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Attributed to Palma, Jacopo, il giovane (Italian painter, ca. 1548 - 1628) , Portrait of a Collector

Core Record

Title Portrait of a Collector
Alternative Title Portrait of a Sculptor
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Attributed to Palma, Jacopo, il giovane (Italian painter, ca. 1548 - 1628)
Previously attributed to circle of Tintoretto, Jacopo (Italian painter, 1519-1594)
Previously attributed to Carracci, Annibale (Italian painter, 1560-1609)
Previously attributed to Cassieri, Sebastiano (Italian painter, active early 17th century)
Date Earliest about 1600
Date Latest about 1620
Description The identity of the both the sitter and the artist have long been contested, however it is now believed that the artist was Palma Giovane. From a Italian family of painters and draughtsmen, Palma Giovane was the leading painter in Venice in the early 17th century.

The sitter is surrounded by plaster casts of sculptures. To the left of the sitter is a cast of a marble figure of St Sebastian by Alessandro Vittoria, made for the church of San Francesco della Vigna in Venice in 1564. Behind him is a cast of the portrait of the Roman emperor, Vitellius from the collection of Cardinal Domenico Grimani. The original Roman marble bust was displayed in the Ducal Palace in Venice from 1525 to 1593 and was studied and copied in plaster by several artists. Such a cast was in the studio of Jacopo Tintoretto and the subject of a large number of drawings both by the master and by members of his studio. The nude female figure seen between the sitter and the figure of St Sebastian can be compared to a figure of Eve known through a bronze statuette attributed by Weihrauch to Ammanati (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich). On the right is another cast of a male head, resembling a figure of the Laoc÷on group, a legendary work of classical art unearthed in Rome, which had a profound effect on the artists of the day including Michelangelo.

There has been considerable discussion over the identity of the sitter. Suggestions include the wealthy collector, Bartolomeo della Nave, the sculptor, Antonio Vassilacchi, and the sculptor Alessandro Vittoria. As the sculptures in the painting are plaster casts rather than originals, the sitter is probably a sculptor rather than a collector.

Current Accession Number 1961P48
Former Accession Number P.48┤61
Subject portrait (Antonio Vasilacchi?)
Measurements 111.8 x 103 cm.0 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased with the aid of the National Art-Collections Fund 1961.
Provenance Viscount Allendale; Christie's sale, South Kensington, 30 June 1961, lot 73 as Annibale Carracci; Julius Weitzner.
Principal Exhibitions Royal Academy, London, 1938, cat. no. 286 as Annibale Carracci; Primitives to Picasso, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1962, cat. no. 48; Gifts to Galleries, National Art Collections Fund, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1968, cat. no. 83 as School of Tintoretto; The Genius of Venice, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1983 - 1984, cat. no. 70; Palma il Giovane, Museo Correr, 1990, cat. no. 86; Venezia! Artists, patrons, collectors, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 2002, cat. no. 51; Old Masters from the City of Birmingham, Wildenstein and Company, 1970, cat. no. 10; Gifts to Galleries - National Art Collections Fund exhibition, Walker Art Gallery, 1968.
Publications Volpe, Carlo 1962, p. 111; Ivanoff, N. and P. Zampetti, 'Jacopo Negretti detto Palma Il Giovane', Pittori Bergmascha del Cinquencento, Vol. III, 1979, pp. 530-31; Mason Rinaldi, S., 'Un ritratto di Palma il Giovane a Birmingham', Per Maria Cionini Visani, Turin, G. Canale & Cia, 1977, pp. 96-99; Mason Rinaldi, S., 'Paintingsby Palma Giovane in British Collections', Apollo, vol. 110, 1979, pp. 396-99; Mason Rinaldi, S., Palma Giovane, 1984, pp. 76; Rearick, W. R., 'Circle of Jacopo Palma il Giovane', Italian Paintings XIV - XVIIIth Centuries from the Collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art, 1981, p. 142; Pallucchini, R., 1981, p. 34; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 108; Rearick, W. R., 'Review: Venice Palma Il Giovane', Burlington Magazine, vol.132, 1990, pp.292-3, ill.
Notes Previously called Portrait of a Man and attributed to Sebastiano Cassieri, a German-born follower of Tintoretto, and also called An Unknown Man, attributed to Annibale Carracci. The attribution to Palma Giovane was made by Volpe who suggested the sitter was Alessandro Vittoria and dated it to 1580 (1962). The presence of the St Sebastian figure suggests a portrait of Alessandro Vittoria, but this is ruled out by lack of resemblance with known portraits of this sculptor, for instance, that on his tomb in San Zaccaria. However, Dr Stephen Pepper and Sir Denis Mahon both subscribe to the Carracci attribution, identifying the sitter as Antonio Vassilacchi.

Aidan Weston-Lewis (National Gallery, Scotland) attributes the painting to Palma Giovane and states that the sitter is the same as that in two (previously believed to be self) portraits by Annibale Carracci in the Uffizi, perhaps five or ten years older (2006). Indeed, the man depicted in these portraits does seem extremely similar to this sitter (but does not resemble Carracci). Weston-Lewis also observes that the pose of the sitter is, presumably deliberately, based on that of the dealer-collector Jacopo Strada in Titian's portrait of him in Vienna.

The prominence given to the casts in this picture suggest a close link to the studio of Tintoretto who was known to collect them. There is a striking facial resemblance between the sitter and the portraits of Antonio Vassilacchi both in the Uffizi and engraved in Carlo Ridolfi's Le Meraviglie dell'Arte (Venice, 1648, Parte II, p. 208). Although Vassilacchi was closely associated in his early years with the Tintoretto studio and adopted a Tintorettesque style there is little additional direct evidence to connect him with this painting and the casts suggest a painter actually within the Tintoretto studio. Cannon-Brookes' notes on this painting in the Old Masters from the City of Birmingham catalogue (1970, no. 10) recount Martin Kemp's letters of 1970 (gallery archives) where he writes that in Domenico Tintoretto's will of October 1630 he stated, 'I bequeath to my brother, (Marco) all the casts of the studio. And if Bastian (Sebastiano Cassieri), my young man, will still be in my service at the time of my death, I bequeath to him four of these casts, namely, a head of Vitellius, a full-length figure and two torsos of his own choice.' Sebastiano Cassieri was a pupil of Tintoretto. He later inherited the remaining studio casts on the death of Marco in 1637 but also, on their instructions, married their sister, Ottavia and took the name of Tintoretto in order to carry on the Tintoretto name in painting. It has been suggested that this painting is the self portrait of Sebastiano Cassieri holding the will of Domenico Tintoretto and surrounded by the casts bequeathed to him. This would date the painting to 1635 after the death of Domenico. The only problem with this theory is the reference to 'my young man' and the rather middle-aged appearance of the sitter.

The subject has also been tentatively identified as Bartolomeo della Nave, a friend of Palma Giovane (S. M. R., Royal Academy exhibition catalogue, 1983). Bartolomeo della Nave had, according to Scamozzi, 'gathered together almost 30 statuettes [... ] and terracotta models, including the fine St Sebastien by Vittoria, and [...] placed them in one of his rooms which he proudly shows to all the important people of Venice' (Idea Dell'Architettura, Venice 1615). He also dates this work to the end of the sixteenth century.

A Portrait of a Sculptor showing a man of similar appearance to 1961P48 with a small statuette by Palma Giovane is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, inv. no. 1935.

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth
 

 

 

 

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