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Andrea Vaccaro
Lot No. 50 
Andrea Vaccaro
  • Andrea Vaccaro
  • Andrea Vaccaro
  • Andrea Vaccaro

Andrea Vaccaro

(Naples 1604–1670)
Susanna and the Elders,
monogrammed at lower left: AV (ligated),
oil on canvas, 153.5 x 206 cm, framed

Princes Esterhazy;
Collection Friedrich Jakob Gsell (1812–1871), Vienna;
his sale at Georg Plach, Vienna, 14 March 1872, lot 516;
Acquired by Gallery Hugo Othmar Miethke, Vienna;
Anonymous sale, Dorotheum, Vienna, 2 March 1939, lot 97;
acquired by the grandfather of the present owner;
Private collection, Vienna

G. F. Waagen, Die vornehmsten Kunstdenkmäler in Wien, I, Vienna, 1866, p. 321
T. v. Frimmel, Lexikon der Wiener Gemäldesammlungen, Munich, 1914, vol. G-L, p. 106, n. 516

We are grateful to Sebastian Schütze for confirming the attribution after examining the present painting in the original and for his help in reconstructing the provenance and literature of the present painting.

We are also grateful to Wolfgang Prohaska for independently confirming the attribution after examining the present painting in the original

We are also grateful to Riccardo Lattuada for independently confirming the attribution on the basis of a high resolution digital photograph.

The present painting, devoted to the subject of Susanna and the Elders, identifies Andrea Vaccaro as one of the most outstanding painters of the Neapolitan Baroque. The monograph by Anna K. Tuck-Scala, which was published in 2012, underlines Vaccaro’s great significance in Neapolitan painting of his time (A. K. Tuck-Scala, Andrea Vaccaro, Naples, 1604–1670, His Documented Life and Art, Naples, 2012). Vaccaro’s style was influenced by Caravaggio, particularly when it comes to the artist’s chiaroscuro effects and the naturalistic rendering of his figures, but from 1630 onwards he also drew inspiration from works by Guido Reni, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, and Pietro Novelli. Vaccaro was remarkably successful in Naples and also received numerous commissions from Spanish patrons. The elegant manner of Bernardo Cavallino, whom Vaccaro met in the second half of the 1640s, became an additional influence. Between 1650 and 1670, Vaccaro’s art was highly formative for Neapolitan painting besides that of Massimo Stanzione, the leading artist at that time, and that of the young Luca Giordano, who was on his rise to fame. Vaccaro’s late work betrays Luca Giordano’s brilliant palette and Mattia Preti’s interplay of light and shadow. Vaccaro always managed to keep pace with the most important contemporary artistic developments.

Sebastian Schütze dates the present painting into the artist’s late period. Riccardo Lattuada, who compares it to the painting of Susanna and the Elders from the D’Avalos Collection (now in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples), suggests a date of execution in the 1650s. In this latter painting, the figure of Susanna is flanked by the two elders on her left and right, while the fountain figure of the water-spouting putto recurs near the left margin. As in the present painting, the focus is on the expressive exchange of gestures and gazes of a limited number of figures. A similar dialogue among the figures can be observed in the painting Saint Martha rebuking Mary Magdalene for her Vanity (whereabouts unknown, reproduced in the Fototeca Zeri, no. 50495, see M. Izzo, Nicola Vaccaro, 1640–1709, Un artista a Napoli tra Barocco e Arcadia, Todi, 2009, p. 95). Similarites are also recognisable in the altarpiece in Santa Maria della Providenza in Naples – especially in the figure of God the Father, who resembles the bearded old man in the present composition (see A. K. Tuck-Scala, Andrea Vaccaro, Naples, 1604–1670, His Documented Life and Art, Naples, 2012, no. 11, p. 95). A comparable composition can be found in the painting Lot and His Daughters, which was sold at Sotheby’s, London, on 5th December 2012 (lot 22).

The present composition primarily stands out for its carefully balanced equilibrium in the distribution of the figures, its delicate rendering of textures and complexions, and its restrained intensity of moods and emotions. The figures occupy the foreground and are gently embedded in the landscape and architectural elements. The Caravaggesque backdrop provides a dark setting for the scene. The cool greys of the putto effectively contrast with the flesh tones of Susanna, who appears in an elegant and idealised pose. A further antagonism has been created by juxtaposing the two old men in their heavy garments with the female figure in the nude. A curiously conspicuous detail is the magnifying glass of one of the men. The naturalistic appearance of the elders underscores the idealised beauty of the female figure. The movements of the figures betray Vaccaro’s familiarity with anatomy and his great ability to draw dynamic postures. Skilfully placed light effects produce a convincing three-dimensionality. The painting technique is characterised by a broad, open, and saturated brushwork. The present picture, whose composition appears to be unique, may have been painted for a private patron and, given its large dimensions, was likely intended to be installed in a palazzo.

In the nineteenth century, the painting belonged to the collection of Friedrich Jakob Gsell, who had earned a fortune as a wool merchant and was therefore able to retire from business at an early age. He settled in Vienna, where he compiled one of the city’s most important private collections, Galerie Gsell, starting in 1849 and when he died, his collection comprised of as many as 600 paintings. It had been expected, which he had probably nurtured himself, that he would donate his collection to Strasbourg, his native city, or to the City of Vienna with a foundation, however these hopes were shattered after his death, and Galerie Gsell was dispersed in a large auction held from 14th March 1872 onwards, organized by the Viennese art dealer Georg Plach at the Vienna Künstlerhaus.

Specialist: Mark MacDonnell

Andrea Vaccaro
Convert currency
  • realized price**
    EUR 271,400
    USD 308,000
  • estimate
    EUR 100,000 to 150,000
    USD 113,500 to 170,500

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


Old Master Paintings
Date: 19.04.2016, 17:00
Location: Palais Dorotheum Vienna
Exhibition: 09.04. - 19.04.2016

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

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