Circle of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1562-1609), Saint John the Baptist with a lamb. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2011
oil on canvas, 60 x 47 in. (152.5 x 119.4 cm.) - Estimate $20,000 - $30,000. Price Realized $35,000
Provenance: Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry; Sale, Paris, 19 April 1865, lot 99, as 'Monrealèse: Saint-Jean assis, caressant son mouton'.
Notes: This painting - which shows the clear influence of Caravaggio's Saint John the Baptist (commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese and now in the Borghese Gallery, Rome) was formerly in the collection of Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile, Duchesse de Berry (1798-1870). In the duchess's 1865 auction of her celebrated art collection, this painting was attributed to Pietro Novelli, il Monrealese, the Sicilian painter influenced by Caravaggio who worked in Rome and Naples. However, the artist who painted this work has a smoother handling of the paint surface and a cooler color palette than we normally identify with Monrealese. The paintings of Giovanni Battista Caracciolo (1578-1635), the founder of Neapolitan Caravaggesque painting, are similar in their positioning of figures in the foreground of large canvases with bodies emerging from darkness and muscles modulated with light and shadow. Caracciolo's Tobias and the Angel and another Saint John the Baptist painting depict a similar bare-torso youth with deeply shaded eyes (S. Causa, Battistello Caracciolo, Naples, 2000, p. 226, 274, fig. 181, 253). Other artists, such as the Neapolitan Andrea Vaccaro and the Roman Caravaggist painter Tomasso Salini are possible authors of the present canvas.
Christie's, 8 - 9 February 2011, New York, Rockefeller Plaza www.christies.com