The Peterzano Collection (and the pseudo-Caravaggios) on View at the Castello Sforzesco

13/2/13 - Exhibition and attributions - Milan, Castello Sforzesco - The grotesque Courbet affair took place just a few months after that concerning the pseudo-drawings by Caravaggio. The two cases (others occurred previously and, alas, more will follow) are very similar since both these "rediscoveries", despite their obviously absurd character for those who know what to look for, were published extensively in the press and were even featured on television newscasts.

On the subject of the so-called Caravaggios, an exhibition is currently underway in Milan at the Castello Sforzesco presenting the Peterzano collection, notably about one hundred drawings mistakenly attributed to the master. Strangely, no one is talking about it. Apparently, Peterzano does not capture our imagination in the same way as Caravaggio. This lack of reaction is unfortunate since it shows to what extent some journalists need take care before passing sentence on a subject where they lack critical faculties.

1. Simone Peterzano (c.1535-1599)
Study of the Head of a Bearded Man
Black and White Chalk - 14.2 x 22.4 cm
Milano, Castello Sforzesco
Photo : Castello Sforzesco

2. Simone Peterzano (c.1535-1599)
The Return of the Prodigal Son, detail
Milano, church San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
Photo : D. R.

The catalogue - indeed, we did not see the exhibition - demonstrates how the "experts" who announced the scoop were totally off target. The works they published have been classified into various sections. The first assembles characteristic drawings of Simone Peterzano. The curators show that some of them are even preparatory to known paintings or frescos of this artist, with very solid arguments, as opposed to the much weaker ones put forward in defense of Caravaggio (ill. 1 and 2).

3. Giovan Franceso Lampugnani (1588-1651)
Giovan Battista Lampugnani (1590-1640)
Study of a Head and Arms
Black and White Chalk - 42.8 x 27.3 cm
Milano, Castello Sforzesco
Photo : Castello Sforzesco

4. Giovan Franceso Lampugnani (1588-1651)
Giovan Battista Lampugnani (1590-1640)
The Ascension of Christ, 1629
Oil on Canvas
Milano, church Santa Maria della Passione
Photo : D. R.

The second section presents sheets given to Peterzano’s studio while the third one is made up of drawings by various 16th and 17th century artists and studios, essentially anonymous Lombards but also a drawing attributed to Giovan Francesco and (or) Giovan Battista Lampugnani which is clearly preparatory for the Ascension of Christ held in the church of Santa Maria della Passione (ill. 3 and 4) in Milan. Copies by artists from different schools and academic studies from the 17th century constitute the fourth and fifth sections.

5. Anonymous Lombard, early 17th century ?
Study of a Male Nude
Charcoal and White Chalk - 41.7 x 28.5 cm
Milano, Castello Sforzesco
Photo : Castello Sforzesco

Although the authors admit that some attributions still need to be clarified, they confirm above all, something which is in fact immediately obvious when looking at the reproductions : that these drawings were executed by different hands, schools and centuries. Also, that the level of quality varies tremendously, with some sheets being so mediocre (ill. 5) as to warrant indignation at the idea that they might ever have been attributed to Caravaggio.

Collective work, Simone Peterzano e i designi del Castello Sforzesco, 2012, 192 p. ISBN : 9788836625420

The exhibition continues until 17 March 2013.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 27 février 2013

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