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Follower of Jacopo Bassano
Follower of Jacopo Bassano

The Adoration of the Magi

Details
Follower of Jacopo Bassano
The Adoration of the Magi
oil on lapis lazuli and slate
3¾ x 6½ in. (9.5 x 16.5 cm.)
in a 17th-century Italian frame

Lot Essay

The composition of the present painting can be related to an Adoration of the Magi, attributed to Jacopo Bassano, in the Galleria Borghese, Rome (inv. no. 234; illustrated in A. Ballarin, Jacopo Bassano, Padua, 1996, II, fig. 633). Two other very similar depictions of the subject, both on a small-scale and executed on a stone support, have been recently published, as by Jacopo Bassano. The first (on lapis lazuli, 3¾ x 5 1/8 in.) is recorded in a private collection, Brescia (see G.M. Pilo, 'Un dipinto di lapislazzuli di Jacopo Bassano', Arte Veneta, XXIX, 1975, pp. 167-173). The second (on marble, 10 x 10 in.) is one of a pair of octagonal paintings, sold, Sotheby's, London, 3 April 1985, lot 6, as by a Veronese follower of Jacopo Bassano, and later exhibited by Piero Corsini, Inc., as fully attributed to Jacopo (Piero Corsini: Venetian Painting from Titian to El Greco, New York, 1991, no. 10, pp. 58ff., exhibition catalogue by F. Dabell). Two further versions are recorded in photo files at the Frick Art Reference Library: a copper panel measuring 14 1/8 x 11 3/8 in the Musée Dubrée, Nantes, and another in the Rudolf Bedo Collection, Budapest, in 1938. The same subject is also known through an engraving by Raphael Sadeler I (1560/1-c. 1628 or 1632) made in 1598 after a Bassano original (Ballarin, op. cit., fig. 632). Although the composition of the engraving is closest of all the painted versions to the Borghese painting, it is, however, more highly finished than the latter, which has a sketch-like quality to it. This would then suggest that the engraving is not after this work, but rather after another, presumably lost, Bassano original.

Though compositionally very similar, none of the painted versions are identical, and a number of small differences may be noted. For example, in the Corsini painting, the standing Magus is not holding a cup, and it is only in the present work that Jesus looks toward the kneeling king (although there is a clear pentiment in the positioning of his head). Some of the variations reflect the shape and size of the support: for example, the curve of the lapis lazuli of the Brescian work precludes the inclusion of the kneeling attendant in the lower left, while the relative width of the support of the present painting has resulted in a more extended disposition of figures - a column has been added between the Christ Child and the kneeling Magus and the young attendant by the standing king has been moved further to the left. It is also interesting to note how the lapis here has been used only in the top half of the composition to create the effect of a nocturnal sky.

There is a fineness and precision in the present work that suggests it might be more closely linked to the Sadeler engraving, rather than any extant Bassano original. This is particularly noticeable in the face of the standing king, the delicacy of whose features seems unmatched in the Corsini and Brescian versions. Thus, although this work is obviously derived from a Bassano prototype, it should not necessarily be assumed that the artist here was closely associated with the latter or his studio. In the second half of the sixteenth- and the first half of the seventeenth century, the use of such rare and precious supports was not uncommon in Italy, from principal artistic centers such as Florence, with its pietra dura workshops, to smaller ones; such as Verona, where artists such as Jacopo Ligozzi (1547-1627) and Alessandro Turchi, called l'Orbetto (1578-1649) produced exquisite works of this type.
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