Colnaghi Collections_Vol 01 - Page 30

This painting originally formed part of a series of twelve
An eccentric protagonist in this artistic field, the Roman painter
philosophers, and was probably painted around 1630 for Don
Angelo Caroselli gained a reputation for his imitative skills.29
Fernando Enríquez Afán de Ribera, the 3rd Duke of Alcalá, who
The Sacra Conversazione (cat. no. 22) presented here offers an
was a great patron of the artist and followed in the footsteps of
essay in the layered and pastiche-like nature of his compositions.
his great uncle, the above-mentioned Per Afán de Ribera, in
In a luminous, natural, and historicized setting influenced by
expanding the family collection at the Casa de Pilatos (see fig.
sixteenth-century Venetian paintings, figures convene around
10). Besides its prestigious provenance, the present Philosopher
the central group of the Virgin and Child, who bear close
also points to an important trend in Seicento Roman and
resemblances to Poussin’s and Caravaggio’s prototypes. The
Neapolitan artistic culture: a rediscovery of Socrates and pre-
result is a compelling reconciliation of utterly diverse manners,
Socratic philosophers and the rise of a neo-stoic movement,
a stylistic achievement in coincidentia oppositorum, or unity of
strongly promoted by Nicolas Poussin and Pietro Testa among
opposites. Different in its inspiration, but equally representative
others. Iconographically, Socrates’s satyr-like face, which
of Caroselli’s mimetic painterly skill, The Plague at Ashdod (fig. 19),
resembles that in in Pietro Testa’s Harlem drawing of the same
a copy after Nicolas Poussin’s magnificent history painting (Paris,
subject (fig. 18), may derive from a bust of the philosopher once
Musée du Louvre), was commissioned by the Sicilian nobleman
in the outstanding collection of ancient sculpture belonging to
Fabrizio Valguarnera, also the owner of Poussin’s original canvas.
the dukes of Alcalá and housed in the Casa de Pilatos.
Painting’s capacity to embrace and harmonize a variety of visual
The demand among collectors throughout Europe for multiple
sources is brilliantly exemplified in the Flemish artists Frans Francken
portraits, often sent as diplomatic gifts, and the increasing
the Younger’s and Joos de Momper the Younger’s Landscape with
popularity of painted series of famous figures prompted the
Theseus and Achelous (ca. 1620, cat. no. 23), an exquisitely refined
production of autograph replicas and workshop copies.
work depicting a scene recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Fig. 18. Pietro Testa (formerly attributed to Ribera), Socrates, pen, washed
brown ink and pencil on paper, 26.2 x 15.2 cm, Haarlem, Teylers Museum.
saints were executed for inclusion in different portrait series,
the best known being produced for the Spanish diplomat Pietro
Cussida (fig. 17).24 The Saint Judas Thaddeus and Saint Paul (cat.
nos. 20 & 21) included in this catalogue must have originally
formed part of such a series. Presented as moral exemplars,
the saints are characterized by an unprecedented sense of
immediacy and psychological depth. The classical equivalent
of these apostles, whose moral teachings complement religious
Fig. 17. Jusepe Ribera, Saint Philip, oil on canvas, 126 x 97 cm, Florence,
Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte Roberto Longhi.
examples of virtue, Ribera’s Philosopher Holding a Mirror (cat. no.
19) is now commonly interpreted as an effigy of Socrates.25
Fig. 19. Angelo
Caroselli (after
Nicolas Poussin), The
Plague at Ashdod, 1631,
oil on canvas, 129 x
204.5 cm, London,
National Gallery.


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