Cecco de Caravaggio (c.1590-1630)
Traditionally thought to represent a conjurer, perhaps because of the elaborate costume and what was thought to be a ball in his mouth and a coin in his hand. The painting is now known as ‘The Musician’.
The figure has a whistle in his mouth and is holding a tambourine and caught in the act of performing. It could represent a well-known contemporary because of its portrait-like quality. The painting has been dated to around 1615.
Francesco Buoneri, known as Cecco (short for Francesco) de Caravaggio was, as his name suggests, a close friend and follower of Caravaggio.
Born in Tuscany there are few facts known about his life but it is thought that he lived with Caravaggio in 1605 in Rome. He died around 1620.
Cecco was amongst the first wave of Caravaggio followers and one of the few that knew him personally before his departure from Rome in 1606.
Antonio Allegri (called Correggio, ?1489-1534)
This work was praised by Vasari as the ‘rarest and most beautiful of his productions’ and by the mid-17th century it was in the possession of Philip IV of Spain.
When the painting arrived in England it attracted the attention of the painter Owen and the President of the Royal Academy, Benjamin West, who declared that it should ‘be framed in diamonds’.
The painting has suffered from damage over the centuries and the canvas has been cut down. Cleaning in the 1940s revealed the figure of the sleeping apostle on the right hand side of the painting. There is a 17th century copy of the painting in the National Gallery, London.
One of the leading painters of the Italian Renaissance, influenced by Leonardo and Giulio Romano, Correggio worked mainly in Correggio (hence the name) and Parma. The cupola frescoes in the Cathedral at Parma are his most famous works.
The painting in the Wellington Collection was one of the most well-known and admired paintings of the High Renaissance.
Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641)
In April 1624 Van Dyck sailed from Genoa to Palermo, Sicily, when plague broke out and the city was quarantined.
In July of that year the remains of the city’s 12th Century patron saint, Rosalie, were found on a nearby hillside where she had lived as a recluse.
The image of the saint was much in demand and by the time Van Dyck left Palermo in September 1625 he had painted six different compositions portraying St Rosalie.
The Apsley House work appears to be a preparatory version of the much larger painting in the Menil Collection, Houston, USA.
A related composition of St Rosalie interceding for the city of Palermo, which shows the saint on Mount Pellegrino is in the Museo de Arte, Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Born and trained in Antwerp, Van Dyck was, after Rubens, the most important 17th century Flemish painter. He enjoyed success in Flanders and Italy and he became court painter to Charles I of England. He was knighted in 1632
Marcello Venusti (1512/15-1579)
The original of this panel is in the sacristy of San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome.
The composition shows the influence of Michelangelo and it has been suggested that the gesture of the angel is similar to that of God in the Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel.
A drawing of this composition in the Uffizi, Florence, which was once thought to be by Michelangelo, is now believed to be by Venusti. The panel was in the Spanish Royal Collection and captured at the Battle of Vitoria but can’t be traced in the royal inventories.
Born in Como, Venusti began his career working under Giulio Romano but latterly became a friend and follower of Michelangelo.
Titian (c.1490-1576) and followers
This painting (1550-60) is known as “Titian’s Mistress” but we don’t really know the true identity of the model. Titian may have painted this for himself, depicting his own mistress, or painted the mistress of a friend or client or perhaps to show an idealised beautiful woman.
Titian produced a series of beautiful women in the 1530s which are similar in style to the Wellington collection painting. When the painting was cleaned in 2014 an original signature “TITIANVS” was discovered.
This means that the painting was made in Titian’s studio, rather than by a later follower, but he ran a busy workshop and assistants could have helped him in certain passages such as the hat and drapery which appear flatter.
The condition of the painting is still compromised, it was once converted into an oval which has damaged the paint and it is quite worn. Stylistically, it comes from Titian’s later period c. 1550-60s.
When the painting was X-rayed another composition was discovered underneath. This is not unusual for Titian as he often re-used canvases.
When the X-ray is turned on its side you can see a semi-clothed lady raising her arm to pluck her veil, turning to look at something (or someone). However, it was left unfinished and Titian painted it out and started again.
Tiziano Vecellio, (Titian), is one of the undisputed masters of Western art. He was born in 1490 in Cadore, a Venetian territory in the Dolomites. He was the first Venetian painter to achieve European fame in his lifetime.