PROPERTY FROM A NEW YORK ESTATE
Conte Luigi Amedeo Rati Opizzoni, Turin (1877-1946), to whom gifted by the city of Bologna (according to family tradition), before 1911;
Thence by direct family descent, New York, before 1930, to the present owner.
M. Marangoni, in Il ritratto italiano dal Caravaggio al Tiepolo alla mostra di Palazzo Vecchio del 1911, Bergamo c.1927, p. 60, reproduced plate XX;
A. Brogi, "Un ritratto di Ludovico Carracci", in Paragone, nos. 431-33, 1986, pp. 75-78, reproduced plate 47;
A. Brogi, Ludovico Carracci, Bologna 2001, vol. I, pp. 176-7, cat. no. 62, reproduced vol. II, fig. 151.
This portrait was exhibited for the first time in 1911 when the sitter was named as Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni; an identification further supported by the inclusion of the Rati Opizzoni coat-of-arms upper right (divided into three parts: a white cross on a red ground, surmounting a black eagle on a gold ground, three red balls on a silver ground beneath). The Rati Opizzoni (or Rati) family were originally from Tortona, in the Piedmont region of Italy, where their family castle stands since medieval times (though it was sold by the family in 1868). Although it is not known who commissioned the portrait, family tradition had it that Conte Luigi Rati Opizzoni, who lent the painting to the 1911 exhibition, was given the picture by the city of Bologna. This might suggest that the portrait was a public rather than a private commission, perhaps forming part of a gallery of Bolognese public officials (though Rati Opizzoni is not known to have held any such post). Brogi (see Literature, 2001) hypothesises that Cardinal Orazio Spinola, who knew the Carracci painters and Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni well, may have had something to do with the commission, particularly in light of the fact that he became Vicelegato of Bologna in 1597, just before this picture was probably painted.
Born in 1566, Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni was appointed to the Order of the Knights of Malta in 1592, thus providing a terminus post quem for the dating of the picture. He is known to have had a successful military career, actively campaigning against the Turks, and he is suitably portrayed wearing armour. It is also likely that he held an administrative post in Bologna, as the prominence given to the city in this painting would suggest (Rati Opizzoni was, after all, Piedmontese and not Bolognese). Judging from the age of the sitter, who must be in his early thirties, the painting might plausibly be dated to circa 1597-1600: this dating is supported by a stylistic comparison with other works executed by Ludovico around this time. The angular hands and elongated fingers have much in common with those of Saint Sebastian in Ludovico’s painting today in the Galleria Doria Pamphilij, Rome, datable to circa 1599 (Brogi, op. cit., vol. I, cat. no. 64, reproduced vol. II, fig. 153), or to those of Saint Roch in his altarpiece of 1598-99 in the Church of San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna (Brogi, ibid., vol. I, cat. no. 63, reproduced vol. II, fig. 152). The crepuscular light, particularly evident in the sky and city view in the background, is typical of works around 1600 and may be compared to that in Ludovico’s Martyrdom of Saint Ursula in the Church of Santi Nicola e Domenico in Imola, which is signed and dated 1600 (ibid., vol. I, cat. no. 65, reproduced vol. II, fig. 154). The view of Bologna, both distinctive and recognisable for its two towers and the hill of San Michele in Bosco, was used again by Ludovico in a later painting of circa 1613, The Martyrdom of Saint Peter Toma, in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna, for which there is also a beautiful drawing in Paris (ibid., vol. I, cat. no. 106, reproduced vol. II, figs. 224 and 408 respectively).
After Annibale’s departure for Rome in November 1595, followed shortly afterwards by that of his brother Agostino, the family academy (Accademia degli Incamminati) was left in the hands of Ludovico their cousin. In 1599 the Bolognese senate approved the Compagnia dei Pittori, a body or union which gave artists complete independence, and this was up and running by January 1600. It was a moment of great change for Ludovico: with his cousins' departure for Rome not only did he single-handedly run the Accademia but he also further asserted his position as the pre-eminent painter in Bologna. Things would change in the course of the following decade as younger rivals came to the fore, notably Guido Reni who had trained at the Accademia from 1594 to 1598 and was chosen over Ludovico for the decoration executed in honor of Pope Clement VIII’s visit to Bologna in 1598. At the time this portrait was painted, however, some time towards the end of the final decade of the 16th Century, Ludovico was undoubtedly considered the leading painter in that city.
Portraits in Ludovico’s oeuvre are few and far between, and most of them have only been attributed to him in recent years. In 1956, the year in which the famous Mostra dei Carracci took place in Bologna, the only portrait by Ludovico included in the exhibition was his Portrait of the Tacconi family (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna; Brogi, op. cit., vol. I, cat. no. 39, reproduced vol. II, fig. 102). Of the other known portraits by Ludovico, his Portrait of a widow (Dayton Art Institute, Dayton) which must date from a similar time, that is circa 1590, was exhibited in the 1956 show as by Annibale and it was not until shortly afterwards that Jaffé and Mahon both suggested it was in fact by Ludovico (ibid., vol. I, cat. no. 40, reproduced vol. II, fig. 103). The Family portrait (Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, The Hague), datable to circa 1582-3, was only published as by Ludovico for the first time in 2001 (ibid., vol. I, cat. no. 3, reproduced vol. II, figs. 4 and 5). Though much later in date (circa 1613-15) his Portrait of Domenico Lanzoni with a servant in the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome, was convincingly attributed to Ludovico by Daniele Benati only in 1989 (ibid., vol. I, cat. no. 116, reproduced vol. II, fig. 234), and Benati was also the first to publish the Portrait of Lucrezia Bentivoglio (private collection) as a work by Ludovico as recently as 1995 (ibid., vol. I, cat. no. 26, reproduced vol. II, fig. 66). Although the Bolognese sources and inventories demonstrate that Ludovico was active as a portraitist much of what has survived and has been attributed to him is of a religious nature, thus any dating or attributional discussions are best approached by comparison with these works.
This painting stands out from other known portraits by Ludovico for even though the artist has stuck to the formulae of Cinquecento portraiture – that is of a figure standing three-quarter length before a window – it is also a painting that can be read in a “baroque” key. Here Ludovico moves away from the 16th-century Emilian portrait tradition as exemplified by the Campi family and Bartolomeo Passerotti. Although this portrait is intended as a “formal” representation of the sitter – the cross of the Order of the Knights of Malta hangs at his waist and the coat-of-arms is naturalistically but prominently displayed – the gentleman’s alert pose make him appear very much alive; a far cry from the frontally-posed formal portraits of Passerotti and the like.
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