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All That Glistens

Giulio Cesare Procaccini
Bologna 1574 – 1625 Milan
The Assumption of the Virgin
oil on copper
13 x 9 ⅛ inches
33 x 23.2 cm
Lent by The Alana Collection, Delaware

Giulio Cesare Procaccini (1574-1625) was the most successful interregional artist of the group of painters working in Milan during the Early Baroque period. This was a golden age of Lombard painting cut short by the plague of 1630 and presided over by the arts patron Cardinal Federico Borromeo, cousin of the renowned San Carlo Borromeo. Born in Bologna, Procaccini’s family moved to Milan ca. 1585. His style originated in the rather hard and mechanical Bolognese mannerism of his brother Camillo Procaccini, but modified by the Emilian elegance of Parmigianino and later by contact with Rubens in Genoa. Indeed, Procaccini became in effect a leading Genoese artist through the patronage of the great collector Gian Carl Doria.

Hugh Brigstocke attributes the present painting to Procaccini, relating it to his Assumption of the Virgin altarpiece painted for the Church of San Bartolomeo in Como, now on view in the city’s Musei Civici and the angels resemble those in his frescos in Santa Maria presso San Celso in Milan of ca. 1601. A drawing for the angel on the left is in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice (inv. no. 723). This is a fairly early work, not yet Rubensian and still not far from to the style of his brother Camillo. What distinguishes him from the more pedestrian work of Camillo is his mastery of handling, thrown into relief here by the copper support so that his spirited brushwork, though still quite throttled back, can be more easily appreciated. Though on a small scale, the Virgin’s perspective suggests it may have originally been intended to hang a little above the spectator.

This is one of only two known works on copper by Procaccini. The other is a Madonna and Child dateable ca. 1620 in the Prado, Madrid, a collaborative work with a garland of flowers painted by Jan Brueghel the Elder surrounding the figural group. This Assumption, whose landscape shows an awareness of Northern painting, exemplifies the mixture of Italian and Northern culture which occurred in the orbit of Cardinal Francesco de’ Medici and Federico Borromeo, first in Rome in the 1580s and then in Milan when Borromeo moved there in 1601.❖


London, Sotheby’s, 8 December 2005, lot 311

London, Christie’s, 30 April 2010, lot 8

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Hugh Brigstocke, ‘Giulio Cesare Procaccini reconsidered’, Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, Berlin, 1976, vol. 18, p. 130 (as Lost Work).

Hugh Brigstocke in Suzanne Folds McCullagh (ed.), Capturing the Sublime: Italian Drawings of the Renaissance and Baroque, Chicago, 2012, p. 139.

Hugh Brigstocke and Odette D’Albo, Giulio Cesare Procaccini, Life and Work with a Catalogue of his Paintings, Turin, 2020, pp. 166, 298-299, no. 6, reproduced.

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