It’s all a riddle at first: does the depiction in this large-scale painting actually correspond to the theme of “Diana and Endymion”? And was the Florentine painter Giovanni Biliverti actually the master at work here, as its present owner had originally been told? Scepticism is the expert’s stock in trade, for in the same way that a picture is covered by dust and dirt over the centuries, it is frequently also surrounded by all manner of names and legends. In such cases, one’s own eyes are the best tool—plus experience and, of course, the arduous task of thorough research.
When a beautifully dressed woman leans over a similarly attractive young man while he sleeps, there is good reason to suspect that the motif at issue is meant to depict the legend about the love between the goddess Diana and the handsome shepherd Endymion. Which leads one to ask: Why do we see sumptuous armour and a sword lying next to the young man in the picture?
And so the search begins. Where can similar depictions be found? What were the popular themes during the 17th century? The answer one arrives at is convincing: we actually have before us the comely knight Rinaldo from Torquato Tasso’s classic epic poem Jerusalem Delivered of 1597, whose adversary—the witch Armida—falls in love with him and wreaths him in flowers.
…or at least some cleaning when the colours have grown too dull, the contours appear flat, and the varnish has become a dark veil that conceals important elements. In this case, the reward for doing so was twofold—for in the lower right-hand corner, there appeared what is probably the painters’ signature: “IAC. VIGNALI / F.F. 1634”. We can thus now definitively identify Jacopo Vignali as the creator of this impressive painting. He was an important Florentine painter of the early Baroque period who is known for a number of frescos and altars in the city on the Arno. And at the same time, we now see his painting in its original, fantastic form: magnificent in its colours, sculptural and elegant in the way its lines are drawn, and brimming over with life and painterly passion.
This painting will go up for bidding on 18 October 2017 in the auction “Old Master Paintings” at Auktionshaus im Kinsky.
Text: Marianne Hussl-Hörmann, Auktionshaus im Kinsky