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Lot No. 31


Evaristo Baschenis


(Bergamo 1617–1677)
Archlute, recorder, harp, violin, bass viola, mandora and a bow on a woven carpet, a curtain above,
oil on canvas, 98.5 x 145 cm, framed

Provenance:
possibly Collection of Ambrogio Monticelli, Bergamo;
Private collection, Bergamo;
with Gallery Previtali, Bergamo;
where acquired by the present owner, circa 1990

Literature:
possibly L. Angelini, I Baschenis, Bergamo 1946, p. 82, no. 21 (as Evaristo Baschenis);
M. Rosci, Baschenis, Bettera & Co. Produzione e mercato della natura morta del seicento in Italia, Milan 1971, p. 51, illustrated p. 122, fig. 101 (as E. Baschenis);
M. Rosci, Evaristo Baschenis. Bartolomeo Bettera. Bonaventura Bettera, Bergamo 1985, illustrated p. 136, pp. 80–81, no. 38a (as Evaristo Baschenis)

The rigorous compositional structure of this painting is perfectly organised according to a precise architectural logic, which is articulated around the volumetric focus of the musical instruments, resting on a surface prepared, as if for a concert. Evaristo Baschenis has arranged the musical instruments precariously, one upon the other, so that they project dramatically outward towards the viewer. For the artist the musical instruments are the undisputed protagonists of the scene, and beyond the apparent disorder, the work appears to be entirely unified and harmonious.

An attention to detail is characteristic of Baschenis’ celebrated corpus of works, and are apparent in the present painting, such as the skillfully elected range of colours that enliven the tapestry, the coloured silk knotted ribbons that serve a decorative function, the warm golden-brown colouring of the varied types of wood of the musical instruments, as well as the precious parchment book covers. The canvas is further enriched by a sumptuously elegant brocade drape hanging from above on the left, lending balance to the composition. A warm golden light falls from a hidden high window on the left, filling the room and enlivening the colour of the objects and materials, enhancing the effects of shade. The image, which is startling for its heightened realism pushed almost to the limit of illusionism, is dominated by an absolute silence and a magical immobility, wherein the inevitable passing of time is seemingly marked only by the accumulation of dust on the objects.

At the end of the eighteenth century Evaristo Baschenis’ first biographer, Francesco Maria Tassi described the painter’s iconographic choices as a ‘bizzarrissima maniera’ [‘most peculiar manner’], observing that:

‘he typically introduced into his painting little tables covered by similar tapestries and carpets, and made with such mastery in the Persian manner, or in whichever other fine manner they were woven. On top of these he painted variously disarrayed instruments, but with such art and such relief, that they seemed as though they could be lifted out of the painting by hand. Amongst these he added in many other things, such as small boxes, letters, musical scores, inkwells, vases, fruits, flowers, books, plaster figurines and all that his fertile imagination suggested to him’ [‘era solito introdurre ne’ quadri tavolini coperti d’arazzi, e tappeti somigliantissimi, e fatti con tale maestria, che all’usanza della Persia, o in qualunque altra più vaga maniera sembran tessuti. Sopra questi vi dipingeva diversi strumenti confusamente, ma con tale arte però e con tale rilievo, che pare debbansi con la mano distaccare dal quadro. Vi frammischiava altre moltissime cose, come scrigni, lettere carte da suono, scatole calamai, vasi, frutti, fiori, libri, figurine di gesso, e tutto ciò, che la fertile fantasia gli suggeriva’] (see F. Porzio [ed.], La natura morta in Italia, Milan 1989, vol. I, p. 209).

Rosci published the present painting together with a Kitchen still life (illustrated in Rosci 1985, p. 136, no. 2) and dated the present work to the mid-1670s, to the mature, so-called baroque period of Baschenis production. It has been suggested that the iconographic sources of Baschenis’ paintings of musical instruments derive from intarsia works of the fifteenth century, and above all in the treaties on perspective of the latter-half of the sixteenth century, rather than in the Lombard artisanal production of string instruments. His almost scientific works also display an optical realism derived from the tradition of Caravaggio and the Lombard still-life tradition of Fede Galizia, Panfilo Nuvolone and Ambrogio Figino.

Evaristo Baschenis’ interest in musical instruments would have derived from the fact that he was also a musician, as is demonstrated by his self-portrait in the Trittico Agliardi – one of the few works in which he included a human figure. Additionally, it is historically certain that the practice of music, alongside poetry, literature and history was then well diffused among the affluent families of Bergamo.

Technical analysis by Gianluca Poldi:

IR reflectography (IRR) and transmitted IR (TIR) show a thin linear underdrawing used to outline the composition and the accurate details and perspective of the musical instruments. Almost no changes were detected by IR, except for small corrections in the curtain and a string instrument, located on the bottom right, under the books: TIR shows the horizontal lines indicating the thin wood boards, painted as a single wood piece.

The painter worked over a brown ground containing ochre and earths. Pigments detected by XRF and reflectance spectroscopy (vis-RS), show the presence of indigo in all the blue hues, both darker and light and brilliant. No alteration of this organic pigment occurred and the painting appears to have kept its original tones.

Yellow ochre and brown and red earths were widely used in the browns, while the bright reds are painted with vermillion, and the pinks of the curtain are based on a red lake, which seems to be a madder-type. The bright yellow of the curtain contains mainly yellow ochre.

A peculiarity can be noted in the black decorations of the curtain and in the blacks of the suspended ribbons and tassels. In fact, they become very transparent to IR radiation and reddish in false colour imaging, because a dark pigment was used, but not a carbon-based black one.

Evaristo Baschenis’ technique was particularly effective in rendering not only light and shadows and the musical instruments, but also the dust that was deposited on them, obtained with white lead glazes. He developed his own peculiar method to depict carpets that covered the tables of his still lifes which can be seen in raking light, following the narrow and thick brushstrokes, which cross in grids to represent the carpet’s knots, interrupted in the mid-tones by darker colours and chromatic bases.
Some painters tried to imitate his still lifes with musical subjects, when he was alive or after his death, but none could reach his technical mastery.

Specialist: Mark MacDonnell Mark MacDonnell
+43 1 515 60 403

mark.macdonnell@dorotheum.at

10.11.2021 - 16:00

Estimate:
EUR 250,000.- to EUR 350,000.-

Evaristo Baschenis


(Bergamo 1617–1677)
Archlute, recorder, harp, violin, bass viola, mandora and a bow on a woven carpet, a curtain above,
oil on canvas, 98.5 x 145 cm, framed

Provenance:
possibly Collection of Ambrogio Monticelli, Bergamo;
Private collection, Bergamo;
with Gallery Previtali, Bergamo;
where acquired by the present owner, circa 1990

Literature:
possibly L. Angelini, I Baschenis, Bergamo 1946, p. 82, no. 21 (as Evaristo Baschenis);
M. Rosci, Baschenis, Bettera & Co. Produzione e mercato della natura morta del seicento in Italia, Milan 1971, p. 51, illustrated p. 122, fig. 101 (as E. Baschenis);
M. Rosci, Evaristo Baschenis. Bartolomeo Bettera. Bonaventura Bettera, Bergamo 1985, illustrated p. 136, pp. 80–81, no. 38a (as Evaristo Baschenis)

The rigorous compositional structure of this painting is perfectly organised according to a precise architectural logic, which is articulated around the volumetric focus of the musical instruments, resting on a surface prepared, as if for a concert. Evaristo Baschenis has arranged the musical instruments precariously, one upon the other, so that they project dramatically outward towards the viewer. For the artist the musical instruments are the undisputed protagonists of the scene, and beyond the apparent disorder, the work appears to be entirely unified and harmonious.

An attention to detail is characteristic of Baschenis’ celebrated corpus of works, and are apparent in the present painting, such as the skillfully elected range of colours that enliven the tapestry, the coloured silk knotted ribbons that serve a decorative function, the warm golden-brown colouring of the varied types of wood of the musical instruments, as well as the precious parchment book covers. The canvas is further enriched by a sumptuously elegant brocade drape hanging from above on the left, lending balance to the composition. A warm golden light falls from a hidden high window on the left, filling the room and enlivening the colour of the objects and materials, enhancing the effects of shade. The image, which is startling for its heightened realism pushed almost to the limit of illusionism, is dominated by an absolute silence and a magical immobility, wherein the inevitable passing of time is seemingly marked only by the accumulation of dust on the objects.

At the end of the eighteenth century Evaristo Baschenis’ first biographer, Francesco Maria Tassi described the painter’s iconographic choices as a ‘bizzarrissima maniera’ [‘most peculiar manner’], observing that:

‘he typically introduced into his painting little tables covered by similar tapestries and carpets, and made with such mastery in the Persian manner, or in whichever other fine manner they were woven. On top of these he painted variously disarrayed instruments, but with such art and such relief, that they seemed as though they could be lifted out of the painting by hand. Amongst these he added in many other things, such as small boxes, letters, musical scores, inkwells, vases, fruits, flowers, books, plaster figurines and all that his fertile imagination suggested to him’ [‘era solito introdurre ne’ quadri tavolini coperti d’arazzi, e tappeti somigliantissimi, e fatti con tale maestria, che all’usanza della Persia, o in qualunque altra più vaga maniera sembran tessuti. Sopra questi vi dipingeva diversi strumenti confusamente, ma con tale arte però e con tale rilievo, che pare debbansi con la mano distaccare dal quadro. Vi frammischiava altre moltissime cose, come scrigni, lettere carte da suono, scatole calamai, vasi, frutti, fiori, libri, figurine di gesso, e tutto ciò, che la fertile fantasia gli suggeriva’] (see F. Porzio [ed.], La natura morta in Italia, Milan 1989, vol. I, p. 209).

Rosci published the present painting together with a Kitchen still life (illustrated in Rosci 1985, p. 136, no. 2) and dated the present work to the mid-1670s, to the mature, so-called baroque period of Baschenis production. It has been suggested that the iconographic sources of Baschenis’ paintings of musical instruments derive from intarsia works of the fifteenth century, and above all in the treaties on perspective of the latter-half of the sixteenth century, rather than in the Lombard artisanal production of string instruments. His almost scientific works also display an optical realism derived from the tradition of Caravaggio and the Lombard still-life tradition of Fede Galizia, Panfilo Nuvolone and Ambrogio Figino.

Evaristo Baschenis’ interest in musical instruments would have derived from the fact that he was also a musician, as is demonstrated by his self-portrait in the Trittico Agliardi – one of the few works in which he included a human figure. Additionally, it is historically certain that the practice of music, alongside poetry, literature and history was then well diffused among the affluent families of Bergamo.

Technical analysis by Gianluca Poldi:

IR reflectography (IRR) and transmitted IR (TIR) show a thin linear underdrawing used to outline the composition and the accurate details and perspective of the musical instruments. Almost no changes were detected by IR, except for small corrections in the curtain and a string instrument, located on the bottom right, under the books: TIR shows the horizontal lines indicating the thin wood boards, painted as a single wood piece.

The painter worked over a brown ground containing ochre and earths. Pigments detected by XRF and reflectance spectroscopy (vis-RS), show the presence of indigo in all the blue hues, both darker and light and brilliant. No alteration of this organic pigment occurred and the painting appears to have kept its original tones.

Yellow ochre and brown and red earths were widely used in the browns, while the bright reds are painted with vermillion, and the pinks of the curtain are based on a red lake, which seems to be a madder-type. The bright yellow of the curtain contains mainly yellow ochre.

A peculiarity can be noted in the black decorations of the curtain and in the blacks of the suspended ribbons and tassels. In fact, they become very transparent to IR radiation and reddish in false colour imaging, because a dark pigment was used, but not a carbon-based black one.

Evaristo Baschenis’ technique was particularly effective in rendering not only light and shadows and the musical instruments, but also the dust that was deposited on them, obtained with white lead glazes. He developed his own peculiar method to depict carpets that covered the tables of his still lifes which can be seen in raking light, following the narrow and thick brushstrokes, which cross in grids to represent the carpet’s knots, interrupted in the mid-tones by darker colours and chromatic bases.
Some painters tried to imitate his still lifes with musical subjects, when he was alive or after his death, but none could reach his technical mastery.

Specialist: Mark MacDonnell Mark MacDonnell
+43 1 515 60 403

mark.macdonnell@dorotheum.at


Buyers hotline Mon.-Fri.: 9.00am - 6.00pm
old.masters@dorotheum.at

+43 1 515 60 403
Auction: Old Master Paintings
Date: 10.11.2021 - 16:00
Location: Vienna | Palais Dorotheum
Exhibition: 29.10. - 10.11.2021