GIOVANNI BATTISTA CARACCIOLO, CALLED BATTISTELLO | SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THE WILDERNESS
GIOVANNI BATTISTA CARACCIOLO, CALLED BATTISTELLO
Naples 1578 - 1635
SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THE WILDERNESS
oil on canvas
59 by 46½ in.; 149.8 by 118.1 cm.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's.
This work has been lined onto linen, with a traditional glue. The paint layer is stable. It is slightly lacking in texture as a result of the lining. The softer colors in the background and in the shadows of the figures have weakened slightly over time. The paint layer is clean, retouched and varnished.
Retouches are visible under ultraviolet light addressing cracks, small losses and breaks to the canvas. The breaks in the canvas are quite complex. One runs from the upper left corner vertically into the hand on the left side, and another begins in the knees and runs down towards the bottom edge. There is a break beginning in the lower center about 12 inches above the bottom edge, which runs down to the bottom edge with extensions on either side along the bottom edge. There is also a vertical break along the center of the right side. These damages are isolated and have been well restored.
The varnish could be re-examined to present a more even finish, but the painting looks well overall.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot
Dr. Carlo Croce, Philadelphia, by 1993;
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie's, 14 January 1993, lot 126;
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 25 January 2007, lot 50, for $90,000;
There acquired by Coll & Cortés, Madrid;
By whom sold to a Spanish private collector.
S. Causa, Battistello Caracciolo. L’opera completa, Naples 2000, pp. 197-8, under cat. no. A89, reproduced p. 292, fig. 282.
Northampton, MA, Smith College Museum of Art, Baroque Painters in Italy, 17 November 1989 - 8 February 1990, on loan from Dr. Croce;
Princeton, NJ, Princeton Art Museum, 1995-2006, on loan.
This painting is an autograph replica of a slightly smaller work, signed with Caracciolo’s monogram, which was formerly in the collection of the sculptor Emilio Greco in Rome until it was sold by his heirs at Sotheby’s in Milan in 2005.1 Roberto Longhi first published the monogrammed work as a painting by Caracciolo from 1616-1622, while Moir, Prohaska, and Causa (See Literature) dated the painting to the 1620s. Therefore, it is likely that this version was produced shortly after and is also datable to the 1620s.
In this Caravaggesque composition, Saint John the Baptist emerges from the dark wilderness that surrounds him. When compared to the other signed and smaller version, the scale of the saint is actually consistent between the two works. This is due to the greater use of empty and dark space, which further dramatizes the scene. Details in Saint John's body, such as his head, hands, and feet, are better appreciated as a result of the artificial light that illuminates his exposed torso and legs. Caracciolo uses the chiaroscuro effect to heighten the intensity of this scene, a technique he inherited from Caravaggio but interpreted in his unique style.
Saint John's body is foreshortened in this work, as it is meant to be observed from below, a technique known as da sotto in su. This adds to his grandeur, while the saint's energetic gesture and half-open mouth both indicate that he is preaching to someone outside the picture space.
The attribution to Giovanni Battista Caracciolo has previously been endorsed by Prof. Nicola Spinosa, Michael Stoughton, Dr. Wolfgang Prohaska, John T. Spike, and Stefano Causa. The art historian Dr. Erich Schleier also endorsed the attribution to Caracciolo in a letter from 20 March 2018, which is available upon request. In his letter, he references that Prof. Spinosa dated this painting to 1622, while Gianni Papi and Antonio Vannugli further endorsed its attribution to Caracciolo.
1. Oil on canvas, 135 by 103 cm. See anonymous sale, Milan, Sotheby’s, 29 November 2005, lot 182, for €237,750; see S. Causa, pp. 197-98, cat. no. A89, reproduced on p. 292, fig. 281.