Artibus et Historiae no. 71 (XXXVI)

2015, ISSN 0391-9064

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MICHELE DANIELI - Four Paintings by Scarsellino in the Canonici Collection and their Figurative Sources (pp. 125-144)

In 1632 several paintings by Scarsellino, including four panels with Biblical scenes, formed part of the collection of Roberto Canonici in Ferrara. Three of them are now in the Pallavicini Gallery in Rome and the Musée des Augustins of Toulouse, while the last one, The Offering of Noah, is lost.

The present article presents two unpublished paintings in a private collection: Joseph Sold by his Brothers, a copy of one of the Pallavicini panels, and the other one is the missing scene with The Offering of Noah. Thus, the series is complete, at least iconographically. The author of the two paintings is not Scarsellino, but his pupil Camillo Ricci.

Scarsellino’s four Biblical scenes were inspired by some engravings published by the Sadeler family between 1580 and 1583. Those engravings were part of a large and ambitious project of Old Testament stories, interrupted and resumed several times. On this occasion, a group of twenty-five prints has been brought together: without considering the whole Sadeler project, it is impossible to understand the meaning of the figurative sources.

The reason why Scarsellino decided to copy the Sadeler prints is not entirely clear, as it seems there were little (if any) relationship between the Ferrarese painter and the Flemish engravers. The only evidence of a connection is a print that Raphael Sadeler executed after a painting by Scarsellino, now in the Borghese Gallery. This print is a key to the understanding of the brief collaboration of the artists: it is not dated, but is dedicated to Bonifacio Bevilacqua who became a cardinal in 1599, and a chronology around 1599 for both of the Borghese painting and the Canonici panels can be inferred.

Finally, there is the story of a misunderstanding concerning the Madonna della Pappa by the Sienese Francesco Vanni. A copy of this famous painting in the Galleria Nazionale in Parma has for a long time been attributed to Scarsellino. The Parma canvas has generated a wrong tradition of attribution which is now difficult to be corrected.

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