CESARE DANDINI (FLORENCE C. 1595-1656/8)
CESARE DANDINI (FLORENCE C. 1595-1656/8)
CESARE DANDINI (FLORENCE C. 1595-1656/8)
CESARE DANDINI (FLORENCE C. 1595-1656/8)
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CHICAGO CLASSICAL: A PRIVATE COLLECTION
CESARE DANDINI (FLORENCE C. 1595-1656/8)

Head of a youth

Details
CESARE DANDINI (FLORENCE C. 1595-1656/8)
Head of a youth
oil on canvas, unlined
21 1/8 x 16 ¼ in. (53.5 x 41.4 cm.)
Provenance
Private collection, Scotland, since the end of the 19th century.
with William Simpson, Aberdeen (according to a label on the reverse).
Private collection, London, by 1996.
with Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, London and New York, where acquired by the present owner in 1996.
Literature
S. Bellesi, Cesare Dandini, Turin, 1996, p. 142, no. 86, fig. XXVIII.

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Lot Essay

Dandini’s virtuoso oil sketch of the Head of a youth is among the Florentine master’s liveliest and most immediate works. The handsome, beardless young model wears a burgundy-colored, plumed cap over his long, uncombed hair, and snaps his head to one side with more than a hint of exasperation in his glance. Brows furrowed, eyes blazing and red lips parted, he appears as if he is about to speak. A true working study, Dandini clearly painted his model from life, and the artist invested the sketch with a remarkable sense of vitality. The brushwork is fluid and varied throughout, ranging from strong, thickly applied pigment that lights his cheeks, forehead and the bridge of his nose, to long, liquid strokes which evoke his curling brown hair; thick salmon highlights accent the folds of his velvet beret, and translucent shadows on his lower face and neck just barely conceal the warm gray ground with which Dandini prepared the canvas.

Dandini’s sketch was made as a study for the painting known as ‘Due Bravi’ in the Luzzetti collection, Florence (fig. 1). The finished painting is an extravagant and somewhat mysterious genre subject. In it, two half-length figures of young men, standing before a partly cloudy blue sky, almost completely fill the canvas. In the forefront, a flamboyantly dressed young man – based on the present oil sketch – holds a silver-trimmed wooden pistol in his right hand, toward which he gestures with his left. He turns his head to look at the other youth, who stands directly behind him, wearing an intricately chased silver and gold helmet. This young man holds up a gold coin in his left hand, while raising his right index finger to his lips, cryptically signaling a call for silence. The boys are surely brigands or bandits, and the painting no doubt carried a moralizing message now forgotten. A recent suggestion that the painting might represent Giovan Carlo and Mattias de Medici, youngest sons of Grand Duke Cosimo de Medici – the gold coin and silver helmet of the second youth resembles metalwork made by Gasparo Mola, goldsmith to the Grand Duke – has been convincingly dismissed by Sandro Bellisi, Dandini’s biographer.

‘Due Bravi’ is brilliantly colored and finished with a highly polished, enamel-like surface typical of Dandini’s paintings of the late 1640s and 1650s. As Bellisi observes, with their elaborate costumes and flamboyant headgear, Dandini’s brigands follow in the tradition of Caravaggio’s cardsharps and the ‘bravi’ frequently seen in the paintings of seventeenth-century French and Northern Caravaggesque painters like Claude Vignon, Simon Vouet and Hendrick Terbrugghen. In transposing the boy from the present sketch into the scheming bandit of the finished painting, Dandini changed the color of his beret from burgundy to coral-red, emphasized its white plume, and idealized his face, rendering it smoother and more classicized, but also colder and more cunning. Bellisi dates both the sketch and the painting to the later 1640s, comparing the finished picture in style, handling and chromatic refinement to Dandini’s Conversion of Saint. Paul of circa1647 in Vallombrosa.

The sketch is on unlined canvas. X-radiography reveals that Dandini executed the sketch on a canvas that he had previously used for an unfinished picture which he subsequently abandoned: the head and shoulders of an old man, perhaps the beginnings of a portrait, are clearly evident beneath the surface paint layers.

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