Lot 10
  • 10

Matthias Stomer

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Matthias Stomer
  • The Mocking of Christ
  • oil on canvas


Property of a religious congregation 'Le Convent de la Présentation de Marie', Bourg Saint Andéol, Ardèche, France.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Matthias Stomer. The Mocking of Christ. This painting has an early lining and Spanish stretcher. The lower left area of the canvas has been slightly damp in the perhaps fairly distant past, leaving faint patches of mould and traces of insects. However this has not affected the painting itself, and there has been a recent discreet strip lining to strengthen the tacking edges. At the same time the paint surface has been recently revarnished, without any particular surface cleaning. Old fly spots remain and a faint trace of damp at lower left has slightly blanched the varnish. Some very minor darkened past retouching can be seen in a few places in the figures: one small touch in the chest of Christ, little darkened touches on His forehead, as also on the forehead of the central tormentor, a touch or two on the shoulder of the lower right figure and a brief line through the eye of the right tormentor. Two small curved retouchings appear perhaps slightly more recent, one in the upper background at centre left and one in the elbow of Christ, with an old surface retouching crossing into Christ's drapery at lower left from the background. The background appears likely to have some early painterly retouching, with some perhaps at the outer edges. However these are extraordinarily minimal traces of past intervention of any sort. Such a pure intact unworn state is extremely rare, and related to the peaceful stability of its historical background. Only in the shoulder of the man on the right and perhaps in Christ's clenched hand is there any trace of slight thinness in the entire painting. There are pentimenti visible in many places, especially in the hands. The brushwork is finely intact with all its delicate glazing, virtually throughout. The rich depth of tone and colour even in the deepest reds and in the shadows of the flesh painting are impressive. The power of the darks is the essence of great Caravaggist painting, seldom seen in their original strength. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Only recently discovered and so far unpublished, this is an exceptional example of Stomer’s early maturity. It was painted either at the very end of his Utrecht period or soon after his arrival in Rome, where he is documented from 1630.

In it, Stomer manifests his debt to his elder and fellow ‘Utrecht caravaggisti’, both in its mise-en-scène and its dependence on heavy chiaroscuro. It bears further evidence to the unproven though likely notion that Stomer had some contact with the academy in Utrecht of Gerrit van Honthorst, and other artists such as Dirck van Baburen, before his departure for Rome. Certainly, the figures at the right strongly recall both artists. Works from Stomer’s pre-Roman or early-Roman period come to the market only very occasionally, such that we see here an uncommon glimpse of the young artist. Stomer was in Rome only until about 1633 whereupon he moved to Naples. There he was strongly influenced by Ribera’s style and substituted his Utrecht-palette for the earthier tones adopted by his Neapolitan contemporaries.

Stomer painted several versions of this subject.1 The present version pre-empts them all, though bears the closest resemblance to the slightly larger canvas in the Hôpital Saint-Jean, Brussels, and another in the Norton Simon collection, Pasadena.2 In the former, as here, we see Christ isolated against a plain background in the left half of the picture plane, and three tormentors in a similarly triangular construction, to the right. In the latter the positions are reversed, and Christ is joined by a figure torturing him from behind. Both the other versions are illuminated by a Honthorst-ian candlelight from the centre of the composition, whereas here the source of light is undetermined, though clearly it emanates from outside of the picture to the left.3

1  For a list see B. Nicolson (rev. L. Vertova), Caravaggism in Europe, 2nd ed., Turin 1989–90, vol. I, p. 183. See also B. Nicolson, ‘Stomer brought up to date’, in Burlington Magazine, vol. CXIX, no. 889, April 1977, p. 241, no. 46, reproduced fig. 3.
2  Respectively, Nicolson, op. cit., 1989–90, vol. I, p. 183, reproduced vol. III, plate 1477. And Nicolson, op. cit. 1977, p. 241, no. 46, reproduced fig. 3.
3  Honthorst’s version of the subject from about 1619, now at LACMA, may well represent a source of inspiration for Stomer. See J.R. Judson and R.E.O. Ekkart, Gerrit van Honthorst, Doornspijk 1996, pp. 351–52, reproduced plates V and 418.