Born in 1602 or 1603, Pietro della Vecchia was the leading painter in Venice in the first half of the 17th century, as well as a founding member of the Collegio de Pittori, the precursor to the great Venetian academy created in 1752. His first documented work dates to the late 1620s, and by the 1630s Vecchia had become the preeminent religious painter in the city. Well versed in the art of his 16th-century Venetian predecessors, Vecchia was also a respected connoisseur, agent, and restorer, who himself conserved Giorgione's Castelfranco altarpiece in 1643-1645. His art blends the monumentality achieved by Titian and Tintoretto with the dramatic chiaroscuro of the Carravageschi – indeed, Vecchia himself was married to the daughter of the accomplished Caravaggesque painter Nicholas Regnier. His unique style, tendency towards esoteric subject matter, and taste for feats of artistic virtuosity made Vecchia's work highly sought-after by the most sophisticated Venetian collectors of his day.
This striking, heretofore unpublished picture, whose dramatic effects of light and shade, muted palette, and foreboding sky evoke the mysticism entailed in its subject, exemplifies the bold yet highly intellectualized scenes for which Vecchia was known. The Vision of Daniel remains an enigmatic biblical episode: in the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel, the prophet experiences a vision of a two-horned ram battling a goat with a horn between its eyes. The Angel Gabriel meets Daniel to explain the vision in rather cryptic terms, suggesting it presages the events that will take place at “the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17). Here, Vecchia shows the bewildered Daniel at the Angel's feet, desperate for an explanation, while the vision he has just experienced plays out in the background – Daniel, standing atop the city gate, points in awe as the three-horned goat flies down from the sky to attack the ram on the ground below.
We are grateful to Professor Bernard Aikema for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs, and for suggesting the present work is datable to the 1640s or 1650s.