next prev
Pietro Paolini
Lot No. 547 
Pietro Paolini

Pietro Paolini

(Lucca 1603–1681)
oil on canvas, oval 50 x 38.5 cm, framed

We are grateful to Patrizia Giusti Maccari for confirming the attribution of the present painting.

This previously unpublished painting constitutes an example of the pictorial quality and masterful ability to create an harmonic composition which is typical of Pietro Paolini´s work in the decade of 1625-1635. This period marks the most important and remarkable phase in the painter’s long and successful career, which was formed in Rome by his acquaintance with Angelo Caroselli, to whom his father sent him, according to tradition by 18th and 19th century sources, in 1619 at the age of sixteen, and by the milieu of the numerous naturalist painters, both Italian and foreign, who worked there in the Caravaggesque tradition. Archival data that has recently become available has given the possibility of reconsidering both the duration and the actual impact of the relationship between Paolini and Caroselli, since the latter was continuously absent from Rome from June 1616 until February 1623 (see M. Rossetti, Note sul soggiorno napoletano di Angelo Caroselli (1585-1652), appunti sulla parentesi fiorentina e alcune opere inedite, in L’Acropoli, XI, no.5, pp.1-23); Paolini’s documented presence in Lucca in 1626, at least for the period June-October (P. Giusti Maccari to be published), further limits the period of their interaction, which was perhaps characterised by collaboration and the typological sharing of their themes rather than an apprenticeship. This indispensable clarification notwithstanding, Paolini can still be regarded as belonging fully to the group of second-generation naturalist painters in the Caravaggesque tradition, with Bartolomeo Manfredi at its head, who became the protagonists of the variegated art scene in Rome between the second and third decades of the 17th century (R. Vodret, Caravaggio e l’Europa, in Caravaggio e l’Europa. Il movimento internazionale da Caravaggio a Mattia Preti, exhibition catalogue, 2005, pp. 75-85).
It is emblematic of Paolini’s involvement in culturally up-to-date milieus of a remarkable level both in Rome and in Lucca and the present painting may have been executed at the end of his stay in Rome or immediately after his return to his home town, which took place as early as May 1632 after a stop in Venice. The depiction of the myth of Pandora is unusual. The story of Pandora had been narrated since antiquity but almost forgotten for centuries until it was rediscovered in 1471 as a result of Niccolò della Valle’s translation, from the original Greek, of Hesiod’s Works and Days and Theogony.. In the following century, thanks to the imposing mythographic treatise by the humanist Lilio Gregorio Giraldi, the circulation of Andrea Alciati’s Emblemata, containing two woodcuts devoted to the episode, and Rosso Fiorentino’s drawing that for the first time depicted Pandora in the act of opening a jar, this story began to spread, first in France, then in England and the Netherlands, before finally reaching Italy and Germany (E. Panofsky, Il vaso di Pandora, Turin 1992). This is certainly a refined subject, depicting the moment in which Pandora, a beautiful young woman molded by Hephaestus on the instructions of Zeus and animated by Athena, yields to curiosity and, despite the explicit prohibition, takes the lid off the jar that contained the gifts, both good and evil, that she had received from all the gods. As a result of her disobedience, evil spread among mankind. For this reason, the figure of Pandora has been sometimes compared to Eve. It is likely - although this cannot be proved - that either Paolini or his cultivated client may have been influenced in their choice of this subject by the lines that Giovan Battista Marino drafted about the young woman in his Adone, written in 1621. Fully aware of her beauty, Pandora turns her big, magnetic eyes, which are of the same deep black as her hair and eyebrows, towards the viewer, who is invited to share her curiosity. The promise of a smile slightly lifts the corners of her red mouth. According to Hesiod’s account, the necklace with large pearls around her long, slim neck indicates one of the gifts she received from the Graces, whilst the flowers pinned to the veil covering her hair stands for the presents offered to her by the Horae. In the foreground, but slightly to the side in order to gain more prominence, stands the jar, in the form of a pyx with a gadrooned body, opened without hesitation by the woman who remains indifferent to the possible consequences of her act of disobedience. As in other allegorical works by Paolini, which often display a didactic, moralising tone, the symbolic message with which this painting is charged does not seem immediately decipherable, but it is likely an allusion to the deceitful nature of earthly beauty and it ability to generate evil with its charms.

The stylistic quality and expressive power of the girl’s face, possibly a real-life portrait, her physiognomic traits and her high, prominent cheekbones, the delicate way in which the shade veils the left side of her face - all these elements confirm Paolini’s authorship. This is further comforted by the painter’s use of the oval, a clearly congenial format, as his old tuners of musical instruments demonstrate (P. Giusti Maccari, Pietro Paolini pittore lucchese, 1987, pp. 130-133; G.Papi, La “schola” del Caravaggio. Dipinti dalla Collezione Koelliker, exhibition catalogue, 2006, pp. 166-167).

We are grateful to Patrizia Giusti Maccari for cataloguing the present lot.

Specialist: Mark MacDonnell

Pietro Paolini
Convert currency
  • realized price**
    EUR 49,100
    USD 56,000
  • estimate
    EUR 40,000 to 60,000
    USD 45,500 to 68,500

Mon.-Fri.: 9.00am - 6.00pm (CET)
+43 1 515 60 200


Old Master Paintings
Date: 15.10.2013, 17:00
Location: Palais Dorotheum Vienna
Exhibition: 05.10. - 15.10.2013

**Purchase price incl. all charges, commissions and taxes

Bids can no longer be placed via the internet. The auction is in preparation or has already taken place.

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience.
By using our webpages, you agree to the use of cookies. Further information