Despite his short career, Caravaggio’s realism and dramatic use of chiaroscuro were adopted by many followers throughout Italy, but also in France, the Low Countries, and Spain, via Naples. The influence of Caravaggio rapidly spread: in Rome through Manfredi, Orazio Borgianni, and Orazio Gentileschi, who also promoted the spirit in France and England; in France through the works of Georges de la Tour, Tournier, Valentin, and Vignon; in Naples with Caracciolo and, above all, Ribera, who spread the influence to Spain; in Sicily with Pietro Novelli; and in Flanders through the Bamboccianti and the Tenebrosi, including Honthorst, in particular.
Caravaggio's works marked the beginning of the Roman Baroque style in painting, and had a lasting influence on European painting. Such was Caravaggio's far-reaching and overwhelmingly influential, even dominating, aesthetic legacy, that attributions of paintings borne from his revolutionary style are hard to make. We are grateful to Keith Christiansen, however, for tentatively suggesting an attribution to the young Juan Bautista Maíno, following first-hand inspection of the painting. Maíno, born in Lombardy in 1569, is documented in Rome from 1605–10 where he was heavily influenced by Caravaggio and Orazio Gentileschi. The few paintings we know from this formative period are characterised by the strong chiaroscuro that we see here. The present painting is particularly comparable to Maíno’s depiction of The Penitent Saint Peter, dated to before 1612, in a private collection in Barcelona,1 in the similarly depicted rough hands, the smooth, plastic modelling of the fabrics, and the care taken in the depiction of the corresponding birds: next to Saint Peter is the cockerel whose crow reminds him of his betrayal of Christ; with Saint John is his attribute, the eagle. Both animals are depicted in meticulous detail. This attention to minutiae is also found in the dirt trapped under the saint's nails – a motif of which Maíno was fond – and which is rooted in the naturalism promoted by Caravaggio. Maíno left Rome for Spain in around 1610–12, where his palette was to brighten substantially and where, as one of the leading painters at the court of Philip IV, he produced the body of work for which he is best known.
1. L. Ruiz Gómez, Juan Bautista Maíno, exh. cat., Madrid 2009, p. 106, cat. no. 12, reproduced p. 107.
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