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Angelo Caroselli (Rome 1585-1652)
Angelo Caroselli (Rome 1585-1652)

An Allegory of Youth and Old Age

Angelo Caroselli (Rome 1585-1652)
An Allegory of Youth and Old Age
oil on canvas, unframed
25 7/8 x 31 ½ in. (65.8 x 80 cm.)
Marchese Carlo di Ottavio Gerini (1616 - 1673), Florence, recorded in his posthumous inventory of 1673 from Via del Cocomero as being located in the “camera a canto al salotto” as “Un quadro in tela a olio entravi dua femmine che una vecchia l’altra giovane e latt:ra in mano mano del Caroselli alto b 1 2/3 largho b 1 2/4 e ornam:to in tagliato e tutto dorato” (ASF, Gerini, 4671, c. 11), and by descent to
Marcehese Andrea Gerini (1691-1766), Florence, by 1713, in the inventory of Via del Cocomero “1 Quadro dentrovi una giovane, e una vecchia con una lira in mano del Caroselli di Roma ornam:to indorato, e intagliato” (ASF, Gerini, 4671), and in the 1733 inventory of via del Cocomero “358= Un Quadro in tavola del Carosello entrovi due mezze figure di una Giovane, et una Vecchia con cornice intagliata, e dorata alto B:ª 1:12 : largo B:ª 1:17” (ASF, Gerini, 5080), and by descent to
Marchese Giovanni Gerini, Florence, Palazzo Gerini; his sale, Palazzo Gerini, Florence, 1 December 1825, lot 279 ('Angiolo Caroselli, Soggetto galante, di due mezze Figure di Donne al naturale') to a ‘forestiero’.
Smirnoff collection, Russia; Dorotheum, Vienna, 13 March 1958, lot 21.
Anonymous sale; London, Sotheby’s, 15 July 1970, lot 104.
Raccolta di Stampe rappresentanti quadri più scelti dei Signori Marchesi Gerini, I, Florence, 1759.
G. Rosini, Storia della Pittura Italiana esposta coi monumenti, 1848-1852 (II ed.), VI, 1852, pp. 135-136, 153 n.10.
B. Nicolson, The international caravaggesque movement. List of pictures by Caravaggio and his followers throughout Europe from 1590 to 1650, Oxford, 1979, p. 41.
B. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, Turin, 1990, I, p. 95, II, fig. 354.
C.S.Salerno, ‘Precisazioni su Angelo Caroselli’, Storia dell’arte, No. 76, 1992, pp. 347-349, 355 ns. 19-22, fig. 3.
M. Di Dedda, ‘Ultime novità sulla dispersione della collezione Gerini’, Storia dell’arte, Nos. 125-126, 2010, p. 158.
M. Rossetti, ‘Note sul soggiorno napoletano di Angelo Caroselli (1585-1652), appunti sulla parentesi fiorentina e alcune opere inedite’, L’Acropoli, anno XI, No. 5, 2011, p. 544.
D. Semprebene, Angelo Caroselli, 1585-1652: un pittore irriverente, Roma, 2011, pp. 92-93.
M. Ingendaay, “I migliori pennelli” I Marchesi Gerini mecenati e collezionisti nella Firenze barocca, 2013, I, pp. 166, 230, 300 tav. XXIII; II, p. 135,
M. Di Dedda, La Quadreria Gerini (forthcoming).

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Lot Essay

The subject of this alluring canvas has often been described as depicting a procuress and her quarry, but closer inspection suggests the scene may be more allegorical in nature. At left, a young girl with a dreamy gaze holds a letter, while her forearm rests on a pile of gold coins on the table. Her other elbow rests on a plush velvet cushion, and she reaches up nonchalantly to brush her silken hair behind her shoulder. Her face, bathed in light, is porcelain-smooth, her rosy lips full, and a light blush spreads over her cheeks. By contrast, the profile of the older woman at right sinks into the shadows, her skin heavily wrinkled and hardened in the sun, and her hair gone grey. While some have suggested that the coins allude to a transaction the older woman is working to arrange, the presence of the letter and the meditative demeanor of the young lady suggest a different interpretation: the letter more likely alludes to the presence of a man in her life and the prospect of a good marriage and a comfortable life, as also suggested by the coins strewn about the table. While the girl daydreams about her happy future, her aged companion serves as a reminder of the passage of time and the transience of earthly goods. Her gesture – which shows she has clearly come to the third point in her monologue – suggests she may be talking about the three stages of life: youth, maturity, and old age, urging her tender young friend not to forsake the bounty of her current blessings.

Caroselli’s use of dramatic chiaroscuro enhances this reading by emphasizing the stark contrast between the soft, youthful figure at left and the more wizened character at right. Clearly influenced by the new naturalism of Caravaggio, who was active in Rome until 1606, Caroselli also responds here to the works of Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, who were also working in the Italian capital at the turn of the 17th century in a similar style. The present work dates to c. 1600-1615, and compares well with the artist’s canvas The Deception of Love, formerly at Downton Castle, Herefordshire (sold Christie’s, London, 4 May 1979, lot 87).

This Allegory of Youth and Old Age is mentioned for the first time in Florence in the posthumous 1673 inventory of the Marquis Carlo Gerini (1613-1673), a dignitary of the Cardinal Carlo di Ferdinando de' Medici, whose grand home in Via del Cocomero (now via Ricasoli) housed his magnificent collection of art. Gerini’s son Andrea, an intellectual and art patron, expanded on his father’s acquisitions, building an outstanding collection which is now represented in some of the most prestigious institutions across the world and included works by Guido Reni, Carlo Dolci, Jusepe de Ribera, and Raphael, to name only a few. The present work is also recorded inventories in 1713 and 1733, and remained in the Gerini family until the collection was sold by Carlo’s grandson Giovanni in 1825. In the mid-18th century the picture was engraved (fig. 1), and it was only by virtue of this black-and-white record that it was known until it reemerged at auction in 1958 in Vienna, sold from the Stroganoff collection. An 1829 Gerini record which notes that the present work was acquired in 1825 by a ‘foreigner’ suggests that perhaps it made its way into the renowned Russian collection at this time.

We are grateful to Dott.ssa Francesca Baldassari and Dott.ssa Maria Teresa Di Dedda for their help cataloguing this lot and for the new archival information included here. Dott.ssa Dedda will include the present work in her forthcoming book on the Gerini collections.

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