered to the Caravaggesque idiom during their stay in Rome. The publication of the painting in the auction catalog will certainly open the way for more in-depth studies, but for the moment the halo of mystery by which the beautiful work appears to be surrounded only adds to its fascination.



(Pontorme, 1494 - Florence, 1556)
(a) Saint Joseph;
(b) Saint Elizabeth.
Pair of fragments from a lost altarpiece depicting

a Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John.
Oil on poplar panel, a) 45×34 cm; b) 45.5×34.5 cm

Admirable quality also for lot 179, two fragments on poplar panel constituting the only remaining pieces of an altarpiece depicting a Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth and John. Prudently referred by the auction house to a "painter of Jacopo Pontormo's close circle," the two fragments are at the center of an attributive puzzle that is as exciting as it is difficult to settle. What is certain is that the masterful drawing and pictorial expertise of their unknown author would not make it scandalous to juxtapose them with Pontormo himself.

(Florence, 1585 - 1643)

Saint Mary of Egypt taken to heaven by angels in the presence of the monk Zosimus
Oil on canvas, 175.5×88 cm

On the other hand, the attribution to the Florentine Ottavio Vannini of a "Saint Mary of Egypt Taken to Heaven by Angels" (lot 209), which represents one of the most interesting works among those in the auction, is very certain.
A leading artist of 17th-century Florentine painting, Vannini is rarely on the market, especially with works of such high quality. In fact, one can speak of museum quality with reference to this highly refined oil on canvas, certainly one of the author's masterpieces, as well as a work exemplary of his best qualities: certainty of drawing, elegance of composition, vividness of color, unparalleled softness of flesh tones.

(Rome, 1602 - 1660), ATTRIBUTED.

Still life with grapes, pumpkins, peaches, azaroles, figs and blackberries in a landscape
Oil on canvas, 95x67cm

(Rome, 1610 - 1670)

Still life of pumpkins, pomegranates, grapes, figs and peaches
Oil on canvas, 84.5×120 cm

The presence in the catalog of two notable still lifes, one (lot 208) attributed to Michelangelo Cerquozzi, the other to Michelangelo Pace del Campidoglio (lot 199), allows for an illuminating comparison of the style that, in the Roman area, characterizes that fortunate pictorial genre immediately before and immediately after the mid-1700s. If in fact Cerquozzi's composition of gourds and fruit still looks to a naturalism of Caravaggio's matrix, in the development proposed by the other Michelangelo the same subject now appears totally baroque in its spectacular luminous and chromatic contrasts.

(Naples, 1680 - 1750)

Coastal capriccio with ruins, bridge, figures and fortress in the background
Oil on canvas, 128×75 cm

Among the more than three hundred lots in the catalog, of moderately good quality, more than one surprise awaits landscape painting enthusiasts as well. We point out here a beautiful capriccio of vespertine atmosphere signed by the Neapolitan Leonardo Coccorante, a great specialist in the genre of landscape with imaginary architectural ruins, and an unpublished work by Jakob Philipp Hackert that adds to the catalog of "pure" landscapes executed by Hackert in his mature season, presumably between the last decade of the 18th and the early 19th century


(Prenzlau, 1737 - San Pietro di Careggi, 1807)
Wooded landscape with shepherd and herds,
waterfall, stream and rock arch in the background
Oil on canvas, 62.5×76 cm


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This article was published with the kind permission of the ArtsLife news outlet.

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