The Wonders of Context

by theresamoritz

20717_PIE015_00327820_p0003559_001Entry 10, April 27, 2013

I had a chance to look at the works of four painters this week because I finished the blog post on Marco Marziale’s two-sided painting on Monday, April 22nd, but I spent most of my time experimenting with the resource I discovered while writing about Marziale, the photographs of the Louvre galleries available on the Louvre’s website. Although the Louvre book’s chronological arrangement put the four painters—Domenico Fiasella (1589-1669), Domenico Fetti (1588-1623), Francesco Gessi (1588-1649), and Bartolomeo Cavarozzi (ca. 1590-1625)—next to each other, their works don’t appear side by side in the Louvre. According to the book, all of the paintings are in the museum’s Denon wing (the other two wings are Sully and Richelieu), but three of Fetti’s are identified as on floor 1 and in room 13, with the other in room 16. Fiasella’s painting is supposed to be in 13 also, Gessi’s in room 12, and Cavarozzi’s in room 15. These rooms are all devoted to 17th-century Italian works, but they are differentiated by place, with one devoted to painting from Genoa and Naples, another from Bologna and Roma, and so on. Until now, I haven’t commented on any artist’s associations with place, although the commentaries in the Louvre book often mention them. So much to learn, so much to write about.

My examination of the photographs this week began when I went looking for a better reproduction of The Young Violinist, also known as The Sorrow of Aminta (ca. 1600 and attributed to Cavarozzi) than was available in the Louvre book. My recent experience with Titian’s Madonna of the Rabbit, which is the subject of my seventh post, Down the Louvre Rabbit Hole, led me to skip the Louvre book’s DVD and go directly to the Louvre website. There I found a reproduction, the one that appears at the top of this entry, which I consider superior to the one in the Louvre book, in which a yellowish/brownish hue covers the whole of the painting. The reproduction from the website shows the vivid colors of the young woman’s clothing and the sensitive features of both the young woman and the young man sitting with her.

After looking at the reproduction, which was part of the Atlas Database entry on the painting, I decided to look at the accompanying photographic view, which I have also reproduced here. The Young Violinist is by far the largest of the eight paintings shown and is the second in the top tier of three paintings. This view is one of three provided by the Atlas Database. One of these other views also shows The Young Violinist, this time in the context of the room as a whole, showing both an opposite wall with eight paintings and a narrow wall linking them with one very large painting and four small ones arranged around it.

I was delighted when looking at the photograph to discover that I recognized the three paintings that hang to the right of The Young Violinist. Of the three, I was able to put a name to one at once: the portrait of Christ at the far right is Christ with Reed, also known as Ecce Homo (ca. 1639) by Guido Reni (1575-1642). I looked at Reni’s 12 paintings in the Louvre book on March 12th. I couldn’t put a name to the other two that looked familiar, but a little checking confirmed that I had seen them before and fairly recently. I was helped by another feature of the Louvre website: the photographs of galleries are accompanied by a list of the paintings shown. With this list and my own notes, I was able to confirm that I had looked at the two paintings that hang between The Young Violinist and Ecce Homo. The higher of the two is Landscape with Washerwomen and a Child Spilling Wine (ca.1604) by Domenichino (1581-1641), whose 12 paintings I looked at on March 29th , and the lower is Diana and Actaeon (ca. 1603) by Cavaliere D’Arpino (1568-1640). That left four paintings on the wall that I couldn’t identify. I thought that I recognized one of the two immediately under The Young Violinist, but I soon determined that I had not seen them before. They are both by Simone Cantarini (1612-1648), and both are entitled The Rest on the Flight to Egypt and dated to ca. 1635. It may be that my feeling of recognition comes from my examination of several other paintings on the same theme in the Louvre book. The other two are hard to see because of the angle, but I believe I can identify them as well; the higher of the two appears on the Atlas list for the room, and even at an angle I recognize the line of land against sky that appears in Landscape with St. Eustace (ca. 1620), a lovely picture by Giovanni Battista Viola (1572-1622). Although the other doesn’t appear on the list, I think I can put a name to it on the basis of the very distinctive slope of a tree at the right side of the painting. I think it’s Latona Turning the Lycian Peasants into Frogs (ca. 1595) by Pietro Paolo Bonzi (1576-1636).

Looking at the photographs has made me feel closer to being in the Louvre than anything I’ve done since I was actually there, right down to the occasional difficulties I encountered. At the same time, attempting to identify all the paintings surrounding The Young Violinist makes me think that, if it didn’t weigh so much, the Louvre book would be an ideal companion for a museum visit. It has served me well for testing those moments of déjà vu when looking at one painting reminds me of another I think I’ve seen, but where?