27.11.11

Antique Painting - help solve the mystery

Need a fun puzzler to get your mind going after the holiday weekend?

Help solve the mystery of this painting ... and learn something along the way just for fun!

Here is an antique painting, unsigned and in great condition of an adulteress woman being presented to Jesus. The current owner (a new acquaintance of mine) was told by the dealer she bought it from in London many years ago that it was probably 17th century, Genovese school. The dealer mentioned the names Domenico Fetti or Mattia Preti (Naples). I couldn't find similar works by those two artists but if you read to the end of this post, you'll see some amazingly similar works by earlier artists. The value and actual provenance are a mystery to be solved. Some crackling starting in the varnish which is common in old paintings.


I want to hear your guesses and thoughts this painting.

Here's what I've figured out so far. It's clearly a copy - but when? The earliest version of this composition I could find was by Dario Varotari. His son Padovanino (Alessandro Verotari) did two versions of this painting including a reverse version of his father's painting. Then, Padovanino's student Pietro Muttoni copied that version.

Can you find an earlier version of this composition? A later version? A closer copy? 
Does anyone know how to date and identify paintings like this? 


Things to look for: Even though the copy above is reversed again (possibly through a drawing transfer), notice that the spacing of the figures and the tilt of the woman's head are more similar to the Padovanino than the painting by Dario Varatari the senior. A lot of information is lost when making a copy of a copy (clothing, expressions etc.) which explains my friend's simplified version.

Given that copying old masters was and still is a great way to learn, I thought this would be a very cool blog post ... and I want to see if anyone out there can help find an even closer version or share any insight as to the age based on the style (modified from the originals) and use of red.




Here is the  Dario Varotari version



Here is his son Alessandro Varatari's version (photo credited to Lessing Archive) - does the fact that it's inverted indicate use of a Camera Obscura? If so, then why isn't it an exact copy?  The spacing between the figures and position of the heads are completely different. (I think I know the answer ... but don't want to slant anyone's opinion)




Then, finally Alessandro Varatori's student created the version above which looks to me like his copy of his master's painting because it shares more similarities with that painting.