These two hitherto unpublished still-lifes, along with the previous lot, were part of a series of four or more paintings, now dispersed. Never lined and in an exceptional state of conservation, they are markedly caravaggesque in spirit and execution, and have been attributed to the Master SB by Dr. Gianni Papi.
This anonymous and intriguing master is now considered the author of the ensemble of still-lifes that were once thought to be by Tommaso Salini, on the basis of a Still-life with fruit, vegetables and a snake (Turin, private collection), whose signature 'T. Salini F. 1621' is now considered a later addition. The initials 'SB' refer to a group of four paintings in private collections and two in the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, one of which is signed with the letters 'S.B.P.'. These pictures, two of which are dated 1652 and 1655, were formerly attributed to Luca Forte and are by the same hand of those once attributed to Tommaso Salini. Alberto Cottino recently added to the Master's corpus another painting, dated 1633, expanding the career of the master backwards (Christie's, Castillo de Bendinat, Mallorca, 24 May 1999, lot 786).
In the light of the most recent studies, Gianni Papi shares the hypothesis that the career of this extremely gifted master started in Rome, in the 1620s. This would explain the strong Caravaggism of his first prouves, such as the present three paintings, whose debt to Caravaggio is so evident that Dr. Papi tentatively dates them to the earliest stage of the Master's career, pointing out that they already include various elements that will recur again in the oeuvre of the Master SB: the wicker basket, the beautifully-observed plums, the onions. In the following decades the Master's style becomes fully Baroque, with compositions which are more spacious, atmospheric and complex. It is possible that his career ended in Naples: this would explain both the attributional confusion with Luca Forte and the recurrent use of sfogliatelle and Sorrento lemons in his later paintings, such as those dated 1652 and 1655, mentioned above.
The paintings are sold with a copy of the certificate by Dr. Gianni Papi.