ALESSANDRO TURCHI, CALLED ORBETTO (VERONA 1578-1649 ROME)
ALESSANDRO TURCHI, CALLED ORBETTO (VERONA 1578-1649 ROME)
ALESSANDRO TURCHI, CALLED ORBETTO (VERONA 1578-1649 ROME)
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ALESSANDRO TURCHI, CALLED ORBETTO (VERONA 1578-1649 ROME)

The Communion of the Magdalene

Details
ALESSANDRO TURCHI, CALLED ORBETTO (VERONA 1578-1649 ROME)
The Communion of the Magdalene
oil on copper
22 x 16 1⁄2 in. (55.9 x 41.9 cm.)
Provenance
Private collection, Europe; Dorotheum, Vienna, 16 October 2016, lot 100, where acquired by the present owner.

Brought to you by

Francois de Poortere
Francois de Poortere International Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

This striking copper showing The Communion of the Saint Mary Magadalene is a superb example of the small-scale works by Alessandro Turchi, for which the artist gained considerable fame in Rome during the first half of the seventeenth-century. His elegant style, combining a sensitivity to venetian colouring with his own personal exploration of Caravaggesque chiaroscuro, resulted in some of the most beguiling and sensual images of the period.

Born in Verona, Turchi trained in his native city in the workshop of Felice Brusasorci, where he is first recorded in 1597. Following Brusasorci’s death in 1605, Turchi helped complete his master’s altarpiece of The Fall of the Manna, painted for the city’s church of San Giorgio. While his early works reveal a debt to Paolo Veronese, whose influence inevitably dominated the local school of painting, he appears to have developed an increased interest in naturalism, perhaps a result of Rubens’s visit to Verona in 1602. After his move to Rome in c.1614-15, his evolving style drew upon the classical tradition championed by Annibale Carracci and Domenichino, as well as the dramatic lighting of Caravaggio. By 1615 Turchi was working alongside Giovanni Lanfranco and Carlo Saraceni on the Sala Regia in the Palazzo del Quirinale, for which he contributed the oval panel depicting the Gathering of the Manna on the southern wall. By 1619 Turchi was well established in Rome's artistic community, joining the Accademia di San Luca and serving as its Principe after Pietro da Cortona in 1637. Turchi’s nickname ‘Orbetto’ (the diminutive of orbo, ‘blind man’) was often used from the second half of the 1600s to refer to the artist, and probably assigned to him after his death. It was likely derived from his assistance to his father, who according to the Verona tax census of 1595 was referred to as ‘cecus mendicans olim spatarius’ (‘blind, dependent on alms, formerly sword-maker’).

It seems likely that Turchi developed his passion for working on precious supports while still in Brusasorci’s studio. Indeed, his fellow pupils Pasquale Ottino and Marcantonio Bassetti, with whom he travelled to Rome, were also exponents of painting on slate, stone and copper. Turchi’s works on these supports found particular favour with Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul III and the ambitious patron of Caravaggio. In 1617 the Cardinal acquired the Lamentation over the Dead Christ and The Raising of Lazarus (both Rome, Galleria Borghese), both of which were executed on slate, a support he evidently preferred for nocturne scenes and one that was well suited to his smooth and controlled modelling. The present picture was almost certainly painted during these early years in Rome and can be compared with another rendition of the same subject, also executed on copper but of slightly smaller dimensions, sold at Sotheby’s, London, 11 December 2003, lot 18, for £184,800. The strong chiaroscuro employed for the figure of the Magdalene and supporting angel are particularly redolent of Caravaggio, whose celebrated cycle of canvases depicting the life of Saint Matthew for the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in 1599-1600 must surely have made a great impression on the Veronese artist.

According to The Golden Legend, Mary Magdalene led a life of seclusion after Christ’s death, travelling to Marseille and spending 30 years in a solitary mountain retreat near Sainte-Baume where angels came down and lifted her up to heaven seven times a day.

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