The present picture has been identified by Professor Riccardo Lattuada, as an autograph work by Francesco Guarino, and he will include it in his forthcoming catalogue raisonn of the artist's oeuvre.
The picture is datable to 1632-1635, when Guarino was at the beginning of his career and very likely a pupil in the studio of Massimo Stanzione. The influence of Simon Vouet, who was probably known to Stanzione during an early stay in Rome (circa 1620-24), is strongly felt in the present picture. Comparison of the facial features and of the half-length setting of the figure are possible with Vouet's work such as the Erodiade, known through an engraving published by Lagniet, the Portrait of Virginia da Vezzo engraved by Claude Mellan in Rome (1626), and the Judith with the Servant in a private collection (see catalogue of the exhibition, Vouet, J. Thuillier, Paris, 1990-1991, pp. 34, 98 and 178 respectively, all illustrated). The French-Roman influence has been one of the most important sources used by Stanzione's school exponents such as Guarino, Bernardo Cavallino, and Pacecco De Rosa to develop a specifically Neapolitan style of half-length female Saints and Martyrs, whereas the classicism of Vouet was turned into a more caravaggesque interpretation, tuned with the local interest for Ribera's images of popular characters interpreted in a strongly natural style.
In the present picture, typical of Guarino's early style is the palette, with bright tones of yellow, red and white in the draperies. The treatment of the hands demonstrates the influence of Massimo Stanzione's work on Guarino.
The picture is comparable to other early works by Guarino, for example The Liberation of Saint Peter of circa 1635, (Collegiata of Solofra), Saint Agatha (Moscow, Pushkin Museum, formerly attributed to Stanzione and ascribed to Guarino by Lattuada ('Opere di Francesco Guarino a Campobasso', Prospettiva, no. 31, October 1982, p. 69, no. 69), Judith (Salerno, Museo Diocesano), and the slightly later Saint Barbara in an American private collection (see E. Schleier, 'Unbekanntes von Francesco Guarino. Beitrage zur Neapolitanischen Seicentomalerei', Pantheon, XXXIII, 1975, pp. 31-33, no. 17, fig. 8).