The painting was known to the late Federico Zeri, who described it in a letter dated 1st November 1993, as one of the most important works of the artist. 'Perhaps his most significant work' he writes, 'it reveals all the cultural background of the artist's work, from its origins in the still-life tradition in Emilia to Cristoforo Munari, Nicola Levoli and the so-called Pseudo-Resani. It is also a characteristic example of that kind of still-life painting that flourished between Faenza and Fano in the last decades of the 18th Century and the early 1800s; a style characterized by a smooth and liquid technique, without a depth of impasto, and with a measured realism which illustrates objects of a humble origin, often from the table, which are arranged in a well-organized composition without any rhetorical or dramatizing effects. It would not be exaggerated to view this kind of still-life subject as reflecting the new revolutionary and anti-aristocratic line of thought'.
Carlo Magini was born in Fano in 1720, and his mother was the sister of the well-known local painter Sebastiano Ceccarini. Apart from a few visits to Rome and Farfa in the Sabine Hills, Magini was always active in his hometown, where he died in 1806. The date of this beautiful work is in the artist's maturity, towards 1775-1780 or a little later, although Magini's work as a whole shows few indications of a stylistic evolution from which to draw established dates for his chronology.
The painting bears initials on three of the containers to the right, and it was at one time thought that the 'M' represented the artist's monogram. But it is more likely that these letters stand for the contents of the receptacles on which they are written, and that this is a celebration of the riches of the confectionary table of Magini's native town. The rose is a significant element in the painting, and for Cesare Ripa (Iconologia, under the heading of Amicitia) 'la rosa significa la piacevolezza, quale sempre deve essere tra gli amici'. It does seem also to relate to the Rose of Domenichino's Madonna della Rosa which was in the Camera dell'udienza of the Cappella Nolfi in Fano until the later years of the 18th century, when it passed into a Bolognese painter's collection before emigrating to Poznan, where it remains (Domenichino exhibition, Rome, 1997, No. 29). Guido Nolfi, who commissioned this version and the other one (bought by the Earl of Burlington in 1715 from Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome) was one of the most important figures in Fano's cultural history, having brought Domenichino to the town on the Adriatic to decorate his family chapel in Fano Cathedral. Carlo Magini executed the copy of his Madonna della Rosa which is still in the Municipio at Fano (see P. Zampetti, Carlo Magini, 1990, no. 44), and there is little doubt that there is a reference to this icon of Fano culture in this celebration of Italian pasticceria. It is also a wonderful recollection of Italian faience and glassware.
Professor Pietro Zampetti has confirmed the attribution to Magini and dates the work to the mid-point of his career (written communication, 2 April 2003).