Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, Viterbo 1587 - 1625 Rome
Basket of fruit on a stone ledge
ProvenanceAlmost certainly in the Barberini collection, Rome, before 1812.
LiteratureA. Cottino, entry no. 40 in La natura morta al tempo di Caravaggio, catalogue of the exhibition ed. by A. Cottino - M. Gregori - L. Spezzaferro - C. Strinati - M. E. Tittoni, Napoli 1995, pp. 154-155;
A. Cottino, Le Origini e lo sviluppo della natura morta barocca a Roma, in Natura morta italiana tra Cinquecento e Settecento, catalogue of the exhibition ed by M. Gregori - J. G. Prinz von Hoenzollern, Milano 2002, p. 162;
A. Cottino, La Natura morta italiana da Caravaggio al Settecento, catalogue of the exhibition ed. by Mina Gregori, Milano 2003, pp. 168-169;
A. Cottino, L'Incantesimo dei sensi: Una collezione di nature morte del Seicento per il Museo Accorsi, Torino 2005, p. 44-47, 100-101, cat. no. 4;
A. Cottino, entry n. 27 in L’origine della natura morta in Italia. Caravaggio e il Maestro di Hartford, catalogue of the exhibition ed. by A. Coliva - D. Dotti, Milano 2016 pp. 242-243.
G. Porzio, For the Caravagesque Still Life: a rediscovered masterpiece by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, in Bartolomeo Cavarozzi's Canestra, catalogue of the exhibition ed. by A. Pampoulides, London 2017, pp. 16 - 39.
ExhibitionsRoma, Musei Capitolini, La natura morta al tempo di Caravaggio, December 15th 1995 - April 14th 1996, no. 40;
München, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Natura morta italiana tra Cinquecento e Settecento, December 6th 2002- February 23rd 2003;
Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi, La natura morta italiana da Caravaggio al Settecento, June 26th - October 12th 2003;
Torino, Fondazione Accorsi, L'Incantesimo dei sensi: una collezione di nature morte del Seicento per il Museo Accorsi, December 1st 2005 - May 1st 2006, no. 4;
Roma, Galleria Borghese, L’origine della natura morta in Italia. Caravaggio e il Maestro di Hartford, November 16th 2016 - February 19th 2017, no. 27;
The dynamic artistic environment in which this Basket of fruit on a stone ledge was created cannot be overstated. Certainly, Caravaggio was the leading proponent of the genre, if not through the number of independent still lifes he executed, then through the obvious skill and bold refinement he brought to its development. Without question, his Basket of Fruit (Fiscella) (fig.1, 1599, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan) emerges as perhaps the most strikingly original contribution to Italian still life painting. Indeed, the wicker basket, and the manner in which it convincingly hangs over the stone ledge, immediately recall Caravaggio's own example from the Ambrosiana Fiscella.
The lower left corner of the composition is inscribed with an inventory number, 439, which has been most likely identified as that from the Barberini-Sciarra collection. This particular inventory number almost certainly corresponds with a list drawn up in 1812 on the occasion of a division of assets between the Barberini and Sciarra families.1 There are other extant pictures with this same provenance bearing inventory numbers of the same type, including a Portrait of Don Giulio Cesare Barberini di Sciarra, Prince of Palestrina, today in a private collection (see E.P. Bowron, Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, New Haven and London 2016, vol. II, p. 413, cat. no. 333, inscribed with 435).
The present painting also clearly relates to one of the most famous still life compositions painted in Rome in the first decades of the 17th century, the Acquavella Still Life. A passionate debate arose amongst the scholars since the discovery of the Acquavella Still Life, divided between the ones who endorsed the identification of the Acquavella Still Life Master with Bartolomeo Cavarozzi and the ones who preferred to consider him a great anonymous master. The most recent and most comprehensive analysis of the problem can be found in Giuseppe Porzio's essay quoted here in literature, where the Neapolitan scholar firmly endorses the identification of the Acquavella Still Life Master with Bartolomeo Cavarozzi.
The recent discovery of another version of this composition (Vaduz, Liechtenstein collection, previously with Colnaghi, London), opens new questions on the workshop practice of Bartolomeo Cavarozzi.
Born in Viterbo in 1587, Cavarozzi arrived in Rome in circa 1600. He soon came into contact with the Crescenzi family, who would become his most important patrons: not only would Cavarozzi study in the academy of art established by Giovanni Battista Crescenzi (1577–1635) but he eventually assumed the name of Bartolomeo del Crescenzi. He moved into the family palazzo near the Pantheon, where he was probably trained by the late-mannerist painter Cristoforo Roncalli, known as Pomarancio, who was also closely associated with the Crescenzi family. Pomarancio's influence can be felt in Cavarozzi's earliest known work, dated 1608, a Saint Ursula and her Companions, today in the church of San Marco in Rome.3Compared with Cavarozzi’s later Caravaggesque phase it is a rather dull work which embodies that turn-of-the-century style of Roman art which had not yet embraced or understood Caravaggism. Little is known of Cavarozzi’s œuvre during the first half of the 1610s but by around 1615 he had fully adopted Caravaggio's manner.
1. See literature, Cottino 2005, p. 46.