V. Martinelli, "L'Amor divino 'tutto ignudo' di Giovanni Baglione e la cronologia dell'intermezzo caravaggesco", in Arte Antica e Moderna, vol. 5, January - March 1959, pp. 86ff., reproduced plate 49b (as Giovanni Baglione);
C. Guglielmi, "Baglione, Giovanni", in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. V, Rome 1963, p. 188;
R. Longhi, "Giovanni Baglione e il quadro del processo", in Paragone, vol. 163, 1963, p. 25;
A. Moir, The Italian Followers of Caravaggio, Cambridge (Mass.) 1967, vol. I, p. 31;
I. Faldi, Acquisti, doni, lasciti, restauri e recuperi 1962-1970, exhibition catalogue, Rome 1970, footnote 37;
R.E. Spear, Caravaggio and his Followers, exhibition catalogue, Cleveland, 1971, p. 48;
C. Volpe, "Annotazioni sulla mostra caravaggesca di Cleveland", in Paragone, vol. 263, 1972, p. 54;
B. Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement, Oxford 1979, p. 37;
B. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, ed. L. Vertova, Turin 1990, vol. I, p. 88;
H. Röttgen, Caravaggio. Der irdische Amor, Frankfurt-am-Main 1992, p. 34, reproduced fig. 19;
G. Papi, "Il Maestro dei giocatori", in Paragone, year XLIX, vol. 18, no. 577, 1998, pp. 15-18, reproduced plate 15;
G. Papi, Cecco del Caravaggio, Soncino 2001, pp. 43 and 198-99;
G. Papi, "Dipinti inediti di pittori caravaggeschi nella collezione Koelliker", in Paragone, vol. 57, no. 655, 2004, p. 51;
M. Pulini, La mano nascosta, Milan 2004, p. 41;
G. Papi, Il genio degli anonimi. Maestri caravaggeschi a Roma e a Napoli, exhibition catalogue, Milan, Palazzo Reale, 15 October 2005 - 6 February 2006, pp. 33-34, and p. 121, cat. no. C3, reproduced in colour on p. 37 and a black-and-white detail on p. 32;
G. Papi, La "schola" del Caravaggio. Dipinti dalla Collezione Koelliker, exhibition catalogue, Ariccia, Palazzo Chigi, 13 October 2006 - 11 February 2007, pp. 264-65, cat. no. 78, reproduced in colour.
This impressive painting of Omnia vincit Amor has a long bibliographical and attributional history. The picture has been extensively published and much discussed by scholars of caravaggesque painting. Martinelli was the first to publish it, erroneously identifying it with Giovanni Baglione's 'Amore tutto ignudo', said to have been painted by the artist in response to Orazio Gentileschi's criticism of his first treatment of the subject. The attribution to Baglione was endorsed by Guglielmi and Moir whilst Longhi, Faldi and Spear all rejected it. Volpe suggested, rather implausibly, that the work belonged to a group of paintings by Giusto Fiammingo, whilst Nicolson considered it to be French and datable to circa 1620-25. Röttgen, by contrast, believed the painting to be by a Neapolitan artist working around 1620. It was Gianni Papi, by whom the work has been published numerous times between 1998 and 2005, who identified its author as a 17th-century follower of Caravaggio named by him as the 'Master of the Gamblers' or ('Maestro dei Giocatori'). Papi has successfully grouped together more than twenty works by this master's hand: these paintings, many of which show gamblers and food-sellers, are thematically linked and it is from their common subject that the artist's name has been coined.1
The 'Master of the Gamblers' has eluded identification and scholars have even disagreed on his nationality. Nicolson considered the artist a Netherlandish follower of Caravaggio whose style lay somewhere between Bartolomeo Manfredi and Theodoor Rombouts. Longhi believed him to be a Caravaggesque painter of some note, not of Italian origin but more probably French, close stylistically to Valentin de Boulogne. The group of paintings brought together by Papi reveal an artist working in Rome during the second and third decades of the 17th century, whose style is especially influenced by Cecco del Caravaggio and Tommaso Salini and who is therefore likely to be Italian after all. The still life elements in the present work are rendered with startling naturalism and are certainly reminiscent of Cecco; in particular the open book by Tasso, the overturned lute, the broken crown lower right, and the brilliant white cloth. A similar attention to detail is apparent in a painting of the Allegory of the Arts, also given by Papi to the 'Master of the Gamblers', where the painter's palette and sculpted head are convincingly portrayed and are given an attention equal to that of the figures.2
This powerful image of victorious Cupid illustrates a popular quotation from Virgil's Eclogues (X: 69): 'Omnia vincit amor et nos cedamus amori' ('Love conquers all; let us all yield to love!'). The subject became extremely popular in the 17th century, largely due to Caravaggio's famous rendition, datable to circa 1601-2, today in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Although the pose of Cupid and the arrangement of still-life objects is different in the present painting, it certainly owes much to Caravaggio's protoype. Cupid is shown standing triumphantly over various symbolic objects: an upturned book (signifying learning); a sculpted head, painter's palette, compass and musical instruments (representing each of the arts of sculpture, painting, architecture and music respectively); and a broken crown (probably signifying war). The quality of painting is very high, particularly the figure of Cupid who seems to be far superior to the figures in other works given to the Master by Papi.
This painting is known in another version, inferior in quality but considered by Papi to be autograph and slightly earlier in date, formerly in the collection of the Principe di Cutò, Palermo, in 1958.3
1. His figures are normally engaged in various gambling activites such as throwing dice, as in the painting in Venice, Gallerie dell'Accademia (see Papi, under Literature, 2005, cat. no. C.1, reproduced in colour on p. 35); playing cards, as in the painting formerly sold, New York, Sotheby's, 30 January 1998, lot 135 (Papi, op. cit., cat. no. C.5, reproduced on p. 39); or playing morra, as in the painting formerly with Galleria Gasparrini, Rome (ibid., cat. no. C.15, reproduced on p. 45).
2. The Allegory of the arts was formerly on the art market in Rome: it is reproduced by Papi, see Literature, 2006-7, p. 264, fig. 1.
3. Papi, ibid., cat. no. C.4, reproduced on p. 38.
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