Federico Borromeo becomes archbishop of Milan in 1595. He is one of the greatest helpers in the history of art, for whom Jan Brueghel the Elder creates in 1606 the theme of the still life of flowers. In 1607 he lays the foundation of the Ambrosian Library, inaugurated in 1609, for promoting the humanist values.
The cardinal presents to his new library the Canestra di frutta painted by Caravaggio. This undated painting is a very rare example for its time of a still life without figure, probably designed by the artist as a modello for some details in his vanity scenes.
On July 8, 2015, Sotheby's sold for £ 1.56M including premium a still life of fruit monogrammed FG, 31 x 43 cm oil on panel dated 1607. It is the only known still life that has been dated by Fede Galizia. Four replicas are listed.
The composition is simple and effective, with peaches in a crystal stemmed basket and quinces on the table top. One of the quinces is sliced. Much better than flowers, this theme allows the study of the texture and also of the light that is reflected on the skin of a quince.
The Milanese influence is indisputable but the still lifes by Fede Galizia express her tendency to an extreme realism, unrelated to vanities. It is possible that she chose this unprecedented theme to escape the competition that should occur with male artists on more classical subjects. She opens the way to Clara Peeters and Louyse Moillon. Apart from her clients, she receives little attention and the rest of her work is not datable. She died unmarried in 1630.
On February 1 in New York, Sotheby's sells a pair of oils on panels 27 x 39 cm each, lot 20 estimated $ 2M. The composition is broadly similar to the example above, with on each picture the fruits in a porcelain basket and on a stone ledge. The greater variety of fruit dominated by opulent clusters of grapes and the introduction of a wasp demonstrate that this pair is an evolution from the seminal modello dated 1607.
The high quality of these two paintings suggests that they also were modelli, and they were designed by the artist to stay together : an identical pair on canvas in the same dimension dissociated by Sotheby's on December 12, 1984 was certainly a replica.
SOLD for $ 2.1M including premium