Oil on panel
74.5 x 60.5 cm / 29.3 x 23.8 in

Daguerre, Paris, COLLECTION ACHILLE FONTAINE, 10 November 2017, lot 92 (as École FLAMANDE du XVIIe siècle, suiveur de Pietro CANDIDO);
Private collection, Firenze

Many times in my life I have had to admit that a randomly uttered phrase, often very commonplace, can completely change the current state of affairs. These are the memories that come to me when I think of the painting "Madonna and Child with Angels", which I bought a few years ago with the attribution "The Peter Candid School".
Despite the fact that the composition of the picture, although unambiguously, demonstrated familiarity with the etching by Ludovico Carracci, on the same plot, the circle of authors of the work should be sought among the masters of northern Europe. My guess was confirmed by the Florentine restorer Massimo Seroni. Seroni noticed that the basis of the picture is oak, which is typical for the masters of the Flemish or Dutch schools. It was with the light hand of Seroni that my study of this picture began. “The painting does not need to be cleaned, try to preserve its unique silvery patina,” said the restorer. Despite the fact that the top and bottom of the picture was clearly cut off, the preservation of the paint layer caused incredible admiration.
Initial searches led to the discovery of a variant (repetition?) of this picture of a larger size, which was several times held at other auctions with different attributions, first in 2010, later in 2015 in Berlin, in 2016 in the same place. The not very successful photograph of the variant painting was nevertheless useful, because it gave an idea of how the whole composition might look.
The next step was to establish a connection between the painting and the legacy of Carracci and, as a result, to clarify the dating of the work. In the work of Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619), this composition occupied a special place. A drawing from the collection of the British Museum is traditionally considered the starting point. Ludovico Carracci's graphic heritage is well documented and researched (Prints and Related Drawings by the Carracci Family: A Catalog Raisonné, by Diane De Grazia Bohlin can be called a fundamental work), but nevertheless, it still needs additional clarification. This partly explains the "floating" dating of his graphic heritage. This sheet in the museum catalog dates from a rather wide period from 1570 to 1619. When the drawing was still in the collection of John Malcolm of Poltalloch (1805-1893), the English painter and famous collector Sir John Charles Robinson (1824-1913), tried to clarify the date of the drawing by limiting it to 1590-1610 years. Robinson rightly drew attention to the fact that the drawing is preparatory for etching on the same plot, which also dates from this period. This dating seems to be more than reasonable. The fact is that the etching by Ludovico Carracci was created in collaboration with the publishers and antique dealers Pietro Stefanoni (1557 circa - 1642 circa) from Pavia and the Bolognese Giovanni Orlandi (active 1590-1640). Both antique dealers moved to Rome around 1590, and it is tempting to assume that with the light hand of Orlandi (who, as already noted, was also a native of Bologna), the art of the Carracci brothers became even more famous. This was especially important for regions outside Rome and Bologna (already in 1612 Orlandi moved to Naples). But of particular importance to Orlandi's activities were his contacts with the Netherlands, in particular with Amsterdam, where he actively sold engravings based on Italian originals in the early years of the seventeenth century. Thus, the engraving on the drawing of Carracci also gained wide popularity in the north of Europe after 1600.
Why is the dating of this drawing and etching so important to us in the context of their repetition later in the form of a pictorial version? The fact is that the end of the 16th - beginning of the 17th century was marked in Flemish and Dutch painting by fundamental changes associated with the stylistic transition from the aesthetics of late Mannerism to the period of formation, in fact, of two large national schools. The dominant position of the Flemish school in the 16th century was reinforced by the appearance of the Rubens phenomenon after his return to Antwerp in 1608. The influence of the great painter was so great that in fact, we can characterize all Flemish art "before Rubens" and "after". And this affected not only the development of the Flemish school, but also the Dutch one, especially among the late Harlem Mannerists. Even masters like Goltzius or Cornelis Cornelissen were influenced by their great contemporary. It is reasonable to ask whether the author of "Madonna and Child" was familiar with the work of Rubens. The answer in this case is rather negative, the picture is written entirely in the style of late Harlem Mannerism with its characteristic muted color scheme, geometric interpretation of volume and downed, deliberately tight composition. Thus, the painting can be dated to the first decade of the 17th century.
The set of stylistic devices in this picture allows us to name the artist's name - this is Gerrit Pietersz Sweelink (Amsterdam, 1566 - before 1616) and to define the author of the painting as a master who was under his strong influence. Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, did his apprenticeship in the workshop of the glass painter Jacob Unartz in Amsterdam, then around 1588-1591 he attended the workshop of Cornelis Cornelisz in Haarlem, whose lesson is evident in his drawings. His first dated work is the Deluge of 1592. he probably stayed a few years in Amsterdam before going to Antwerp in 1594 and staying for several years in Rome before settling permanently in Amsterdam around 1600-1601. And in this last period Sweellink painted the triptych of the Adoration of the Shepherds of the Den Otter family, dated 1601 and now in Amsterdam at the Historical Museum, a monumental work that does not lack realistic notations, within a warm chromatism and a contrasting luminism that vaguely recalls Bassano, while the portraits of the donors on the sides refer to the northern tradition of Adrien Thomas Key and Frans Floris.
With the indisputable works of Sweelink, the picture is brought together by the generality of compositional techniques, as can be seen, for example, in comparison with the drawing from Amsterdam "The Artist at the Easel". The large volume modeling characteristic of Sweelink (as in the depiction of folds of clothing) is also present in his paintings.
The typological similarities between the works of Sweelink and the Madonna and Child are also interesting. So, the same type of childish face of one of the angels in the picture is present in the engraving by Sweelink representing St. Cecilia, made by him during his stay in Italy.


Epoque: XVII century

School: Flemish

Genre: Religious

Base: Panel

Technic: Oil

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