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PIETRO DA CORTONA (CORTONA 1596-1669 ROME)
PIETRO DA CORTONA (CORTONA 1596-1669 ROME)
PIETRO DA CORTONA (CORTONA 1596-1669 ROME)
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PIETRO DA CORTONA (CORTONA 1596-1669 ROME)

The Ecstasy of Saint Alessio

Details
PIETRO DA CORTONA (CORTONA 1596-1669 ROME)
The Ecstasy of Saint Alessio
oil on canvas
61 ¼ x 46 in. (155.5 x 116.8 cm.)
Provenance
Francesco Maria de’ Medici (1660-1711), until 1771, when acquired by,
Filippo di Bartolomeo Corsini (1706-1767), Florence, and by descent in the family until circa 1950.
Private collection, New York.
Literature
G. Briganti, Pietro da Cortona o della pittura barrocca, Florence, 1982, pp. 218-219, no. 74.
A. Lo Bianco, Pietro da Cortona, catalogo della mostra, Roma, exhibition catalogue, Rome, 1997, pp. 348-349, under no. 42, fig. 42a.

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

Lot Essay

Having returned from his life of holy poverty, Saint Alessio went unrecognized by his family in his beggar's garb. Thinking themselves good Christians, his relatives nevertheless permitted him to live under the stairs as a stranger for seventeen years, until the truth was revealed in a letter upon his death. The emotional moment of man's transcendence into heaven as captured by Pietro da Cortona was inspired by a groundbreaking opera entitled SantAlessio, written by Giulio Rospigliosi with music by Stefano Landi (1631). Landi’s novel use of canzone as overtures and combination of monodic and polyphonic styles heightened the emotional drama of the Saint’s inner life. The opera was commissioned by the Barbarini family and was used to open the Teatro delle Quattro Fontane. The prime version of Cortona’s painting was also commissioned by the Barberini family for a chapel in the Church of San Filipo Neri in Gerolomini, where it remains today.

The present painting is almost certainly that commissioned by Francesco Maria de’ Medici, a Florentine patron of Cortona. The artist returned to Florence shortly after the completion of the Barberini version to finish the frescoes in the Palazzo Pitti. According to Anna Lo Bianco, Cortona likely brought with him to Florence the designs for the Sant’Alessio composition, from which this version was made (op. cit., p. 348).

We are grateful to Dr. Francesco Petrucci for endorsing the attribution on the basis of photographs.

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