Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 24

Soldani’s attempt to market Filippo Baldinucci’s collection of paintings
Soldani’s attempt to market Filippo Baldinucci’s collection of paintings
now in Madrid in the Prado Museum; purchased by
Velázquez in Venice, this set may have originally been
painted for Philip II, but not initially sent to Spain.49
Nothing similar seems to feature in the recent book
about Baldinucci’s alternative candidate, Cigoli.
A life-size “Little boy with a Puppy”, by the hand of
Veronese, may prove to be identifiable with further
research. Rather than a lost portrait of a child with
his pet, Paul Joannides has suggested that it may have
been a detail (like one that he recalls noting in a sale),
copied from Veronese’s masterpiece, Venus, Mars, and
Cupid now in Edinburgh (see Humfrey, fig. 1).50
In general, one can detect that Baldinucci, a
Florentine, was understandably on weaker ground
with these “foreign” pictures. From this medley, in an
intervening (but lost) letter, Zamboni evidently made a
selection of a few of the biggest names among the Old
Masters.51 The desired transaction came to nought on
account of the continuing uncertainty (in some cases
unfairly) over the authenticity of the pictures left to
Baldinucci’s sons by their father, the great art-historian
and connoisseur. In spite of his having vouchsafed
them, the experts of the day, primarily contemporary
painters, did not wish to risk their reputations, in case
they were subsequently proven wrong.52
original is on an altarpiece in Venice, and that his and
Baldinucci’s copies are smaller than the figure on the said
altarpiece and – being composed of more figures – must be
reproductions based on prints (deve essere alla stampa).”
Fig. 17 / Titian, Saint
Sebastian, ca. 1530, oil on
canvas, 190 x 96 cm, Private
Fig. 18 / Jacopo Tintoretto,
The Finding of Moses,
ca. 1550s, oil on canvas,
77.5 X 134 cm, New York,
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A “Portrait of a Venetian Senator, about 87 cm high,
by the hand – or school – of Titian” (40) is too vague
a description to permit identification, as is a similar
portrait (32): “life-size and more than half-length by the
hand of Tintoretto.” Challenging too is “A small picture
one and a half palms high and about three palms wide
(44.25 x 87 cm), depicting the Finding of Moses in the
Basket with many little figures, which was thought to be
by Tintoretto or Cigoli”(24)! The prime version of this
attractive subject by Tintoretto is perhaps that now in
New York (fig. 18), though that painting measures nearly
twice the recorded size.48 Baldinucci’s mysterious picture
is nearer in size and may have been related to the
relevant one in a series of seven scenes from the Old
Testament (for the frieze of a room, or bed-canopy),
Unhappily for Soldani, the haggling between Saverio
Baldinucci, a beady-eyed, but over-cautious vendor,
and Zamboni, Soldani’s shifty agent in London, went
on for some two years. Far from clearing the walls of
Baldinucci’s home and making him a fortune, it achieved
only one sale, and that quite early on in the negotiations.
However, in March 1718, Soldani, still optimistic,
summarized what seemed to be a reasonable deal over
a tranche of the collection with several of the “big
name” items as follows:
the offer that you have made him,
over both the watches and the cash
in the form that you prescribed, for
the five pictures, i.e. The Holy Family
by Raphael or Giulio Romano; The
Madonna by Correggio; Saint Sebastian
by Titian; The Nativity by Parmigianino;
The finding of Moses in the basket by
Tintoretto or Cigoli. These total 230
Spanish doubloons, or the equivalent
value, including the watches.
The last painting in this selection, whose authorship
oscillated alarmingly between the Florentine Cigoli
and the Venetian Tintoretto, nevertheless found favour,
judging from the description in London: it was to be
exchanged by Baldinucci for a couple of eye-catching
gold medals of the successive British monarchs of
the period, Queen Anne and King George I, from
Zamboni. Almost predictably, Soldani’s awkward clients
then fell out over the exchange-rate for the Spanish
doubloon, and for gold (just as business-minded people
might today in the world market, each trying to get
even the slightest financial advantage over the other).
However, by 12 May, Soldani was relieved by the modest
amount that Tuscan customs had charged for exporting
to the free-port of Livorno (Leghorn to the British) the
picture that he referred to in short as the “Cigoli” and,
feeling on home ground now, dwelt conscientiously on
its careful waterproof packing and safe transport. By 17
July he was able to report, with a sigh of relief, that the
work had finally left Italy for London.
This painting was evidently sent off on its own to
Zamboni as a “taster”, but alas it (allegedly) failed
to please him, as one can infer from a letter of
remonstrance that Soldani sent on 5 November 1718:
“I had imagined that the little picture by Cigoli that
you had received had been entirely to your taste, and
you will recall how many times I wrote to you on this
aspect, in good time for you to extricate yourself from
the deal.” A month later the deal did begin to fall apart,
with recriminations on both sides, each claiming unfair
play in business dealings, short-changing and so forth.
By 16 March 1719, after his friend the Medici Court
painter Gabbiani had grandly, but unfairly, proclaimed
that all Baldinucci’s pictures were copies, Soldani
became desperate to wash his hands of the whole affair
and, after a few more expostulations on either side, it
ground to a halt on 27 July 1719.
Still today, the Old Master art market is dominated
and dictated to by concerns over authenticity and
attribution, which can cause the value of a painting or
sculpture to vary enormously. In spite of scientific tests
nowadays providing some parameters, the final decision
is normally down to connoisseurship. As in the case of
Baldinucci’s pictures, qualified academic art historians
are still often loath to enter the ring, and the attempt to
determine authenticity is frequently left to art dealers,
art agents, independent consultants, or auctioneers and,
in a last resort, to buyers themselves: plus ça, change, plus
c’est la même chose.


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