An Early 17thC Italian School Oil on Canvas Study of Julius Caesar c.1600-10

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Origin: Italian
Period: Early Baroque
Provenance: Chateau Lamarge, Fontanges, Auvergne, France
Date: c.1600-10
Height: 21.75”
Width: 17.5”

The very scarce and well-executed Roman school oil on canvas study of Julius Ceasar, in relic condition, depicted wearing an elaborate oak leaf crown of writhing and battling figures and wearing his regalia, with his head turned to sinister, the whole surviving from the first decade of seventeenth century Italy, and discovered hidden at Chateau Lamarge, Fontanges, Auvergne, France.

The picture is in decorative aged condition without the meddling of restoration though it is fragile and this due to its considerable age. It shows areas of thinning to the canvas, one tear and some paint loss; please refer to the photographs for a full visual reference. It has not been restored or cleaned as such. It gives the impression it may be fragmentary, but we believe this was a standalone work as part of a series. It may benefit from being professionally framed and glazed which we are able to do upon request at cost.

This work was discovered when the present owners purchased Chateau Lamarge, Fontanges, Auvergne in France. It is not clear how or why it got there but it is fascinating and wonderfully intriguing to imagine. It is possible the artist of this work was commissioned to paint all twelve as described below.

The figures around the crown are seemingly engaged in battle and the painting appears to be one of a series depicting various military victories. It is very similar to plate one from 'The Twelve Caesars' by Raffaello Schiaminossi (1572–1622).

Schiaminossi was an Italian engraver and painter of the late- Mannerist and early-Baroque period, active mainly in Tuscany. He was born and died in Sansepolcro, and engraved works after Cornelis Cort, Federico Barocci, and Ventura Salimbeni. A painting by an anonymous Italian artist that sold at auction in 2016 was found to have a support consisting of a partially cut Schiaminossi copperplate, the frontispiece to his set of etchings 'The Twelve Caesars' from 1606. Originally De vita Caesarum (Latin; lit. "About the Life of the Caesars"), commonly known as The Twelve Caesars, is a set of twelve biographies of Julius Caesar and the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. Many artists created series of paintings or sculptures based on the lives of the Twelve Caesars, including Titian's Eleven Caesars, and the Aldobrandini Tazze, a collection of twelve 16th-century silver standing cups.

The inscription on the later engraving in Latin translates to; ‘'The solemn power that had once belonged to two/consuls, Julius Caesar secured./But his short rule of kingship, held for a mere three years,/a savage faction of armed civilians struck down.'

Likenesses of the Caesars who ruled over the Roman Empire were popular during the Renaissance and Schiaminossi’s portraits replicate an earlier series of the same subject by the engraver Antonio Tempesta, whose prints were often used as models by other artists. The elaborate helmets worn by the emperors in this group of prints are extraordinary. In many of the examples, the helmets are decorated with grimacing, battling creatures with human upper bodies and serpent-like tails in place of legs.

This study, is as we say, most similar to plate one of the twelve – it is not clear whether this work was painted before or after his works or indeed whether it may be by Schiaminossi himself; and we cannot find any other works like this in oils.

A very rare, important, intriguing and decorative work worthy of further research and one that is museum worthy.

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