Jacopo Menochio came from Pavia and was a respected teacher, lawyer, and diplomat. In 1565, Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Savoia, asked Menochio to negotiate the repossession of the territory of Monferrato from the Gonzaga. As is noted in the inscription around his image, Menochio was elected a Senator of Milan in 1592. Menochio appears here to the left of his wife, following marital portrait convention, and both wear formal dark clothing and a white collar. Margherita Candiana’s unusual headdress features a black lace oval panel ringed with flowers that attaches to a veil. Interestingly, although they depict a married couple, Fede completed the two portraits separately. According to the inscription circling each figure, she painted Jacopo Menochio at age 74 in September 1605 and Margherita Candiana at age 64 in October 1606. Despite the small scale of the portraits, Fede captured realistic likenesses of her sitters and built three-dimensionality with shadows on their faces and fine strokes to indicate hair or the thin fabric of their white collars. This portrait of Menochio was engraved by Raphael Sadeler II in 1606, the year of this painting’s completion, which suggests that Fede’s skill as portraitist was known outside of Milan early in her career.
Until Alessandro Morandotti’s publication of this double portrait in 2005, the only evidence of Nunzio Galizia’s artistic production consisted of two documents and references to both Nunzio and Fede in 16th-century art literature. The elaborate symbolism and level of minute detail on the trompe-l’oeil frame suggest that Nunzio may have worked as a book illustrator and was familiar with contemporary engraving techniques, as the motifs he used recur in frontispieces and ephemera for civic celebrations. His framing device, in the shape of a building façade, is topped with two putti stringing garlands of fruit across the cornice, with the couple’s arms featuring a deer and eagle enshrined in the center. On a pedestal to the left of Menochio, the figure of Justice holds a sword and scale, and to the right of Margherita, Prudence gazes into a mirror while grasping a snake. A winged allegorical figure stands atop an orb between the portraits and holds onto the egg-and-dart oval frames.
Above Jacopo Menochio, in silver (now oxidized), is a crane signifying Vigilance, standing on a small pedestal inscribed VIGILAT UT IUVET. Above Margherita on a similar pedestal inscribed BONUM UNITATIS is a dog resting its paw on a fruit, signifying Fidelity. Below the portraits, Nunzio included two Biblical verses in Latin referring to marriage: Ecclesiastes 25:1 (“There are three things my soul delights in, and which are delightful to God and to all people: concord between brothers, love between neighbors, and a wife and husband who live happily together”) and Psalm 90:16 (“Let your work appear unto your servants, and your glory unto their children”). These erudite symbols and inscriptions not only reflect the positive character traits of each sitter, but also announce the couple as people of faith who will leave a positive legacy for their descendants.
This rare double portrait and trompe-l’oeil frame documents a collaboration between an important female artist and her lesser-known father, and reveals the inspiration for the detailed, precise style she developed.
This note is adapted from Alessandro Morandotti’s research on the present lot (see Literature).
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