GIUSEPPE CESARI, IL CAVALIERE D'ARPINO (ARPINO 1586-1640 ROME)
GIUSEPPE CESARI, IL CAVALIERE D'ARPINO (ARPINO 1586-1640 ROME)
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GIUSEPPE CESARI, IL CAVALIERE D'ARPINO (ARPINO 1586-1640 ROME)

Saint Louis of Toulouse on horseback

Details
GIUSEPPE CESARI, IL CAVALIERE D'ARPINO (ARPINO 1586-1640 ROME)
Saint Louis of Toulouse on horseback
oil on canvas
34 5/8 x 25 ¾ in. (87.9 x 65.4 cm.)
Provenance
(Possibly) Altieri family, Rome;
Pasolino Pasolini (1879-1933) by whom given to his nephew in 1932;
Martino Pasolini, Count Dell’Onda (1917-1946).
Sale room notice
Please note the additional provenance for this lot:
Possibly Altieri family, Rome;
Pasolino Pasolini (1879-1933) by whom given to his nephew in 1932;
Martino Pasolini, Count Dell’Onda (1917-1946).

Please note the subject of this lot has been alternatively identified as Saint Alexander.

Please note this lot is offered unframed.

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Lot Essay

Giuseppe Cesari was born in Rome into a poor family but through his artistic efforts gained an enormous reputation and in the first two decades of the seventeenth century he won some of the most prestigious commissions of the day, most notably the designing of the mosaics for the dome of Saint Peter's (1603-12). He was created Cavaliere di Cristo by his patron, Pope Clement VIII, and was forever thereafter known as Cavaliere d'Arpino.

Primarily a fresco painter, Cavaliere d'Arpino sometimes adapted his style when he undertook cabinet pictures destined for the open market, a tendency Giovanni Baglione criticized, but in the present work the best traits of his fresco painting, which encouraged broader strokes and less fastidious details, can be seen particularly in the remarkable skyline.

Cavaliere developed his own style quite at odds with that of the Carracci and untouched by the innovations of Caravaggio (1571-1610), who was briefly his assistant in the 1590s. It was Cavaliere who introduced Scipione Borghese (1577-1633) to Caravaggio and Bernini, both of whom would go on to become the Cardinal’s favorite artists.

In his cycle of frescoes for the Great Hall of the Capitoline Museum, undertaken over two decades commencing in 1595, Cavaliere d’Arpino illustrated episodes of the history of Rome as told by Titus Livius. These frescoes were populated with soldiers in armor which, although painted on a different scale, have the same individuality and brevity of form as the protagonist in the present lot. The most striking comparison is between our figure and the soldier depicted to the left of the central horseman in the great scene of the Battle between Horatii and Curiatii and also the stricken facial expression of the two horses framing the battle, surely reliant on antique precedents, that is paralleled in the alert eye of our pacing white horse. Here we can appreciate Cavaliere d’Arpino’s exceptional qualities as a draftsman but also the fluidity of his brushwork.

In the strong contrasts of light and shade in the landscape background we can compare the present work to a painting on panel of the Flight into Egypt by Cavaliere d’Arpino dating to circa 1595 (Galleria Borghese, see The Genius of Rome 1592-1623, exh. cat., London, 2001, B.L. Brown (ed.), no. 79, p. 218-9). The full lips and heavily outlined facial features are reminiscent of a maidservant portrayed in the shadows of the artists’ Judith with the Head of Holofernes, c. 1605-10 (Berkeley Art Museum, see ibid, no. 111, p. 298), whilst the Mannerist pose, particularly the outstretched hand, was a popular expressive device that he used on several occasions (H. Röttgen, Il Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino: un grande pittore nella splendore della fortuna, Rome, 2002, figs. 82 and 84 and M.S. Bolzoni, Il Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino. Maestro del disegno. Catalogo Ragionato dell'opera grafica, Rome, 2013, no. 202).

The young figure on horseback can almost certainly be identified as Louis of Toulouse (1274-97), the second son of Charles II, king of Naples, who renounced the throne of Naples and entered the Franciscan order. He was consecrated bishop of Toulouse at an early age, died when he was just twenty-three and was canonized in the same year. He is identified with his cope, embroidered with the golden fleurs-de-lys, signifying his kinship with the French crown. This unusual depiction of him on horseback is suggestive of a very specific, but as yet unidentified, commission.

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