Lot 11
  • 11

Giovanni Baglione

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Giovanni Baglione
  • Saint John the Baptist in the wilderness
  • signed and dated, center left: EQ IO. / BALGIONVS / .R.P.1610 
  • oil on canvas
  • 76 3/8 by 59 1/2 in.; 194 by 151 cm.


Possibly commissioned from the artist by Cardinal Alessandro Damasceni Peretti di Montalto (1571-1623), Rome, who paid 100 scudi for a painting of this subject on 3 August 1610;
Possibly by descent in the family, included in 1655 inventory of the collection;
Private collection, Italy, by 1970;
Thence by descent in the family;
By whom anonymously sold ("Property from a European Private Collection"), London, Sotheby's, 5 December 2012, lot 19 (where it bore a later inscription lower right: CARRACCI);
There acquired.


G. Baglione, Vite de' pittori, scultori et architetti. Dal Ponitficato di Gregorio XIII del 1572. In fino a' tempi di Papa Urbano Ottavo nel 1642, Rome 1642, p. 402;
B. Granata, Le passioni virtuose. Collezionismo e committenze artistiche a Roma del cardinale Peretti Montalto (1571-1623), Rome 2012, pp. 102-103, 115, 180, note 4, 217, note 65, 241, note 149 and 299, document 67;
Looking South: Three Centuries of Italian Paintings presented by Otto Naumann and Robert Simon, exhibition catalogue, New York 2014, pp. 26-27;
G. Papi, Giovanni Baglione: Judith and her Maidservant, New York 2014, pp. 26-27, reproduced fig. 11;
A. Vannugli, Ricerche su Giovanni Baglione: L'iconigrafica, i ritratti, i dipinti mobili fino al 1600 e il rapporto con il "naturale," Rome 2017, pp. 137-138, reproduced fig. 71,  p. 137, pl. XIV, p. 158 and on the back cover. 


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting has been restored. The canvas has a good lining. The paint layer is stable. As one would expect, the heavy canvas has developed some cracking, which has received good and accurate retouches in small spots throughout the picture. The retouches are more numerous in a few areas. Losses have been restored in the hair of the figure, particularly to the left and right of his face; the texture of these restorations could be improved. In addition, there is a group of losses across the top edge, in particular above the halo and running down the side of the rock against the leaves in the upper right. Similar restored instability can be seen between the elbow of the right arm and the thigh of the left leg. In the lower right, beneath the head of the sheep, through the ankle of St. John and in the darker areas of the foreground, there is thinness that has received more retouching than other areas. Despite the texture being slightly uneven in the darker colors, the retouches are very skillfully applied and the picture looks well as a result. Although the frame needs some repairs, the work could be hung in its current state.
"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

Giovanni Baglione’s impressive and exquisitely painted Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness is a recent addition to the artist’s corpus. The painting was rediscovered in a private collection where it had remained since 1970, bearing a later inscription in the lower right corner, reading CARRACCI. Despite the inscription, the hand was recognized as that of Giovanni Baglione and the painting was sold with the correct attribution at Sotheby’s London in 2012 with a tentative dating to 1603 (see Provenance). The attribution was later endorsed by Dr. Maryvelma Smith O'Neil, author of the artist’s monograph, who proposed a later date of execution during the 1620s, when the artist was working in Mantua for the Gonzaga court. However, the painting was cleaned while in the hands of its present owner, revealing not only its rich surface and intricate detail but also the artist’s own signature and date, hidden beneath the old varnish: EQ IO. / BALGIONVS / .R.P.1610. Baglione, who had been knighted in 1606, prominently proclaimed his title, EQ, a shorthand for Eques or “knight,” while the R.P. stood for “Roma Pinxit,” or perhaps “Romanus Pictor.” With its starkly lit figure and pronounced chiaroscuro effect, it is tempting to compare this Saint John the Baptist to Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s treatment of the subject in the Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City (fig. 1; inv. no. 52-25). Baglione, in fact, painted the saint on numerous occasions in the course of his career, though the present work is by far the largest and most accomplished. A preparatory drawing (fig. 2) was sold at Sotheby’s London in 1977 and is typically rapid in execution, as was Baglione's style as a draughtsman.1 It maps out the composition very clearly and shows that from an early stage in the creative process Baglione was keen to include both the foreground plants and the background landscape, elements which are more often merely alluded to in his work. This notably disciplined approach runs counter to Caravaggio’s preparatory methods. 

The artist produced a substantial body of work as a painter, but was also an accomplished writer, publishing Le nove chiese di Roma in 1639 and his momentous Le Vite de’ Pittori, Scultori & Architetti, in 1642.2 Despite these notable feats, however, Baglione is better remembered today for the scandal surrounding the lawsuit he brought against his brilliant and notoriously hot-headed colleague, Caravaggio. Unlike many of the so-called Caravaggists, Baglione responded to the work of Caravaggio as his direct contemporary.3  The two artists, working concurrently in Rome, were fierce rivals and Caravaggio accused Baglione of imitating his distinct painting style. Soon defamatory poems and writings regarding Baglione’s supposedly depraved paintings and disreputable activities circulated in Rome. These were presumed to have been disseminated by Caravaggio and his circle of friends and resulted in Baglione bringing libel charges against his antagonist in 1603.4 Caravaggio’s close friend and colleague, Orazio Gentileschi (who was thought to have penned some of the defamatory verses) admitted as witness at the trial that Baglione was a “first-class painter.” Yet Caravaggio’s own disparaging comments on the stand, dismissing Baglione as derivative, would unfairly cast a shadow over the artist’s work and reputation for centuries to come. In fact, far from adhering to Caravaggio’s style, Baglione was creatively independent and an inventive artist in his own right.

Professor Antonio Vannuglio proposes that the painting can be identified as the work for which the artist was paid 100 scudi on 3 August 1610 by Cardinal Alessandro Peretti Damasceni di Montalto. If the present painting is indeed the very same Saint John listed in Montalto's account books, then it would also be the work mentioned by Baglione in his autobiography published in 1642. The date of the painting, 1610, and its corresponding entry in Montalto's account books, would suggest a straight match and confirm the Montalto provenance. While there is a discrepancy in the measurements of the canvas (194 cm) and the height given in the 1655 Montalto inventory of 6 palmi (134 cm) this could well be accounted for by the high incidence of incorrect dimensions being recorded in 17th-century inventories. Moreover, the fact that it is listed as a sovrapporta and so would have been hanging high up on a wall when the inventory was drawn up could further account for the inaccuracy in the measurement.

 This painting will be included in Michele Nicolaci's forthcoming monograph of the artist.

 1. Sale, London, Sotheby’s, 4 July 1977, lot 78, Giovanni Baglione, Saint John the Baptist, pen and brown ink and wash, 170 by 114 mm.
 2. G. Baglione, Le vite de’ pittori, scultori & architetti. Dal pontificato di Gregorio XIII del 1572 in fino a’ tempi di Papa Urbano Ottavio nel 1642, (originally published Rome 1642), J. Hess ed., Rome 1995.
3. The style generally referred to as Caravaggism was in fact more dependent on the work of Bartolomeo Manfredi and his Manfrediana Methodus than on Caravaggio himself.
4. For more on the lawsuit see M. O’Neil, Giovanni Baglione, Artistic Reputation in Baroque Rome, Cambridge 2002.