Massimo Stanzione 1585 - 1656
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Massimo Stanzione 1585 - 1656

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Three-quarter length portrait of a young lady, dressed in a pink costume and holding a fan in her right hand and a book in her left hand, and standing against a blue curtain fringedwith gold braid.


Signed in monogram on the spine of the book.

Oil painting on canvas, in its original fine carved and giltwood frame.


Provenance: Carvallo Collection, Chateau de Villandry, France until 1951;
Bought at the Carvallo collection sale at Tours in 1951 as by Francesco Zurbaran; (the auction labels still adhere to the reverse of the picture);
Thence in a private collection at Neuchatel, Switzerland until sold in 1981 by private treaty to the present owner, London.


Note: The present painting was inspected in London in 1982 by Dr. Niccolo Spinosa of the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, who rejected the traditional attribution to Zurbaran and gave his opinion that this was a wholly autograph but unsigned work by Stanzione. The painting was at that point very dirty (it was cleaned in 2007). During that cleaning, the artist's monogram became apparent on the spine of the book which is held by the sitter, thereby confirming Spinosa's remarkable connoisseurship, based on the very few surviving portraits by the artist, the most notable examples of which are the the "Mr Banks" at Kingston Lacey, and the "Lady with a chicken" in San Francisco.


Massimo Stanzione was born at Orta di Atella near Caserta in 1585. According to De Dominici his biographer, he first studied literature and music before turning to painting at the age of 18. He studied in the studio in Naples of Fabrizio Santafede, and was subsequently taught by G-B Caracciolo, who inspired his life-long dedication to accurate draughsmanship. By 1617-18 he was working in Rome where he was inspired by the Antique; his work was diided in the subsequent decade between Rome and Naples, where his children were born. Stanzione worked in the grandest social circles, and was knighted in 1621 by Pope Gregory XV.

During the 1630's Stanzione was the great rival of Giuseppe Ribera in Naples, and enjoyed a huge success and great following, training numerous artists in his active studio, including such major figures as Pacecco, Guarino and Cavallino. The quality of his work, though, was not betrayed by large amounts of studion intervention as is so often the case with such contemporary painters as Van Dyck and Rubens. His work was largely for the Catholic Church, and many altar pieces survive from this period, largely in Naples. Whilst he has in the past been classed as a Caravaggesque painter (and, indeed, many of his paintings do exhibit a strong chiaroscuro), he was in fact alive to many of the various developments in Italian art in the first half of the 17th century. He thus absorbed the lessons in his early years of the Caracci, and later looked long and hard at the work of Guido Reni and, from about 1640, Domenichino in Rome. His style, though, is essentially his own, and retains an idealised gracefulness which separates it from the aggressive naturalism of Caravaggio.

His portraits are quite rare in his oeuvre. His portrait of Jerome Bankes at Kingston Lacy (NT) owes its conception, if not its execution, to the developments of Van Dyck in the late 1620's and 1630's. The present painting though, relates much more strongly, both in its lively tonality and vigorous flickering brushwork, to the later Portrait of a lady holding a chicken in San Francisco.

The present painting was during the 20th century in the remarkable collection assembled at the Chateau de Villandry by Dr Joachim Carvallo (1869-1936). In 1906, Dr. purchased the property and poured an enormous amount of time, money and devotion into repairing the chateau and creating what many consider to be one of the the most beautiful gardens in the world. He also assembled a vast collection of old master paintings, particularly strong in the art of Naples and his native Spain; much of the collection was dispersed in an auction at Tours in 1951, but the house and gardens, still in the possession of his descendants, are today one of the most popular tourist destinations in France.

Detail Photograph

Detail (rotated) of the spine of the book held by the sitter, showing the monogram in ligature: MAs