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Bernardino Campi (Cremona 1522-1591 Reggio Emilia)
Bernardino Campi (Cremona 1522-1591 Reggio Emilia)

Portrait of a young man, bust-length

Bernardino Campi (Cremona 1522-1591 Reggio Emilia)
Portrait of a young man, bust-length
oil on canvas
24 5/8 x 18 1/8 in. (62.5 x 46 cm.)
with John Levy Galleries, New York.
Oscar B. Cintas, New York; (†), Parke-Bernet, New York, 1 May 1963, lot 3 ($4,000), as Giovanni Moroni.

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Nicholas H. J. Hall

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Lot Essay

We are grateful to Marco Tanzi for identifying this painting as a work by Bernardino Campi, the preeminent Cremonese portraitist to the philo-Spanish Milanese aristocracy of the mid-16th century (written communication, 19 November 2014). The sitter’s identity remains a mystery, although his stylish black hat, with its gold and pearl encrusted chain, as well as his black jerkin and red and green striped doublet, suggest that he was an aristocrat of considerable wealth. In 1963, when the portrait was sold by the estate of famed collector Oscar B. Cintas, the young man was identified as the Marques de Zúñiga y Requesens, and the painting was accompanied by a letter from Adolfo Venturi dated Paris, 19 May 1928 supporting an attribution to Giovanni Moroni. Despite the sitter’s slight resemblance to Luis de Zúñiga y Requesens (d. 1576), who was governor of the Duchy of Milan in 1572, this identification must be put aside, especially in the absence of any inscriptions or coat-of-arms that would support the theory. Working from photographs, Tanzi dates our portrait to the late 1550s or early 1560s, around the time Bernardino Campi was painting his frescos for the Cappella del Santissimo Sacramento in the church of Santi Rustico e Fermo in Caravaggio. In particular, the jaunty flair and slightly amused expression of our elegant sitter recall the young man in a yellow doublet at the right of Campi’s fresco of Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet (fig. 1).

Bernardino Campi was born in 1522 in Cremona, where he trained as a goldsmith in his father’s workshop, before studying painting with Giulio Campi (probably a distant relative). Bernardino then moved to Mantua to work under Ippolito Costa, and was then exposed to the oeuvre of Giulio Romano, which would have a decisive impact on his style, especially his Mannerist sensibility. In 1541, he returned to Cremona, where he received several prestigious commissions, most notably the frescoes for the ceiling of the chapel of Santi Filippo e Giacomo a San Sigismondo (1546), which he may have executed after a design by, or in collaboration with Camillo Boccaccino. That same year, Sofonisba Anguissola and her sister are documented as entering Campi’s household to receive instruction on painting, and Sofonisba at least would remain there for the following three years. Sofonisba paid tribute to her teacher with a work now preserved in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena, representing Bernardino painting her portrait. During the remainder of his career, Campi enjoyed considerable success as attested to by the favor he was shown by the Gonzagas in and around Milan and the numerous important commissions he received in his native Cremona. His Paradise fresco for the dome of the church of San Sigismondo, Cremona (c. 1570) is often considered his masterpiece.

Although he was well known as a portraitist and his principle biographer Alessandro Lamo recorded several likenesses by him, only two of the artist’s documented works in this genre are known today: his portraits of Catellano Cotta (1553; Pinacoteca Civica, Cremona, Inv. 200) and Don Prospero Quintavalle (signed and dated 1556; Private Collection). A third painting of an unidentified woman, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. 63.43.1) is also generally accepted to be by Bernardino. The present portrait thus constitutes an important addition to Bernardino’s oeuvre.

Dr. Peter Guggenheim (1927-2012) began a lifetime of collecting when he acquired a cuckoo clock as a gift from his grandfather, Daniel, at the age of six years old. Peter continued the Guggenheim family’s great legacy of collecting in the traditional Kunstkammer manner and for more than 60 years, together with Dr. John Abbott (b. 1925), they cultivated a renowned collection and generously loaned works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the Smithsonian, the Louvre, and the Royal Academy, among others. The Abbott-Guggenheim Collection: A New York Kunstkammer will be offered at Christie’s New York on 27 January 2014.

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