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Saint's head (Saint Peter?)
Guido, Giuseppe di
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Guido, Giuseppe di

Naples, 1590, 1590 - ¿?

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Saint's head (Saint Peter?)

1635 - 1640. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

The painting, probably cropped, is in fact a Neapolitan work. Its features of robust realism are directly indebted to José de Ribera’s elderly models, developed from the 1630s onwards (and, moreover, not dissimilar to those of the mature Reni). Nevertheless, the earthy chromatism of the painting’s impasto as well as its volumetric construction –noting its distinct foreshortening of the subject– have more archaic roots close to Battistello Caracciolo. At the same time, the artist who painted this canvas differs substantially from Caracciolo in having a more nervous and incisive style and a roughness of material, which is of Riberaesque heritage.

Such features define the ‘robot portrait’ as an outstanding example of southern naturalism. It was recovered by critics only a few decades ago, provisionally attributed to the ‘Master of Fontanarosa’, named after the Italian town in the province of Avellino that preserves his most iconic piece –The Last Supper in the parish church of San Nicolà– and later with his true name, Giuseppe di Guido.

The reconstruction of the career of this artist –thought to have been born in Naples in 1590 and therefore of the same generation as Filippo Vitale and Ribera– is still being determined. It is based on a single fixed moment in time, a document from 1632 detailing di Guido’s involvement in the completion of the Neapolitan church of San Gregorio Armeno’s coffered ceiling, previously left unfinished by the Flemish artist Dirck Hendricksz. Nevertheless, what is certain is that the most specific reference points in support of the attribution of the Museo del Prado’s canvas are found in some of his finest other works known to date: firstly, the Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew in the Quadreria dei Girolamini in Naples, one of the first works to be credited to di Guido; the Martyrdom of Saint Blaise in a private collection in Florence; and finally the powerful Saint Jerome in the D’Amato collection in Naples. In all of these compositions, it is easy to recognise both a common expressive formula and coinciding morphological analogies that characterise the subjects’ faces.

With respect to these faces, however, the Saint in question –Peter, as stated in the 19th-century inventory and whose feature in the painting is possible but not certain, given the absence of iconographic attributes– is depicted with a certain gentleness in the pictorial application. This indicates a later style and is consistent with a pro-Emilian trend in Neapolitan painting, perceptible for example in the late style of Filippo Vitale and Massimo Stanzione. This may partly explain the link to Reni.

Porzio, Giuseppe, Algunas puntualizaciones sobre la pintura italiana del siglo XVII en el Prado: Giuseppe di Guido y Pasquale Chiesa. Boletín del Museo del Prado, 2019-2021, p.85-90 [85-87 f.1]

Technical data

Inventory number
Guido, Giuseppe di
Saint's head (Saint Peter?)
1635 - 1640
Height: 43 cm; Width: 34 cm
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Porzio, Giuseppe, Algunas puntualizaciones sobre la pintura italiana del siglo XVII en el Prado: Giuseppe di Guido y Pasquale Chiesa, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXVII, 2019-2021, pp. 85-90 [85-87 f.1].

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 2092.
Escuela italiana / 2092. Cabeza de San Pedro. / Alto 1 pie, 7 pulg, 6 lin; ancho 1 pie, 2 pulg, 8 lin.

Update date: 21-12-2022 | Registry created on 10-01-2018

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