(Arpino 1568 - 1640 Rome)
Fortune (or Galatea?) with two Tritons
Oil on panel
127 x 89 cm
Milan, Giorgio Baratti Collection
The painting, by Giuseppe Cesari called Cavalier d’Arpino, is, in my opinion, typical of his style and of remarkable quality (Arpino 1568 - Rome 1640). This is a singular and rare depiction of Fortune (oil on oval panel, 127 x 89 cm) who, instead of standing on the sphere of the world as in other similar iconographies, is supported by two Tritons, making it like the representation of the myth of Galatea. Moreover, the two Tritons, in our painting, are represented with a clear allusion to the mythological figures of satyrs, in a kind of “double” iconography. An unusual and elegant figurative construction that fits well with the mindset of the Cavalier d’Arpino, who was very dedicated to the elaboration of particular iconographies both in the sacred field and in the profane, just when he entrusted works, almost always sacred ones, that were repetitive and standardised ever more willingly to his workshop, thus freeing himself to do the more original and creative works (sacred or profane). The feminine type we find in the Fortune-Galatea, elegant, muscular and slender, was already elaborated by Arpino in his youth, as evidenced by the beautiful drawing of a naked nymph under the moon, in the collection of Lord Leicester in Holkham Hall, repeatedly published in all the specialist texts on the maestro. Moreover, Arpino during his youth (1594-1595) had painted a similar figure in the loggia of Corrado Orsini, today Pio Sodalizio dei Piceni in Via di Parione in Rome, as a representation of a Venus, symbol of sunset. In that case, the nude, similar both due to the graphic design and the pictorial execution, rests on a shell, thus proposing a curious iconographic “duplicity” between the image of Galatea and, in this case, the image of a mythological figure such as Venus.

The Fortune-Galatea work discussed here is of course a much later work than the fresco of Pio Sodalizio dei Piceni. Its first buyer is not known but it may perhaps be identified, based on a declaration by Cavalier d’Arpino, as a painting described as Galatea recorded in a1653 inventory in the Monterrey collection in Madrid, an inventory mentioned by Alfonso E. Perez Sanchez in Pintura italiana del siglo XVII en España, 1965, p.222. The originality and the date of the Fortuna- Galatea is enough to compare our painting with the fresco depicting Two Old Satyrs, painted by Arpino on the burial tombstone of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini in the Hall of the Palazzo dei Conservatori on Capitoline Hill in Rome, published by H. Roettgen, in Il Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d’Arpino. Un grande pittore nello splendore della fama e nell’incostanza della fortuna, Ugo Bozzi, Rome, 2002, p. 459. The two satyrs in the fresco on Capitoline Hill and the pictorial drawing, so mixed and dense, are identical to the figures of the two Tritons of our Galatea-Fortune. The fresco on Capitoline Hill is dated to after 1630, and this date is also in keeping with the beautiful Galatea-Fortune, bringing it closer to other rare mythological works that Cesari carried out towards the end of his life, with incomparable freshness and wit.

The rich sophistication and beauty of the painting are, however, exalted by the excellent state of preservation both of the support and of the pictorial surface.

Claudio Strinati Rome, 30 October 2013
Bibliography: unpublished
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