Florence 1596 - 1657
AN ALLEGORY OF INTELLIGENCE
oil on canvas
97 by 72.5 cm.
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 21 May 1998, lot 151A as 'Attributed to Cesare Dandini';
Alfonsi Dipinti Antichi, Vicenza;
Private Collection, Milan.
A woman in a Gold Crape Gown, crown'd with a garland, holding a
sphere in one Hand, and a Serpent in the other. The Gown shows
that he should always be splendid, and precious like gold averse from
abject Notions. The Sphere and the Serpent, her creeping along into
the Priniciples of natural Things, that are more imperfect than the
supernatural, and more suitable to the Sphere of our Activity"
(Taken from the English translation Cesare Ripa, Iconologia, London 1711, number 163, p. 41).
Cesare Dandini was born in Florence on the 1st October 1596 to the merchant Piero Dandini and his wife Margherita Sconditi. He was to become one of the leading lights of mid seventeenth century Florentine painting, and was the most important member of the Dandini dynasty of painters. He began his studies at the age of twelve in the workshop of Francesco Curradi, who by tradition used the handsome youth as a model for his Madonnas. He was then briefly apprenticed to Cristoforo Allori before finishing his studies with Domenico Cresti called Il Passignano. He matriculated from the Accademia del Disegno in 1621, when he became an independent master. Dandini forged a very unique style characterized by chromatic mastery, typified by an opulent use of the pigments and a highly polished finish producing almost glass like figures in their delicacy. The present work most likely dates from the 1640's or early 1650's, and is a product of the mature period of the artist's career, when he is influenced by the Emilian models of Guido Reni.
The subject matter is taken from the Iconologia overo Descrittione Dell’imagini Universali cavate dall’Antichità by Cesare Ripa (c. 1560 - c. 1622). The first edition of which was published in 1593, with an expanded edition being published in 1603. This emblem book became an almost instantaneous international success, and soon became the standard iconographical resource for artists throughout Europe. Ripa's cannon found in mid 17th century Florence a particularly fertile ground; not only was the first edition dedicated to Ripa's patron Cardinal Anton Maria Salviati a native of the city, but the marriage of the great heiress Vittoria della Rovere (1622-1694) to Grand Duke Ferdinand II de' Medici (1610-1670), in 1634, was to produce a great flourishing of the arts. The Grand Duchess brought with her the treasures of the great art collections of the Duchies of Montefeltro, Rovere and Urbino but perhaps more importantly she also brought a sophisticated courtly taste which would enjoy reveling in didactic works of art wrapped in various layers of allegorical symbolism. This veritable renaissance in the allegorical pictorial arts in 17th century Florence was spearheaded by Cesare Dandini, Carlo Dolci and Giovanni Martinelli who seemed to relish producing such complex tableaus. On numerous occasions Dandini turned to the Iconologia so as to construct his allegories correctly, another fine example of which being the Allegory of Charity in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
The attribution for the present picture was first suggested by Federico Zeri in Ocotber 1962 and is listed in his archive (which is now owned by the University of Bologna), it is recorded again in the archive in 1998, when it is listed as being on the art market in Vicenza (this is most likely with the art dealership Alfonsi Dipinti Antichi). The composition is also known in another slightly smaller version (89 by 72 cm) published by Sandro Bellesi in his monograph on the artist as being with the art dealers Didier Aaron (see S. Bellesi, Cesare Dandini, Turin 1996,pp.132-3, cat. no. 74, reproduced). There are some minor differences between the two compositions, with for example the version with Didier Aaron lacking the pearls in the hair of the sitter.
We are grateful to Dr Sandro Bellesi for confirming the attribution to Cesare Dandini on the basis of photographs.