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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Aniello Falcone

A Dead Soldier, 17th century, attributed to Aniello Falcone.
Aniello Falcone Self-portrait, ca. 1620
When I finish a painting, it's always with great relief and a certain amount of pride that I sign my name, "J. Lane," lower right corner, beneath the year of its completion. For future authentication purposes, not only will there no doubt as to attribution, but I'm also creating a accurate, indisputable chronology. Someday before I die, I plan to add various other forms of provenance slipped into the back of all my works. between canvas and stretchers (photos, perhaps a short artist's statement, details as to media, etc.). Experts claim this will add immeasurably to the painting's future worth. It won't matter much to me by then but I'll take their word for it. They ought to know. If all artists had taken just a few of those steps down through the centuries, many authenticators and curators might well be out of a job. For example, take the work of Aniello Falcone.

Battle of the Turks and the Christians, typical of the work of Aniello Falcone.

Rest on the Flight to Egypt, 1641,
Aniello Falcone
Falcone was a fairly mediocre Baroque painter born around 1600, probably in Naples, inasmuch as they named a very crooked street there after him. I say "fairly mediocre" only as compared to the many other excellent artists of that era with whom he competed. He was no Caravaggio, but somewhat better than others of his ilk. He painted a lot of highly detailed battle scene such as The Battle of the Turks and the Christians (above), and a few better than average portraits. He also tried his hand at a few religious works, as seen in his Rest on the Flight to Egypt (right), which is largely where the "mediocre" part comes into play. In case you thought all crucifixions depicted that of Christ, check out Falcone's Crucifixion of Polycrates (below, left). The problem is, the artist was very often careless about signing his works. Authenticators hate that. For years, The Dead Soldier (top) was attributed to Velázquez. But some weren't so sure. The equally Spanish artist, Francisco de Zurbaran, was suggested as a possibility. Sometime during the 1950s, in cleaning and restoring the painting, scholars more or less came to agree that the work was not Spanish at all, but Italian.

The Crucifixion of Polycrates,
Aniello Falcone
Caravaggio's name was mentioned. Certainly whoever painted it knew the work of this painting prodigy from the Baroque era. His influence is noticeable, though the technique does not measure up. The experts decided that if it was an Italian painting, it was probably Neapolitan, which sent them digging through the painting archives for a likely artist from Naples. That's when, around 2008, they settled upon an attribution to Aniello Falcone. The style and color are similar to his work. And certainly, as a battle painter, Falcone painted lots and lots of dead soldiers in his time. There was even the letter "A" near the bottom, possibly part of a long lost signature (later decided not to be the case). Still, some experts aren't satisfied. They point out that Falcone never painted figures on such a large scale (the painting is 66 inches by 42 inches). So, the mystery remains...

Why is all this so important? Why does anyone care? Look at the painting again. Look familiar? Where have you see something like it before? Ahh...Manet...Edouard Manet, The Dead Toreador! Manet's 1864 painting not only bears a strong resemblance compositionally, and as to color, we might even go so far as to say Manet copied (or, at least, was strongly influenced by) Aniello Falcone...or whoever.

The Dead Toreador, 1864, Edouard Manet.
(Compare this image to the one at the top.)


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