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Negri, Pietro
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Negri, Pietro

1628, 1679

See author's file


1662. Oil on canvas.
Room 006

This work entered the Museo del Prado in 1916 titled Penitent Magdalene, along with almost ninety other Italian, French, Flemish and Spanish works from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, nearly all with religious subjects. They were part of the bequest of Pablo Bosch y Barrau, a financier who loved and studied art. In 1924 Hermann Voss attributed this painting to Antonio Zanchi (1631-1722), a painter born in the East who settled in Venice at a young age. Zanchi opened an art school that was attended by Pietro Negri, among others. It was not until 1978 that Eduard A. Safarik identified, with total certainty, Negri as the author of this canvas. It was commissioned by Count Humprecht Jan Czernin, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I’s ambassador to Venice. The key document for this attribution is a letter to the Count from Filippo Leoncelli, a man in his service who actually saw Negri working on the painting in his studio, and even knew its exact date of completion: 21 October 1662.

Moreover, a reproduction of the Prado’s work is included in Imagines Galeriae (1669), an inventory of works in the Czernin collection.

It seems certain that Negri knew Zanchi from 1662 onwards, and that he studied with Francesco Ruschi (1610-1662) before then, but there is little extant biographical data and not enough of Negri’s works are known to allow a clear artistic profile to be constructed. However, we can affirm that in the context of Venetian painting of his time, Negri drew away from the tenebrist, dramatic trend that originated with Luca Giordano and was followed by Zanchi, among others.

Instead, without abandoning studies from life and certain elements of academic classicism that were part of his training, Negri became part of a movement that sought to renew the Veronese decorative approach. As mentioned above, this work was originally considered a penitent Magdalene, a personage normally depicted semi-nude and accompanied by elements alluding to penitence, such as a skull and boulders, rough clothing and tangled hair; yet Negri’s figure is luxuriously adorned. The rich cloth that barely covers her is cinched at the waist with a fine belt bearing precious stones. An elegant blue ribbon, one end of which she holds in her hand with a slightly affected expression, adorns her elaborate hairdo, and runs down her shoulder and across her bosom.

This method is typical of Negri, who used ribbons as a point of contrast to enliven the exuberant volume of his female bodies and creates a contrast with the warmth of his flesh tones. The iconographic elements that accompany the figure allude not so much to penitence as to the fleeting nature of life: a skull, a burning candle and an hourglass. Moreover, they do not sit on a boulder, but on a perfectly crafted block of stone, on which a relief is just visible. As such, this painting is a memento mori, an allegory of the impermanence of life and the perishable character of its pleasures. There is no lack of sensuality in this painting, which echoes works by Gerolamo Forabosco (1605-1679) of Padua and Guido Cagnacci (1601-1681) of Emilia, the most accomplished exponents of this allegorical genre.

Vanitas is a fine example of the naturalist sensitivity attained by Negri. Compared to Zanchi’s paintings, it has a more generalised light and more transparent shadows. Moreover, its intense, yet delicate palette reflects Negri’s understanding of Veronese (Text drawn from Pancorbo, A.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 146).

Pancorbo, A., Pietro Negri 'Vanitas' En:. Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, p.146

Technical data

Inventory number
Negri, Pietro
Height: 110 cm; Width: 90 cm
Legacy of Pablo Bosch y Barrau, 1916

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del S. XVII en España, Universidad Fundación Valdecilla, Madrid, 1965.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del siglo XVII: exposición conmemorativa del ciento cincuenta aniversario de la fundación del Museo del Prado, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Madrid, 1970, pp. 582.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Safarik, Eduard A., Pietro Negri, Saggi e memorie di storia dell'arte, 11, 1978, pp. 82-93 / lám. 7.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 785.

Seicento : le siècle de Caravage dans le collections françaises, Réunion des musées nationaux, París, 1988, pp. 138-139.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

Peretti, Ferdinando, Un nuovo Cagnacci al Prado, Il Giornale dellArte / Il Giornale dell Ottocento / Il Giornale dei Tappeti, 14, 1997.

Calderón de la Barca y la España del Barroco, Sociedad Estatal España Nuevo Milenio, Madrid, 2000, pp. 306.

Pancorbo, A., Pietro Negri 'Vanitas' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 146.

Pancorbo, A, 'Pietro Negri. Vanitas'' En:, Splendor, Myth, and Vision : Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute ; Museo Nacional del Prado,, 2016, pp. 156-159 n.22.

Burke, Jill, The European Nude 1400-1650, en: Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute ; Museo Nacional del Prado, 2016, pp. 16-49 [30,42].

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pablo Bosch, 1916. Núm. 79.
79 La Magdalena penitente. / Tela, 1,10-0,90.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1459.
Legado del Excmo. S. D. Pablo Bosch que se acepto en 19 de octubre de 1915 // Autor = Idem Idem / 1459. Asunto = La Magdalena penitente (lienzo) / Dimensiones = Alto = 1,10 Ancho = 0,90

Exhibitions +

Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado
Williamstown MA
12.06.2016 - 10.10.2016

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
15.10.2015 - 16.01.2016

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
12.06.2015 - 20.09.2015

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Calderón de la Barca y la España del Barroco
15.06.2000 - 15.01.2001

Location +

Room 006 (On Display)


Displayed objects +




Update date: 18-01-2023 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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