We are grateful to Dr. Margret Klinge for confirming this as a hitherto unknown and notable addition to the extensive oeuvre of David Teniers. In the eighteenth century it belonged to Carlo Maria Broschi, called Farinelli (1705-1782), whose ownership is established by the inscription on the reverse of the canvas. Farinelli was the most celebrated and financially successful of the castrati who were the star performers of his age. His collection has been comprehensively studied by Boris and Cammarota (loc. cit.), who published the posthumous inventory of 1783, which records the contents of the singer’s villa at Bologna, which passed to his nephew but was to be sold in 1798. Farinelli owned some 260 pictures, excluding works on paper, and clearly arranged these with some care. The inventory started in the ‘Sala Grande’ of the ‘Appartamento Superiore’, where Farinelli is known to have kept a billiards table: there was a portrait of Pope Benedict X and twenty-one portraits of sovereigns at whose courts he had sung, including the Emperors Charles VI and Francis; Kings Louis XV of France; Philip V; Ferdinand VI and Charles III of Spain; Carlo Emanuele and Vittorio Amadeo of Sardinia and two of Ferdinand IV of Naples, their wives and children. Portraits of Farinelli himself by Jacopo Amigoni and Corrado Giaquinto, valued respectively at 1,000 and 600 lire respectively, were placed in the first of two antechambers, with 57 other pictures, including two valued at 1,000 lire a piece given to ‘Bowermanz’ (Wouwerman) and works of lesser value by Amigoni, de Mura, Nogari and others, as well as a pastel by a daughter of Amigoni. The most highly valued of Farinelli’s pictures, an unidentified Murillo at 3,000 lire, was in the ‘Secondo Gabinetto’, next to it was this Teniers, valued at 1,500 lire, the second highest price for a picture in the inventory. There were twenty-two other pictures in the room, including works given to Velázquez, Ribera, Stanzione, Preti, Giordano, de Mura and Giaquinto, the most highly priced of which was Preti’s untraced Judith at 1,000 lire.
While the overwhelming majority of Farinelli’s pictures were by Italian and more specifically – for he came from Andria – Neapolitan artists, it is not surprising in view of the pattern of his own career that many of those by contemporaries were by artists who worked outside Italy, like Amigoni and Giaquinto, or were substantially dependent on foreign patronage like Nogari. Of the more than twenty Dutch and Flemish pictures Farinelli acquired, this Teniers was to judge from its relatively high valuation the most distinguished. The inscription in Spanish on the reverse established that he owned it when in Madrid, and thus prior to his return to Italy in 1761; it may well have been acquired there. One other picture given to Teniers is listed in the inventory, no. 187, a small panel of ‘Fiamminghi che studiano la Musica’. This was presumably the ‘Boors singing’, which was bought by James Irvine in Italy in 1804 and, according to William Buchanan (Memoirs of Painting, London, 1824, II, p. 148), had been ‘given by the King of Spain’ to Farinelli; despite this provenance it was only valued at 100 lire in 1783. Given the very considerable number of works by Teniers in the Spanish royal collection, it seems not unlikely that the picture under discussion was also a royal gift.