Master to Master: The Nelson Shanks Collection

Master to Master: The Nelson Shanks Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 149. The vision of Saint Anthony of Padua.

Bernardo Cavallino

The vision of Saint Anthony of Padua

Auction Closed

January 27, 08:24 PM GMT


120,000 - 180,000 USD

Lot Details


Bernardo Cavallino

Naples 1618-1654

The vision of Saint Anthony of Padua

oil on canvas

canvas: 36 1/8 by 28 3/4 in.; 91.8 by 73 cm.

framed: 48 1/8 by 40 5/8 in.; 122.2 by 103.2 cm.

A. de Jouraviev, Saint Petersburg (according to an old label on the lining);
With Frederick Mont, New York, 1979;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 18 April 1980, lot 62;
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie's, 19 January 1982, lot 93;
There acquired. 
A. Lurie Tseutschler, in Bernardo Cavallino of Naples, 1616-1656, Fort Worth 1984-1985, exhibition catalogue pp. 164-165, cat. no. 57, reproduced (English edition), and p. 217, cat. no. C26 (Italian edition);
N. Spinosa, Grazie e tenerezza 'in posa,' Bernardo Cavallino e il suo tempo, 1616-1656, Rome 2013, p. 328, cat. no. 64, reproduced p. 328 and in color p. 110, fig. 86. 

This luminous Vision of Saint Anthony of Padua is a mature work by the Neapolitan artist Bernardo Cavallino and can be dated to about 1645. Cavallino explored this subject on a few occasions, although this is the only example where he records the saint tenderly holding the Christ Child, as a father would a son.1 The artist’s largely restrained palette to capture this scene is enlivened by subtle tones of peach, green, and white, and a dramatic light illuminates both figures against the dark background. The light directs attention towards Saint Anthony’s downturned face, imbued with an expression of sweetness and awe, as well as the lifelike Christ Child holding lilies, a symbol of purity.  

While little documentary evidence of Cavallino’s life and work exists, the eighteenth century biographer Bernardo de Dominici considered him one of the most important painters in Naples in the seventeenth century, lauding him as the "Neapolitan Poussin" and a mixture of Guido Reni, Rubens, and Titian.2 Training possibly with Massimo Stanzione, Jusepe de Ribera and Aniello Falcone, Cavallino developed an individual style notable for its refinement and virtuosity. He primarily specialized in complex and dramatically lit small-scale works for the private sphere, seemingly eschewing large scale public commissions for much of his mature career. In addition to mythological and historical themes, Cavallino focused on religious subjects, as is the case in the present canvas.

Along with Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Anthony became one of the most popular subjects of Counter Reformation art. Devotional images that recorded the saint’s important vision paralleled the spiritual teachings of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and such works proved popular in Spain and Naples, where the subject was regularly explored by other artists such as Alonso Cano, Murillo and Ribera. Interesting visual similarities can be drawn between the present composition and a sculpture of the same subject by Pedro de Mena and Alonso Cano.3

1. One dated around 1640 today in a private Neapolitan collection (canvas, 115 by 85 cm.) and one dated around 1650 today in the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples (canvas, 128 by 103 cm.). See Spinosa 2013, cat. nos. 35 and 100.

2. B. de Dominici, Vite de' pittori, scultori ed architetti napoletani, vol. III, Naples 1742, pp. 32-43.

3. Lurie Tseutschler 1984-1985, p. 164, reproduced fig. 57.