PIETRO PAOLINI | A PORTRAIT OF A MAN WRITING BY CANDLELIGHT
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 not been recently restored. The old lining has weakened and some of the restored damages are becoming more visible. There is a break in the canvas running about 2 1⁄2 inches in the center of the right side and another break in the upper center about 2 inches from the top edge. In addition, there is an unrestored loss in the neck of the figure. The cracking is quite raised. The original canvas join, which runs horizontally through the hands of the figure, is also noticeably raised.
The paint layer is quite dirty, and the varnish is glossy and uneven. It is not possible to identify any restorations under ultraviolet light because of the opaque quality of the varnish. Close inspection with the naked eye shows that there is some weakness in the darker colors in the face and hair, and there are probably some restorations here.
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Private collection, Lucca.
P.G. Maccari, Pietro Paolini pittore luccese, Lucca 1987, p. 120, under cat. no. 37 (as a copy or a replica).
This masterpiece by Pietro Paolini, also known as il Lucchese, dates to the 1630s. Within a dimmed and quiet interior appears a gentleman in slight profile seated at a table, his distinct features and engaging gaze sharply illuminated by a single flame from a nearby candle. Wearing dark and thick fabrics adorned around his wrist and collar with delicate details, he holds a quill above a sheet of paper in his right hand. To his right lies a stack of notebooks, an inkwell, and a small plaster of the Sleeping Venus, a prop that appears in other paintings by Paolini, including his Fabbricante di liuto, formerly in the Mansi Collection.1
This canvas is exemplary in its quality and handling, as particularly visible in Paolini’s mastery of light, in his rendering of the still-life elements, and in his confident understanding of the sitter’s features. Absent here is the element of artifice that sometimes appears in other examples of his work, and fully recognizable is a sense of quiet intimacy and familiarity, two features that also underscore the possibility that this is a self-portrait of the artist. While there is another version of the present composition in the Mazzarosa de’Vicenzi collection in Lucca,2 the high quality of the present work strongly suggests it to be the prime version, though the two have never been put side by side.
Born in Lucca in 1603, Paolini was sent by his father at the age of sixteen to Rome, where he studied closely with Angelo Caroselli and absorbed the influence of Caravaggio. After a sojourn in Venice, he returned to Lucca in 1631 and established an art academy along with the still-life artist Simone del Tintore, with whom he sometimes collaborated. Visible in this canvas is Paolini's successful blending of the Caravaggesque realism that influenced his early career with his own idiosyncratic emphasis on the physiognomy of his sitters, most often shown in busying themselves in an interior setting with various tasks, including sculpting or playing instruments.
We are grateful to Dr. Nikita de Vernejoul for endorsing the attribution of the present lot after firsthand inspection. Dr. de Vernejoul also considers the present lot to be the prime version of the two.
1. Maccari pp. 130-131, cat. no. 45, reproduced.
2. Maccari, p. 120, cat. no. 37, reproduced in colour p. 122.