Il Maestro della tela jeans. Un nouveau peintre de la réalité dans l’Europe de la fin du XVIIe siècle

The Master of the Blue Jeans. A new painter of reality in late 17th century Europe
Paris, Galerie Canesso, from 16 September to 6 November 2010

1. The Master of the Blue Jeans
The Barber
Oil on canvas - 150 x 115 cm
Paris, Galerie Canesso
Photo : Galerie Canesso

It’s not every day that an old master we barely knew resurfaces in the art world. Thanks to the Canesso Gallery which is exhibiting practically all of his work until 6 November, the Maestro della tela jeans has now reappeared and can assume his place in the history of Italian painting.

The name chosen for this artist, who remains anonymous, will obviously bring a smile to the lips of more than one visitor. The anachronism however, is only a slight one since “Genoa linen”, a thick cotton fabric worn by the lower classes and which later gave rise to the word “jean” has been around for a very long time. Gerlinde Gruber, an art historian and curator at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna first coined the name in an article published in 2006 in Nuovi Studi.
In 2004, Maurizio Canesso purchased the Barber’s Shop (ill. 1) at Christie’s where it was attributed to the Neapolitan school although it had already been associated with another canvas by the painter, The Frugal Meal held at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Ghent. Progressively, the artist was brought to light by assembling different works presenting similar stylistic and formal characteristics as Maurizio Canesso began to purchase many of these. He managed to acquire almost all of the known oeuvre over a period of six years.

2. Evaristo Baschenis (1617-1677)
Young Boy with a Basket of Bread and Pastries
Oil on canvas - 54 x 73 cm
Milan, collection Mario Scaglia
Photo : Galerie Canesso

3. The Master of the Blue Jeans
Young Beggar with a Meat Pie
Oil on canvas - 86 x 71 cm
Paris, Galerie Canesso
Photo : Galerie Canesso

The exhibition also presents a few other paintings which enable us to situate the master in artistic context of that time. Thus, there are three 17th century works, respectively by Michael Sweerts, Bernard Keil and Evaristo Baschenis, artists who probably exerted some influence on him. Street figures, staring directly at the viewer, on a neutral background are all elements common to the three painters which can be found in that of the Maestro della tela jeans. Of note is the Young Boy with a Basket of Bread and Pastries (ill. 2), a masterpiece by Evaristo Baschenis whom we too often remember as only a still-life painter. Baschenis’ young boy immediately calls to mind the master’s little beggar (ill. 3), one of his finest compositions. The eight paintings brought together here (seven belong to the gallery), are enough to convince us in a clear way of the anonymous master’s style. More works will no doubt emerge in the near future.

4. The Master of the Blue Jeans
Woman Begging with Two Children
Oil on canvas - 152 x 117 cm
Paris, Galerie Canesso
Photo : Galerie Canesso

5. Giacomo Ceruti (1698-1767)
A Woman Braiding Wicker
Oil on canvas - 125 x 142 cm
Comune di Montichiari (It.), Lechi’s collection
Photo : Galerie Canesso

All of these canvases evoke the same atmosphere. They represent interior scenes, of poor but not miserable conditions ; at least one figure stares out at the spectator, as if surprised to see him. Only the Woman Begging with Two Children (ill. 4) seems to call out to us for alms. As in the case of the artists mentioned above, the Maestro della tela jeans carries on a tradition born in the first half of the 17th century with Velazquez and Georges La Tour, where certain compositions still reflect a Caravaggesque influence. The artist was active in the late 17th century and this vein would be pursued in the next by Todeschini and Giacomo Ceruti. The exhibition offers two works by the latter, notably A Woman Braiding Wicker (ill. 5), an extraordinary painting entirely in shades of brown, where the main character, shown in profile and totally absorbed in her work, reminds us strangely of a canvas which is two hundred years older, the Portrait of the Artist’s Mother by Whistler.

Once again, this exhibition proves that galleries can make major contributions to art history, a fact readily understood by foreign museums which did not hesitate to lend paintings to a private gallery [1].

Collective work, The Master of the Blue Jeans. A New Painter of Reality in Late 17th Century Europe, 2010, Paris, Galerie Canesso, 40 €. The catalogue exists in French, English and Italian.

Visitor information : Paris, Galerie Canesso, 26 rue Laffite, 75009 Paris. Tel : 01 40 22 61 71. Open Monday to Saturday, from 11 to 19, free entrance.

Internet website

Didier Rykner, samedi 25 septembre 2010


[1] The Canesso Gallery already presented paintings from museums in the exhibition on Neapolitan still-lifes (see article).

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