• Old Master & 19th Century Pain auction at Christies

    Sale 7782

    Old Master & 19th Century Paintings, Drawings & Watercolours Evening Sale

    8 December 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 26

    Jacopo Chimenti, called Jacopo da Empoli (Florence 1551-1640)

    Portrait of a gentleman, possibly of the Strozzi family, full-length, in black doublet, mantle and pantaloons, wearing a sword, his hat on the carpet-draped table beside, with a draped curtain and a lap-dog

    Price Realised  


    Jacopo Chimenti, called Jacopo da Empoli (Florence 1551-1640)
    Portrait of a gentleman, possibly of the Strozzi family, full-length, in black doublet, mantle and pantaloons, wearing a sword, his hat on the carpet-draped table beside, with a draped curtain and a lap-dog
    inscribed and dated '. AL . M. B. F. 159[?]3' ('AL' linked, lower right)
    oil on canvas
    83 x 47 in. (210.8 x 119.4 cm.)

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    This striking full-length portrait has excited much scholarly interest with regards to the identity of the sitter. Stylistically, it bears a close relationship to Empoli's Portrait of a Noblewoman dressed in mourning, dated circa 1600 (Chicago, Art Institute). The similarity between the two portraits is a topic of much interest in the ongoing research on Empoli's corpus of paintings. They share the same compositional characteristics: a full-length sitter placed squarely on tiled flooring, just in front of a covered table, with a draped curtain to one side, each sitter framed closely by the picture rectangle. They have similar dimensions (the Chicago picture is 221 x 122.5 cm.) and the same nineteenth-century provenance, having emerged from the collection of Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley (1766-1851). Each is inscribed with a similarly enigmatic abbreviation, that on the Chicago portrait reading 'A.L. HT. B.'. In neither case has it been possible to decipher the meaning of these initials. It is to be hoped that their eventual decipherment will elucidate the circumstances of the commission or the idenity of the sitters.

    As the young gentleman is also dressed in mourning, he has been tentatively identified as the lady's son. There has been much more speculation as to her identity. Traditionally, she has been thought to be a member of the Medici family, but her features do not correspond with any of those catalogued by Karla Langedijk (The Portraits of the Medici: 15th-18th Centuries, Florence, 1981, 1983 and 1987). Given the Villa Salviati provenance, she has also been thought to be an unidentified member of that important family. Professor Marabottini takes this hypothesis further, pointing out that the Crucifix on the table is extremely close to those by Giambologna, for example that in the Cappella della Madonna del Soccorso in the Church of the Santissima Annunziata in Florence. Giambologna decorated the Salviati chapel in San Marco in Florence and it is highly probable, given his close relationship with the family, that a Crucifix of his workmanship was kept in the family palace for private devotion, and could very well be the one reproduced in this painting (A. Marabottini, L'Empoli, Rome, 1988, p. 226, no. 67). Other scholars have read the sequence of triple crescent moons on the gentleman's hat as a reference to the Strozzi coat-of-arms.

    Despite obvious differences between the two paintings, including the colour of the curtains and the lighting, there are enough similarities to lead Professor Miles Chappell to note that 'even with these disparities, they do relate to one another and reflect their time' (op. cit., p. 159).

    We are grateful to Dr. Francesca Baldassari for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    (Possibly) Giovanni Battista Matteo, Cavaliere di Candia (1810-1883), Villa Salviati, near Florence.
    Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley (1766-1851), politician, Foots Cray Place, Kent; Christie's, London, 1 May 1876, lot 238, as 'Morone, Portrait of an Italian Nobleman' (110.5 gns to Eyles).
    Miss N. Oswald Smith (1896-1962), Shottesbrooke Park, Maidenhead, Berkshire; Christie's, London, 13 February 1948, lot 35, as 'Moroni, Portrait of a Gentleman of the Medici Family' (63 gns. to Wallraf).

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that this lot will be sold without reserve.

    Pre-Lot Text



    European Portraits 1600-1900, in the Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, p. 32, under no. 1.
    C. Lloyd, Italian Paintings before 1600 in The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1993, pp. 76 and 78-9, nos. 3, 4, and 7, fig. 1.
    The Italian Renaissance Masters, exhibition catalogue, Wisconsin, Marquette University, pp. 13 and 15, no. 11.
    M. Chappell in the exhibition catalogue L'Ombra del genio: Michelangelo e l'arte a Firenze 1537-1631, ed. M. Chiarini, A.P. Darr and C. Giannini, Florence, Palazzo Strozzi; Chicago, The Art Institute; Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Art, 2002, p. 167, under no. 22.
    M. Chappell in The Medici, Michelangelo, and the art of late Renaissance Florence, ed. C. Acidini Luchinat, New Haven and London, 2002, pp. 158-9, under no. 22.
    A. Cecchi in the exhibition catalogue Jacopo da Empoli, 1551-1640: pittore d'eleganza e devozione, ed. R.C. Proto Pisani, Empoli, Church of Santo Stefano degli Agostiniani, 2004, p. 240, under no. 59.


    Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marquette University, The Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Italian Renaissance Masters, 25 January-20 May 2001, no. 10.