Genoa 1624 - 1659
Oil on canvas, in a fine carved and gilt wood frame
121 by 98.3 cm.; 47 5/8 by 38 ¾ in.

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J. Baptiste de Boyer, Seigneur d'Aiguilles, Aix en Provence, by 1709;
Sir Arthur Du Cros Bt.,Canons Park, Middlesex, by 1916, where it hung in the dining room;
From where acquired by Margaret Hartog in 1959;
Her deceased sale, ‘Property from the Estate of the Late Margaret Hartog’, London, Sotheby’s, 8 July 2009, lot 30;
Whence acquired by the present owner.

J. Coelemans, Receuil des plus beaux tableaux du Cabinet de Messire J.B. Boyer, seigneur d'Aiguilles, Conseilleur au Parlement d'Aix, Aix en Provence 1709, reproduced 2nd ed., 1744, plate XXXIII;
C. Manzitti, Valerio Castello, Genoa 1972, p. 134, no. 56, reproduced (engraving);
C. Manzitti, Valerio Castello, Turin 2004, p. 237, under C7 (listed under 'Lost works known through copies'). Engraved: By J. Coelemans, 1709.

This masterpiece of seicento Genoese painting only came to light in the run up to the 2009 sale at Sotheby’s in London, having been previously known to scholars only through an engraving made in 1709, and through two copies, one in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Aix en Provence, and another in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen.1 The painting is recorded as early as 1709, roughly fifty years after its execution, in the collection of a certain Jean-Baptiste Boyer. It therefore seems probable, as is the case with much of Castello's oeuvre, that the painting was originally commissioned by a Frenchman, probably from the south near the border with Italy, where he was well known.

This powerful composition is a tour-de-force of baroque design. The figures are arranged along a dominant diagonal and are executed with a vigorous brushwork that is typical of Valerio's maturity. The Madonna herself, her head thrown back over her left shoulder, reappears in the same pose in a Flight into Egypt, her attention caught by an angel behind rather than as here, by Saint Joseph. The Flight, which Manzitti dates to the 1650s and for which two bozzetti are known, employs an equally dominant upper right to lower left diagonal so that a similar dating for the present work seems appropriate. It should also be closely compared to another Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist, of very similar dimensions and also dated by Manzitti to the 1650s, in a private collection.2

A note on the provenance:
The painting was acquired by Howard Hartog, the late owner's husband, from Roy DuCros in 1959. Margaret Hartog was one of the great British concert pianists of the 20th century and is best known as Margaret Kitchin, the name from her first marriage. Born in Montreux in 1914 to an English mother, Kate Piercy, and a Swiss father, Othmar Rothen, Margaret was a musical child prodigy and attended the Montreux and Lausanne conservatories, before marrying Michael Kitchin, a British Council officer, in 1935. She is chiefly remembered for her association with the great composer Sir Michael Tippett and his second sonata is dedicated to her. She became the BBC's concert pianist of choice for difficult pieces and toured extensively through Britain and abroad, premiering works for The Musgrave and Peter Racine Fricker as well as Sir Michael Tippett. She was a champion of modern music, eschewing Chopin and Schumann for the music of contemporary composers. In 1977 she ceased playing, concentrating instead on her husband's business, the artist's agency Ingpen and Williams.

1 See C. Manzitti, 1972, p. 134, both reproduced.
2 One in the Palazzo Bianco, Genoa, the other in a private collection, Genoa; Idem, pp. 186-88, nos. 105 & 106, both reproduced.

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