Bernardo Cavallino (Naples 1616–?1656)
Bernardo Cavallino (Naples 1616–?1656)
1 More
Bernardo Cavallino (Naples 1616–?1656)

Saint Dorothy

Details
Bernardo Cavallino (Naples 1616–?1656)
Saint Dorothy
oil on canvas
27 7/8 x 22 7/8 in. (72 x 58 cm.)
in a gilt foliate frame
Literature
G. Forgione, 'Imitando il bel girare degli occhi usato da quell'ammirabil maestro: le sante vergini di Cavallino e Guarini' in M. A. Parone, Francesco Guarini: Nuovi Contributi I, Naples, 2012, pp. 87-8, fig. 6.
N. Spinosa, Grazia e tenerezza 'in posa': Bernardo Cavallino e il suo tempo 1616-1656, Rome, 2013, p. 352, no. 88.

Brought to you by

Alexandra Cruden
Alexandra Cruden

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

This elegant picture of Saint Dorothy is a fine example of Cavallino’s small-scale canvases of female saints, painted in the second half of the 1640s, which helped establish his reputation as the most individual and poetic artist active in Naples in the first half of the seventeenth century.

Little is known of Cavallino’s life; the artist’s preference for private rather than public commissions, and the existence of few signed works (only one of which is dated), has ensured that Cavallino remains a largely enigmatic figure. According to Bernardo de Dominici (1742-3), the artist’s first biographer, Cavallino’s only master was Massimo Stanzione, whose studio he entered at the age of ten. This has been questioned by recent scholars of the artist’s work who have noted the early influence of Jusepe de Ribera, Stanzione, Aniello Falcone, and the equally elusive Master of the Annunciation to the Shepherds.

This picture belongs to the series of half-length figures that marks the artist’s transitional phase from his painterly manner of the mid-1640s to the more classical style of his later works which reflect the increasing influence of Nicolas Poussin and his French followers. This canvas can be compared with Cavallino’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria, now in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, and the picture of the same saint in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam. All three works exhibit Cavallino's characteristically subtle chiaroscuro, the dominating mother-of-pearl tone that dramatically contrasts with the distinctive local colour of the saints’ mantle, and the neutral grey background that anticipates the atmospheric space of the artist’s late pictures. As observed by Ellis Waterhouse, the great doyen of Italian Baroque painting, Cavallino’s art has ‘a lyrical and feminine quality. It is, what is rare in Naples, the very opposite in vulgarity, and in expression and refinement it is clearly the work of a scrupulous and sophisticated mind’ (Italian Baroque Painting, London, 1962, p. 182).

According to legend, Saint Dorothy was a maiden of Caesarea in Cappadocia who suffered martyrdom under the Emperor Diocletian for her Christian faith and refusing to marry on the grounds that she was already the bride of Christ. On her way to execution, she was accosted by the notary Theophilus, who mockingly asked her to send him roses from paradise. When they duly arrived by angelic courier, Theophilus too was converted, and eventually, like Saint Dorothy, was martyred and achieved sainthood.

More from The Collection of the late Lord Weidenfeld GBE: A Life of Ideals and Ideas

View All
View All