(Rome, 1569-1626)
Magdalene praying on the skull
Oil on canvas 58 x 43.2 cm
Milan, Giorgio Baratti Collection
I confess that long ago, when I first saw the painting, weighed down by a restoration that made it very “closed”, with a slightly plasticized and somewhat deafening material, I thought it might be a good work by Imperiale Gramatica, Antiveduto’s son, who probably started collaborating with his father in 1620 and then became an independent painter with decent results but far inferior than those of his father.
However, some details, such as the remarkable raised hand and the skull in the foreground, showed a quality that corresponds entirely to Antiveduto. The recent restoration has revealed a high-level painting, which leaves no doubt about its paternity.
Now the work - which finally “breathes” and has found substance and depth - clearly reveals it. However, this is a very mature painting by the painter from Siena, dating back to the third decade, when he reaches a decisive turning point moving towards classism. As one of the naturalists of the second decade, Gramatica decided to contaminate his own language with that of the Bolognese fashion, with Domenichino in particular, and his son Imperiale - who begins to be active when the Caraveggesque naturalism starts to decline. He falls ever more back on such stylistic canons.
The details of this Magdalene correspond well to the works of the third decade of Antiveduto: The raised hand can be compared to that of Magdalene kneeling in front of Christ in the Noli me tangere of the Duomo of San Severino Marche, which I attributed to Gramatica in 1990 (Papi 1990, pp. 114-115); while the imposing hair, due to its structure and flow of the locks, recalls very much that of Mary in the painting with Martha and Mary, brought to auction on 30 May 1991 to Finarte in Milan (lot 111). From this hair, so thick and enveloping, we can explain the strange clarification of Giulio Mancini (one more reason not to doubt that our painting is by Antiveduto) in the painter’s biography: “He exaggerates in doing the hair” (Mancini 1617-1621, ed. 1956-1957, I, p.245). Magdalene’s face with her pained eyes is very much reminiscent of the expression of Magdalene at the tomb by Ermitage, who was also particularly gifted with hair and is similar in the gesture and texture of her hand.
The most striking part in this painting is, however, the skull, with its impressive naturalism, which proves that Antiveduto had not lost his taste for direct and true naturalism - despite his fascination for Dominican refinement. But not only: in this part, he seems to have seized Ribera’s new style, and it is a rarity in the work of Antiveduto, which is why this is particularly important here.
Finally, I think the work is absolutely worthy of publication, and as soon as I have the opportunity (in a context where it makes sense to publish it) I will do so.
Florence, 12 May 2016
Gianni Papi
Template by JoomlaShine