This painting is a later copy after a lost original work by one of the greatest French followers of Caravaggio – Valentin de Boulogne. It is believed that the original must date to the early period of Valentin's life, 'circa' 1622, when he was working in Rome. The composition and facial types also owe much to Bartolomeo Manfredi, one of Caravaggio's closest followers, whose work Valentin is also known to have admired and absorbed.
Several versions of the composition exist in varying sizes, the best of which is the large-scale, contemporary canvas in the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie, in Besançon (133 x 236 cm.), previously even considered to be the prime original. Other versions of a similar size are in the Musées des Beaux-Arts in Tours and the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. A much smaller version, almost half the size of the present lot, formerly in the collection of the Earl of Lonsdale, was last offered at Christie's, London, 11 December 1981, lot 4, and another version of unknown location and dimensions is recorded in a photograph at the Fondazione Longhi, in Florence. The original painting was engraved in the same sense by Ganière in 1640, and in subsequent centuries by other printmakers,1 one of which probably provided the basis for the present work.
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