Home page

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Cristoforo Munari (Reggio Emilia 1667-1720 Pisa)
PROPERTY FROM THE LODI COLLECTION 'It was to come to pass that this faith and confidence in empirical truth would be proven under the light of a later philosophy; but if the art on which that faith rested managed to convince the masses of spectators by its fictions, one could also say that this illusionism - that of realism - thence received its credentials.' (R. Longhi ed., I Pittori della realtà in Lombardia, 1953, ii). The re-evaluation of Italian still life painting is a relatively recent phenomenon and can be traced to the efforts of such remarkable art historians as de Logu, Bologna and Salerno who were among the first to explore the rich tradition from the early 1960s onwards. John Spike played a crucial role in the more recent awakening of interest in the field with the groundbreaking exhibition Italian Still-Life Paintings from Three Centuries (National Academy of Design, New York) that brought the genre to the notice of Americans for the first time in 1983. But perhaps the most significant intellectual advances that created the climate in which subsequent interest would flourish were those made by Roberto Longhi in the early 1950s. It was his work on Caravaggio and his insistence on the importance of Lombardy as the region from which Italian realism originated (as demonstrated in the spectacular exhibition I Pittori della realtà in Lombardia, 1953) that instigated a fascination with Italian genre painting that has only recently begun to take a hold on the public imagination outside Italy. It is a remarkable fact that to this day neither the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York nor the National Gallery in London owns a single securely dated seventeenth-century Italian still life. Longhi's work promoted a particular interest in 'realist' painters, especially the early exponents, those who were contemporaries of Caravaggio and who, in a sense, sparked this line of enquiry centuries ago. Longhi also drew attention to the surprising riches of the independent Italian regions beyond the traditional cultural centers, Florence, Venice and Rome. Silvano Lodi was a true pioneer, and his importance as a collector of still lifes is evident not only from the remarkable quality of the paintings that are being sold through Christie's over the course of four sales in 2006 but also by the fact that so many have been lent to the numerous exhibitions devoted to this subject in the last twenty years. Ten of the forty-six paintings in the 1983 New York exhibition came from the Lodi collection, and a year later the whole collection was exhibited at no less of a museum than the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. Lodi's interests in many respects follow the pattern established by Longhi. He was especially drawn to early still lifes, owning three examples by the extremely rare Lombard painter Fede Galizia, whose combination of careful observation and monumental forms recalls her famous Lombard compatriot, Caravaggio. A beautiful example, the Cherries in a silver compote, is included in this sale (lot 37); a related painting was owned by King Charles I and is now at Hampton Court. The fascination with the close observation of reality and the importance of Italy's regional artistic centers, both of which informed Lodi's purchase of such masterpieces as the Baschenis (sold in New York in April) and the Ceruti (sold in London in July), lie behind his acquisition of two exquisite compositions by Cristoforo Munari and the magnificent Kitchen still life by the Marchigian artist Carlo Magini, a painter whose work was totally unstudied until his rediscovery in 1954 (lot 42). Caravaggio's influence was nowhere more deeply felt than in Naples where he went after his flight from Rome in 1606. Caravaggio's increasingly tenebrist palette was to profoundly influence two generations of Neapolitan painters, and into this orbit was also drawn a school of still-life painting that developed an immediately recognizable character of its own. One of the greatest practitioners in this field was Giovanni Battista Recco, who is represented here by a superb Shellfish in a basket (lot 39). From the same culture came Paolo Porpora, known for his crepuscular scenes with vegetation, toads and lizards. The two examples to be included in this sale show different sides of Porpora's work: the Irises with a lizard is dark and highly refined, the Lilac, roses, irises and other flowers on a stone ledge more Roman in its florid exuberance (lots 40 and 38).
Cristoforo Munari (Reggio Emilia 1667-1720 Pisa)

Three shells and two ceramic bowls

Details
Cristoforo Munari (Reggio Emilia 1667-1720 Pisa)
Three shells and two ceramic bowls
oil on canvas
8¾ x 11¾ in. (22.2 x 29.9 cm.)
Literature
L. Salerno, Italian still life painting from three centuries, The Silvano Lodi collection, exhibition catalogue, Florence, 1984, pp. 137-8, no. 62.
G. Anedi, et al., La curiosità dipinta, exhibition catalogue, Milan, 1990, p. 45.
Italian still life painting, from The Silvano Lodi collection, exhibition catalogue, Jerusalem, 1994.
Italian still life painting, from The Silvano Lodi collection, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo, 2001, p. 70, no. 31.
N. Schneier et al., L'Art Gourmand, exhibition catalogue, Brussels, 1996, pp. 232-3, no. 68.
F. Baldassari, Cristoforo Munari, Milan, 1998, pp. 164-5, no. 55.
S. Dathe, Natura morta italiana: Italienische stilleben aus vier Jahrhunderten, sammlung Silvano Lodi, exhibition catalogue, Ravensburg, 2003, pp. 23, 27 and 56.
Exhibited
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek, Italian still life painting from three centuries, The Silvano Lodi collection, 27 November 1984-22 February 1985, no. 62; Berlin, Gemäldegalerie Staatliche Museen-Preussicher Kulturbesitz, 6 September-27 October 1985.
Milan, X Internazionale Antiquariato, La curiosità dipinta, 30 March-8 April 1990; and Torino, 18 April-5 May 1990, no. 23.
Jerusalem, The Israel Museum of Art, Italian still life painting, from The Silvano Lodi collection, June 1994.
Tokyo, Seiji Togo Memorial Museum of Art, Italian still life painting, from The Silvano Lodi collection, 28 April-26 May 2001, no. 31; and on tour in Japan.
Brussels, La Galerie du Crédit Communal, L'Art Gourmand, 19 November 1996-23 February 1997, 68; Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, 5 March-1 June 1997; and Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, 19 June-14 September 1997.
Ravensburg, Schloss Achberg, Natura morta italiana: Italienische stilleben aus vier Jahrhunderten, sammlung Silvano Lodi, 11 April-12 October, 2003.

Lot Essay

Described by the eighteenth-century Florentine biographer Francesco Maria Niccolo Gaburri as 'an excellent painter in the depiction of kitchens, instruments, rugs, vases, fruit and flowers', Cristoforo Munari was one of many Italian still life painters whose reputation languished until a monographic exhibition in 1964 drew attention to his work (Galleria Nazionale di Parma). Born in Reggio Emilia, he was a protégé of Rinaldo d'Este, Duke of Modena (reg. 1694-1737) but in 1703 moved to Rome 'where he served the Very Eminent Cardinal Imperiali and other princes and lords' (Gaburri, Vite de' pittori) he moved to Florence some time after 1706 where he worked for, among others, Cosimo III and Cardinal Francesco Maria de'Medici, for whom he decorated the Villa Lampeggi with trompe l'oeil still lifes. Almost exclusively a painter of still lifes (there is a self-portrait in the Corridoio Vasariano), Munari may well have met artists such as Christian Berentz in Rome who would have introduced him to the illusionistic effects perfected by the Dutch still-life painters of the seventeenth century, most notably Jan Davidz. de Heem. Munari's realistic treatment of detail and his interest in capturing the subtle play of reflections and transparency, between hard and soft surfaces, are suggestive of artists like de Heem and Kalf (both of whom were collected by the Medici), while his architectonic compositions, often constructed around musical instruments, echo works by Baschenis. He also painted a number of kitchen still lifes whose earthy realism anticipates the manner of Carlo Magini. Munari moved to Pisa in 1715 where he worked also as a restorer. He is buried in the Camposanto.

This charming and still life with shells has been dated by Baldassari to circa 1705-10, placing it within the same date as the Uffizi Still life with a book, fruits and porcelain bowl, that was painted for Francesco Maria de'Medici and is signed and dated 1709. Although painted on a small scale, the composition has a monumentality which makes it clear that this is not a study but a finished work. Shells, which appear frequently in both Neapolitan and Dutch still lives of the seventeenth century, appear in a number of Munari's compositions of around this date, notably in his depiction of a vitrine that is clearly part of a wunderkammer cabinet in a painting in the Städtisches Museum, Wiesbaden and in an upright still life, formerly with the Lorenzelli gallery (Baldassari, op. cit. no. 52) which has an understated simplicity similar to that of this picture.

More from Old Master Paintings

View All
View All