We are grateful to Sandro Bellesi for proposing the attribution on the basis of photographs (private correspondence with the vendor, May 2011).
According to Baldinucci, Agostino Melissi was Bilivert's most gifted pupil. He entered his workshop in 1634 and began by copying the master's smaller compositions until he gained the skill to assist Bilivert with his large scale works (F. Baldinucci, Notizie di professionisti del disegno, Florence, 1846, IV, p. 317).
Arlotto Mainardi, the subject of this tale, was chaplain of the Florentine merchant fleet and priest of the church of San Cresci a Macioli in the territory of Vaglia, near Florence. A traveller and renowned wit, he was famous for his jokes and fables, which were collected in a book published for the first time in Venice in 1515. Many of the Florentine painters of the Seicento and Settecento, including Volterrano and Giovanni da San Giovanni, treated his burles as subjects for their paintings. In this painting Arlotto is attempting to smuggle a wild boar into the city of Florence by disguising it as a dead man, in order to avoid paying the necessary taxes.