IN THE LIGHT OF CARAVAGGIO: STILL LIFES FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, SOLD WITHOUT RESERVE
The dynamic artistic environment in which this Basket of fruit on a stone ledge was created cannot be overstated. Certainly, Caravaggio was the leading proponent of the genre, if not through the number of independent still lifes he executed, then through the obvious skill and bold refinement he brought to its development. Without question, his Basket of Fruit (Fiscella) (fig.1, 1599, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan) emerges as perhaps the most strikingly original contribution to Italian still life painting. Indeed, the wicker basket, and the manner in which it convincingly hangs over the stone ledge, immediately recall Caravaggio's own example from the Ambrosiana Fiscella.
The lower left corner of the composition is inscribed with an inventory number, 439, which has been most likely identified as that from the Barberini-Sciarra collection. This particular inventory number almost certainly corresponds with a list drawn up in 1812 on the occasion of a division of assets between the Barberini and Sciarra families.1 There are other extant pictures with this same provenance bearing inventory numbers of the same type, including a Portrait of Don Giulio Cesare Barberini di Sciarra, Prince of Palestrina, today in a private collection (see E.P. Bowron, Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, New Haven and London 2016, vol. II, p. 413, cat. no. 333, inscribed with 435).
Born in Viterbo in 1587, Cavarozzi arrived in Rome in circa 1600. He soon came into contact with the Crescenzi family, who would become his most important patrons: not only would Cavarozzi study in the academy of art established by Giovanni Battista Crescenzi (1577–1635) but he eventually assumed the name of Bartolomeo del Crescenzi. He moved into the family palazzo near the Pantheon, where he was probably trained by the late-mannerist painter Cristoforo Roncalli, known as Pomarancio, who was also closely associated with the Crescenzi family. Pomarancio's influence can be felt in Cavarozzi's earliest known work, dated 1608, a Saint Ursula and her Companions, today in the church of San Marco in Rome.3Compared with Cavarozzi’s later Caravaggesque phase it is a rather dull work which embodies that turn-of-the-century style of Roman art which had not yet embraced or understood Caravaggism. Little is known of Cavarozzi’s œuvre during the first half of the 1610s but by around 1615 he had fully adopted Caravaggio's manner.
1. See literature, Cottino 2005, p. 46.
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