The Ecstasy of the Magdalen

Date
1616/20

Medium
oil on canvas

Dimension
213.8 x 143.6 cm

Date
1616/20

Medium
oil on canvas

Dimension
213.8 x 143.6 cm

The Ecstasy of the Magdalen is a large altarpiece by Giulio Cesare Procaccini, the leading Baroque painter of Milan. It was sold through Nicholas Hall to the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Provenance

Probably commissioned by Gian Carlo Doria [d. 1625], Genoa

Counts of Adanero, Madrid, by the late 19th century, until ca. 1936

[Caylus Anticuario, Madrid), by ca. 1990

Private collection, Boston

with Hall & Knight, New York and London

Acquired from the above by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Exhibited

New York, Hall & Knight Ltd., Procaccini in America, 15 October – 23 November, 2002

Literature

Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez, “Pintura Italiana del S. XVII en España,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Madrid, 1965, p. 363.

Venanzio Belloni, Penne – Pennelli e Quadrerie. Cultura e Pittura Genovese del Seicento, Genoa, 1973, pp. 62-63.

John Oliver Hand, National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection, Washington and New York, 2004, p. 107, no. 83, reproduced.

“Art for the Nation: The Story of the Patrons’ Permanent Fund.” National Gallery of Art Bulletin, no. 53, Fall 2015, p. 20, reproduced.

Essay

This is an extremely characteristic work of Giulio Cesare Procaccini, who, together with Giovanni Battista Crespi, Il Cerano, was the leading Lombard painter in the first quarter of the 17th century, when Milan was under the influence of Cardinal Federico Borromeo.

Procaccini had begun his career as a sculptor in Milan and his earliest recorded work as a painter is in the church of S. Maria presso S. Celso, where he painted frescoes in 1602, and the in 1604 delivered an altarpiece of the Pietà for the same chapel. Other important paintings which can be firmly dated include: The Martyrdom of S. Nazaro and Celso (1606), also in S. Maria presso S. Celso; The Deposition from the Cross, signed and dated 1606 in the Capuchin Church at Appenzell, Switzerland; the six large Miracles of S. Carlo (1610), in the Duomo, Milan; The Circumcision now in the Estense Gallery, Modena, commission in 1613 and delivered early in 1616; and the Constantine Receiving the Instruments of Passion, commissioned in 1605 but dated 1620, now in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan. Procaccini’s work up to c. 1616 is strongly influenced by Parmesan artists such as Correggio and Parmigianino, and to a lesser extent by Cremonese artists, such as Camillo Boccaccino and the Campi. Around the middle of the second decade, his painting show grater balance in composition and more breadth and vigor in handling, but by the end of the decade, the Constantine, by way of example, he had begun to revert to retardaire mannerist principles of composition.

The present picture, which reflects Procaccini’s inimitable capacity to invest female forms with a brittle elegance that recalls Parmigianino, is clearly a late work, close in date to the Constantine, dated 1620, described above, and to a St. Sebastian in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan, which may probably be identified as “Un Quadro di Sto Sebastiano tenuto da un anglelo con doi putini”, recorded under numbr 20 in an inventory of pictures still in the artist’s possession at the time of his death (se H. Brigstocke, ‘Guilio Cesare Procaccini Rediscovered in Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, 1976, p. 133, also pp. 121-5, fig. 42). The St. Sebastian and more particularly, the angel and the putti who are in attendance, all have the same sculptural forms and polished elegance that distinguish the figures in The Assumption of the Magdalene.

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