This fascinating and dramatically lit portrayal of a silversmith, dressed in simple yet richly colored clothing and standing with the tools of his trade in front of a forge, is a rare and early work by Mattia Preti, dated by Dr. John Spike to the 1630s.1
During this period, the young Preti lived in Rome, shared a studio with his elder brother, Gregorio, and actively studied the realism and chiaroscuro effects in the paintings of Caravaggio and his followers. In his monograph on the artist, Spike draws stylistic comparisons to another youthful work by Preti, Herodias and Salome with the Head of John the Baptist
, which is datable to circa
1635 and hangs today in the Ringling Museum in Sarasota.2
1. See Spike, under Literature, p. 119.
2. Oil on canvas, 149.2 by 199 cm., inv. no. SN990. See ibid., p. 276, cat. no. 212, reproduced p. 277.