John T. Spike: Caravaggio

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La scheda:

Saint John the Baptist, c.1604

Oil on canvas, 68 x 52 (172.7 x 132.1 cm) Nelson–Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Provenance: Ottavio Costa, Rome, by 1639; bequeathed to his grandson, Filippo di Benedetto Costa (d. 1683); by descent to his brother Pietro Francesco Costa (d. 1723); awarded (?) as part of his patrimony in 1705–10 to the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Malta; purchased in Malta by James, fifth Lord Aston of Forfar  (d. 1751), conserved at Trixhall, Straffordshire (England);  by descent  to the second daughter, Barbara, who married Thomas Clifford; by descent to their son, Sir Thomas Hugh Clifford (1762–1829) whoin herited Trix hall and estates of Burton–Constable, Yorkshire; 1844 contents of Trixhall were transferred to Burton-Constable, Hampstead; by inheritance to Mary Barbara Clifford–Constable (d. 1876) who in 1826 had married Sir Charles Chichester; by 1923 in the collection of Chichester  Constable, at Burton Constable, Hampstead; in 1951consigned by Raleigh Charles Joseph Chichester–Constable to antiquaries Edward Speelman and Geoffrey Agnew; 1952, London, Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., from which acquired 1952.

Inventory: 1. January 18–24, 1639 inventory of the estate of Ottavio Costa: “And another painting with the image of Saint John the Baptist in the desert made by the same Caravaggio” (Spezzaferro 1974, pp. 582 n. 22, 585; Spezzaferro 19752, p. 118; Rowlands 1996, p.223).Exhibitions: London 1950, p. 130, no. 323; Milan 1951, no. 23 (as Caravaggio); Seattle 1962, no. 62;Detroit 1965, no. 3; Cleveland 1971, no. 17; New York–Naples 1985, no. 85;Tulsa–Kansas City 1995–96, no. 1.

Bibliography:

Longhi 1943, p. 15, fig. 18 (published as original of which Naples was copy); Ainaud1947, pp. 388–89; Longhi in Milan 1951, no. 56  (1598–99); Arslan 1951, p. 446 (“oldand quite beautiful copy”); Berenson 1951, pp. 33, 46; Longhi 1951, p. 30 (late 1590s);Mahon 1951, p. 234 (as no. 23, 1603–4) Venturi 1951, p. 41 (no); Baroni 1951; Longhi1952, no. XXIII (c. 1600); Mahon 1952, p. 19 (as no. 23, 1602–4); Hinks 1953, pp. 71–72,no. 37 (c. 1603); Mahon 1953, p. 213 (c. 1602–4); Baumgart 1955, no. 29 (c. 1598–99);Friedlaender 1955, pp. 171–72 no. 20D (c. 1602, possibly even later if picture describedas in Caravaggio’s possession, confiscated at his death); Wagner 1958, pp. 106, 108–9(1602–4); Berne Joffroy 1959, pp. 260, 333, 339, 374 (1602–4); Della Pergola 1959, p. 79;Jullian 1961, pp. 149, 151–53 (c. 1604); Moir in Detroit 1965, no. 3; Guttuso–Ottino della Chiesa 1967, no. 55 (1603–4); Moir 1967, I, p. 256, II, pp. 57–58 (1604–5); Kitson 1969, no. 53; Matthiesen–Pepper 1970, p. 456; Cinotti 1971, pp. 128, 195 (1604–5);Spear 1971, no. 17 (c. 1604–5); Frederickson–Zeri 1972, pp. 44, 417, 589; Slatkes1972, p. 67; Marini 1974, pp. 160–61, 386–87, n. 38 (1600); Spezzaferro 1974, pp. 584–85 (identifies with 1639 Costa inventory); Moir 1976, pp. 97 no. 27, 130 n. 27;Nicolson 1979, p. 33; Wright 1981, p. 2; Moir 1982, pp. 124, 134, pl. 31 (c. 1605); Cinotti 1983, no. 21; Freedberg 1983, p. 53; Hibbard 1983, pp. 191–93, 319–20 n. 126 (summer1605); Marini 1983, p. 132; Gregori 1985, no. 85 (1604–5); Spike 1985, p. 417; van Tuyll1985, p. 487; Calvini 1986, pp. 343–86; Christiansen 1986, p. 438 (many incisions, red mantle originally extended farther to the right); Tempesta in Rome 1986, p. 35;Bologna 1987, p. 162; Calvesi 1987, pp. 108, 118–20; Christiansen 1988, p. 26 n. 2;Rotondo 1988, pp. 27, 108; Gregori 1989, pp. 116, 120; Marini 1989, pp. 468–69 no. 54(Rome, 1603–4); Calvesi 1990, pp. 243, 424 (1604–6); Gilbert 1990, p. 59; Cinotti 1991,pp. 119–20; Ward 1991, p. 156 (1604); Bologna 1992, p. 318 (c. 1601); Gregori 1994, p.150, no. 45 (1603–4); Gilbert 1995, pp. 2–34; Ward in Tulsa–Kansas City 1995–96, pp.6–19, no. 1 (1604–5, probably retained by Costa in Rome and a copy sent toConscente); Rowlands 1996, no. 25 (most extensive discussion; c. 1605); Puglisi 1998,no. 49 (c. 1603–5); Robb 1998, p. 509 (1604).This Saint John the Baptist failed to attract the notice of the Roman sources althoughit is a fine and characteristic work of around 1604. Its identification with a Saint John the Baptist cited in the 1639 inventory of Ottavio Costa seems assured by the existenceof a faithful copy in Albenga (c.1), where the Costa family owned properties. The lat-ter copy was originally in the Oratory of Saint John the Baptist in Conscente, a near by fiefdom of the Costa family. Circumstantial evidence cited by Rowlands (1996, p. 219)tends to support the hypothesis that a new altarpiece of John the Baptist, probably  a copy of this picture, was sent from Rome between 1603 and 1606. See text p. 158, illustrated at p. 159.

Condition: Good, apart from the regrettable loss of final glazes due to overcleaning in the past. The lack of transitions between the light and shade on the saint’s calf and ankle aresymptoms of this overcleaning. Radiography revealed a large pentimento in the red mantle which originally extended all the way to the right-hand margin of the painting. Numerous incisions around the model’s head and legs were noted by Spear (1971) and Christiansen (1986). The ground is reddish brown. See Rowlands 1996, p. 215, for a more detailed discussion.

Copies: Selected copies are listed by Rowlands 1996, p. 223. Among  these are: c.1 Albenga, Italy, Museo Diocesano, Oil on canvas, 67 x 545/8 in. (170 x 107 cm) Provenance: Chapel of San Giovanni Battista, Conscente, built by Abbott Alessandro Costa in 1588, rebuilt by the Costa brothers (one of whom, Ottavio, was a patron of Caravaggio) between 1596 and 1606; church of Sant’Alessandro, Conscente; by 1615 in Oratory.

Inventories:

Matthiesen and Pepper (1970) identify this copy with a painting of this subject in two inventories:1. 1615 inventory of the paintings in the Oratory of the church of Sant’Alessandro,given by its patrons, the Costa family, unidentified by artist, “a large painting sent from Rome of Saint John the Baptist.”2. 1624 inventory of the same church describes as in the “small oratory . . . a Saint Johnthe Baptist in the desert weeping over human misery painted by the celebrated painternamed Michel Angelo Caravaggio” (Gregori, 1985, p. 303). Bibliography:Matthiesen and Pepper 1970, p. 456; Spear 1971, p. 75 (discovery of copy suggestedKansas City picture probably commissioned by Ottavio Costa); Spezzaferro 1974, p.585 (connects provenance to Kansas City picture); Moir 1976, p. 97 no. 27b (copy); Gregori 1985, p. 302; Gilbert 1995, p. 108; Ward in Tulsa–Kansas City 1995–96, pp.6–19, fig. 5; Rowlands 1996, p. 223, fig. 25c (copy).To judge from a photograph, the mediocre quality of this copy militates against a dateas early as 1603. The possibility should not be excluded that this painting was made toreplace the Caravaggio copy that was sent from Rome to Conscente between 1603 and1606. The excellent copy in Naples is an example of a version that could be contemporary to the original composition in Kansas City.c.2 Naples, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte; inv. 420 (Q.370)Oil on canvas, 673/4 x 515/8 in. (172 x 131 cm) Provenance: Purchased in Rome, 1802, as work of Bartolomeo Manfredi; T. Conca collection, Naples.

Bibliography:

Longhi 1927, p. 31 (previously described as Manfredi  or Riminaldi, possibly copy of lost Caravaggio); Mariani 1930; Longhi 1943, p. 15 (copy); Berenson 1951 [1953 ed.],p. 32 (version); Friedlaender 1955, pp. 171–72 (Manfredi); Guttuso–Ottino della Chiesa1967, at no. 5 (copy); Moir 1976, p. 97 no. 27a (copy); Ward in Tulsa–Kansas City1995–96, pp. 6–19, fig. 6 (copy); Rowlands 1996, p. 223, fig. 25b (copy).


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