Michelangelo Cerquozzi is recorded by his first biographers Giovan Battista Passeri and Filippo Baldinucci as a painter of still-lifes, battle scenes and bambocciate. He was educated as a still-life painter in the 1620s and 1630s, perhaps in the circle of Agostino Verrocchi. He is considered the inventor of the dal naturale genre of still-life composition, which prefers an outdoor setting with full-length figures depicted in the act of picking or arranging fruit, transforming the still-life into a pastoral scene. Such paintings, often of a large format, are often attributed to Cerquozzi in various inventories of seventeenth-century collections. Some of them have been identified, and a small catalogue of his oeuvre as still-life painter is taking shape on the basis of his figures, whose poses and physiognomies recur in several of his compositions.
Giuliano Briganti was the first art historian to work on the oeuvre of Cerquozzi, followed more recently by Laura Laureati (see L. Laureati, 'Michelangelo Cerquozzi (Roma 1602-1660)' in G. Bocchi and U. Bocchi, eds., Pittori di natura morta a Roma: Artisti italiani 1630-1750, Verona, 2005, pp. 43-65). This picture can be fruitfully compared to the group of paintings established by these two scholars, with resemblance in both the fruit and the female figure. On the other hand, some differences in the colder palette and in the execution of some types of fruit, as well as in the handleling of the figure, suggest an attribution to Cerquozzi's studio. It is fashinating to think that this picture could have been executed by Francesco del Conte, a little-studied pupil of Cerquozzi, who inherited all the quadri principiati (paintings that had already been begun) upon the death of the master.
We are grateful to Dr. Laura Laureati for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.