Daughter of the miniaturist and painter Nunzio Galizia (act. 1573–1620), Fede received her preliminary training from her father in Milan. By the age of twelve she displayed a precocious talent, producing lauded portraits and devotional compositions while in her teenage years. Like Clara Peeters (c. 1589–1657) in the Netherlands, Fede was one of a small number of female artists who would play a vital role in the emergence of the relatively new genre of still life. Her work was to contribute in a decisive way to the development of still-life in Lombardy and beyond.
Fede Galizia’s pared-down compositions rarely depict more than two varieties of fruit and are never overfilled or cluttered. This still life typifies Fede’s sensitive approach to her subject and her acute eye for detail. Presented in a startlingly fresh way, Crystal fruit stand with peaches, quinces and jasmine flowers is characterized by a pronounced naturalism. The objects are lit from a window, upper left, which is reflected in the stem of the tazza and in the waxy skin of the quince. The discolouration in the flesh surrounding the seeds of the cut quince is convincingly rendered, just as the distinct character of the three different types of leaves is carefully described: the delicately mottled vine leaves, one curling at the tip; the serrated edges of peach leaves, still attached to the stem they share with one of the fruits; and the delicately overlapping leaves of the jasmine sprig, against which the flowers’ slender stems stand out. Complex layers of glazing are built up to recreate the soft skin of the peaches, the sheen of the glass and the supple, curling petals of the jasmine, a blush of pink on the fallen flower. The subtle hues yield gradually to one another with no stark chromatic transitions and, while the light falls brightly on the surface of the fruit, the resulting shadows are not severe, but fade softly into the dark background.
Sam Segal lists four replicas of this painting: one now in a Canadian private collection, formerly belonging to Vitale Bloch;1 another sold in Paris in 1960;2 a third one in a private collection in Bassano;3 and a fourth, of slightly smaller dimensions, formerly in the Silvano Lodi collection, Campione.4 Two further paintings follow the composition with minor variations: one in the Museo Civico Ala Ponzone, Cremona, which omits the flower on the table top;5 and another – once also in the Lodi collection, and sold in 2006 at Christie’s, New York – that modifies the two quinces on the left and on the right has a locust in place of the flower.6
A citation in an inventory dated 1635 of a picture belonging to Carlo Emanuele I, Duke of Savoy (1562–1630), that corresponds exactly with this design, established a celebrated pedigree for the composition. The inventory drawn up by Antonio Mariani della Cornia lists a painting very similar to this composition, which he ascribed, however, to Panfilo Nuvolone (1581–1651): ‘sei persici, con gelsomino sopra una tazza, e due cotogni e mezzo in tavola. Di Panfilo Cremonese. Buono’, (‘six peaches with jasmine on a tazza, and two and a half quinces on a table. By Panfilo of Cremona. [A] fine [picture]’).7 The presence of Fede Galizia’s monogram on the present picture likely eliminates it as having once belonged to the House of Savoy, as della Cornia would not otherwise have mistaken her hand for that of Panfilo. However, in the absence of other indications of Savoy ownership, the replicas that lack her signature cannot be firmly identified with the Savoy picture either. It is possible therefore that the version cited in the inventory is as yet unknown.8 It was perhaps della Cornia’s erroneous attribution that led to later misunderstandings of authorship, with many of Fede’s works being ascribed to Panfilo Nuvolone until as late as 1989.9
The rediscovery of this monogrammed panel has allowed scholars to re-evaluate Fede Galizia’s œuvre, distinguishing her more delicate and subtle hand from the more elaborate style of Panfilo and establishing the importance of this innovative female painter. Before this there were limited points of reference for the understanding of both Fede Galizia’s still lifes and the genre’s wider context in Lombard painting. Fede’s only dated still life known today can be compared with a painting in the Lodi collection that replicates a composition formerly in the Anholt collection, Amsterdam, Still life of plums on a silver ‘tazza’ lined with vine leaves, a whole and a half pear with a rose, which reputedly bore the date of 1602.10 However, since the Anholt painting is lost, there is no way of verifying that the inscription and date were correctly transcribed or, indeed, of attesting to their authenticity. In its absence, the distinction of being the first dated still life by an Italian artist rests with this painting of 1607.
The replica of the Anholt painting in the Lodi collection offers a strong point of comparison with Crystal fruit stand with peaches, quinces and jasmine flowers.11 Besides stylistic analogies, there are striking structural and compositional similarities between the two. Both are painted on soft unbevelled poplar panels, which have two battens on the reverse, each affixed close to the panels’ vertical edges. Both painted surfaces have dark grey backgrounds and table tops that become progressively darker; the front edges of the tables are the same tone as the background; and the shadows cast by the fruit, flowers and stands recede obliquely towards the right. The compositions are arranged symmetrically, with the stands shown from a similar angle. The Lodi painting shares with this panel the same painting technique, similar underdrawing, and a comparable application of glazes and colour palette; and both have much the same craquelure.12
Prior to 1607 the documented instances of pure fruit pieces are very few. At the turn of the seventeenth century, still lifes of fruit alone were uncommon in Italy, the earliest known being the Basket of fruit by Caravaggio (1571–1610) in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan, thought to date between 1595 and 1596.13 In 1607, the same year in which Fede was to execute the present panel, Caravaggio’s painting was documented in the collection of Cardinal Federico Borromeo in Milan, along with a number of works by Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625), and it is possible that Fede was influenced by the intense realism of these works, imitating the blemishes on the surface of Caravaggio’s fruits and the curling leaves of Brueghel’s flower pieces.14 While Ambrogio Figino (1548–1608) can perhaps be considered a forerunner with his Pewter plate with peaches and vine leaves, datable to 1591–94 (Private collection),15 it was Fede Galizia who paved the way for Panfilo Nuvolone and Osias Beert (c. 1580–1624), pioneering the genre both in Italy and throughout Europe. A work of great importance, this is the only signed still life by Fede Galizia to have come to light in recent years, transforming our knowledge not only of Fede’s œuvre but of still life painting as a whole.
1 31 by 41.7 cm. Segal 1998, p. 166, reproduced p. 167, fig. 5; F. Caroli, Fede Galizia, Turin 1989, p. 84, no. 11, reproduced in colour plate 11.
2 Panel, 30 by 42.5 cm. Anonymous sale, Paris, Palais Galliera, 9 December 1960, lot 80; anonymous sale, Paris, Christie’s, 15 April 2013, lot 24, for €289,500 Euros. Caroli 1989, p. 84, no. 12, reproduced plate 12; Segal 1998, p. 166.
3 Panel, 30 by 41 cm.; Caroli 1989, pp. 84–85, no. 13, reproduced in colour plate 13.
4 Panel, 22 by 35 cm.; M. Natale and A. Morandotti, ‘La natura morta in Lombardia’, in F. Zeri et al., La natura morta in Italia, Milan 1989, vol. I, p. 203, reproduced fig. 224 and pp. 222 and 226; where it is given to Panfilo Nuvolone.
5 Inv. no. 217; panel, 30 x 41 cm.; M. Marubbi in Cremona, New York 2004, p. 185, no. 78, reproduced in colour.
6 Panel, 30.5 by 42.5 cm.; Segal 1998, p. 166, reproduced p. 167, fig. 6 (with incorrect dimensions); Marubbi in Cremona, New York 2004, p. 186, no. 79, reproduced in colour; H.T. Goldfarb in E. Coatalem, La nature morte française XVIIe siècle, Dijon 2014, p. 22, reproduced (with incorrect dimensions and date). Sold from the Lodi Collection, New York, Christie’s, 6 April 2006, lot 55, for $1,640,000.
7 A. Baudi di Vesme, ‘La regia pinacoteca di Torino’, in Le Gallerie Nazionali Italiane. Notizie e documenti, Turin 1897, vol. III, p. 52, no. 453.
8 Marubbi in Cremona, New York 2004, p. 184.
9 A. Morandotti, ‘Panfilo Nuvolone’, in La natura morta in Italia, F. Zeri et al., 1989, vol. I, p. 226.
10 Its date was noted by Curt Benedict in 1938; see C. Benedict, ‘Un peintre oublié de natures mortes – Osias Beert’, in L’amour de l’art, XIX, 1938, p. 309, cat. no. 1, reproduced p. 313, fig. 14.
11 Segal 1998, pp. 164–65, reproduced fig. 1.
12 Segal 1998, p. 168.
13 S. Schütze, Caravaggio, the complete works, Cologne 2009, p. 248, cat. no. 7, reproduced.
14 According to Segal, no fruit pieces by Brueghel are known and his first dated still life, a flower piece, was painted only in 1605; see Segal 1998, p. 171.
15 Panel, 21 by 29.4 cm.; for a discussion of the attribution to Figino and specific points of comparison with the still lifes of Fede Galizia, see Marubbi in Cremona, New York 2004, p. 180, no. 73.
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