An Interesting Late 17thC Italian School Oil on Canvas Religious Study Fragment

Origin: Italian
Period: Baroque
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1660-90
In Frame: 23.25” x 18”
The Fragment: 21.25” x 16.5”

Painted in oils on canvas and then laid loose onto board, the fragment cut down from a larger composition depicting a bearded saint, possibly that of St. Jerome, and a winged putto, presented in a simple twentieth century glazed frame survives from baroque period Italy.

The picture is in unrestored condition; whilst the quality of the painting is still clearly accomplished and the colours remain relatively strong it could be restored if deemed necessary. There is a commensurate amount of craquelure across the canvas with some areas of threadbare loss and flaking to the whole with some fold marks from where the canvas been stored for a time. We here like to leave things untouched and she proves very decorative. The frame is simple and is glazed.

This is a fragment from a larger work so the fact that we cannot be sure what the full composition entailed makes the picture all the more intriguing though it could well be of St Jerome and two Putti rather than one. Clearly the larger composition was more than likely of a more considerable size, and the colours, style and condition point to quite an early work.

The relatively long ink inscription to the panel is painfully indecipherable with the human eye though research could possibly prove fruitful if undertaken with the right equipment. The framers label for The Chapman Brothers suggests that the owner was keen to use a well established, and no doubt expensive, company so obviously valued the picture highly as such. Chapman Bros. were one of the greatest framers of all time with some of the greatest art work of the time passing through their doors. They were at 241 King’s Road (‘opposite Carlyle Square’) between 1908-1964. This important business produced frames for many leading artists and the business worked for John Singer Sargent and Sir William Orpen. The Chapman business appears to have been founded by George Chapman (c.1844-c.1915?), who was recorded in the 1881 census at 251 King’s Rd, as a master gilder and picture framemaker, employing four men, with his brother, Joseph, house and estate agent, in the same household. The labels claiming in 1921 to have been ‘Established Half a Century’ which is the same as we find on this picture frame, so we can assume this inscription is from the early 1920s. Whether or not it was a staff member of the Chapman Brothers who made the inscription on the board or whether it was the owner, it at this stage impossible to say. We feel there could be further research carried out.

Toward 1640 many of the painters leaned toward the classical style that had been brought to the fore in Rome by the French expatriate Nicolas Poussin. The sculptors Alessandro Algardi and François Duquesnoy also tended toward the classical. Notable late baroque artists include the Genoese Giovanni Battista Gaulli and the Neapolitans Luca Giordano and Francesco Solimena.

The important group at the time, the Carracci had a unifying concept of naturalistic illusionism, based, in particular, upon an unmannered design that is given optical verisimilitude through the manipulation of pure, saturated colors and the atmospheric effects of light and shadow. In the 1590s he went to Rome to decorate the gallery in the Palazzo Farnese. This ceiling became highly influential on the development of painting during the seventeenth century. Its exuberance and colour was picked up on by later Baroque painters while the classicising aspects of its design (disegno) influenced painters who followed the more classical cannon. We can see influence of this at work here.

An early work that brings home all the flavour of the old masters, and, with an unresolved past given the inscription, makes for a good mystery that wants solving.