Still Life, Bartolomeo Arbotori, 18th century

Bartolomeo Arbotori (Piacenza 1594 - 1676)
Still life
formerly Zanardi Landi collection


Oil on canvas depicting a still life, a pantry with a table set with a copper basin and different kinds: hanging game, trays full of fruit and cutting boards with fish. On the left of the scene a monkey looks towards the observer, while she is biting into a fruit held by her front legs; in the upper part a window with a grate, overlooked by a colorful parrot.

Dimensions: 124 x 154 cm


Historical-stylistic analysis:

Already known to critics, the painting is unanimously indicated as a certain work by Arbotori, formerly of the Zanardi Landi collection in Piacenza.
The first to identify its paternity, after the initial one to Felice Boselli, was Arisi in Arte e Pietà, an attribution that scholars found in agreement. Lanfranco Ravelli (1998) indicates the representation not as a simple still life, but as an allegory of taste, a reading in his opinion suggested by the theme of the monkey that is painted in the act of tasting a fruit. Alberto Crispo (2000) underlines the Flemish character of the composition, with typical elements such as the monkey, the parrot and the metal furnishings.

Although these elements are presented with more dialectal terms, there are fearsome comparisons with two canvases that have similar characteristics, signed and preserved at the National Gallery of Parma.

The Piacenza painter, whose spelling of the surname is varied, specialized in the creation of still lifes, becoming an author widely appreciated and in demand in the local area, as evidenced by the inventories of the collections of wealthy families in the area, in which his works are present. in large numbers. Presumably the paintings had to be contextualized as architectural and illusive complements, such as over doors or wall panels. This function translates into perspectives with a lowered point of view and the sensation of a precarious balance, research aimed precisely at the illusory surrender.


– F. Arisi, Felice Boselli pittore di nature morte, Piacenza, 1973, page 140, n. 51, pic. 73;

– Arte e pietà. I patrimoni culturali delle opere pie nella provincia di Piacenza, catalogo della mostra (Piacenza), Bologna, 1981, pages. 49-51;

– Naturaliter. Nuovi contributi alla natura morta in Italia settentrionale e Toscana tra XVII e XVIII secolo, a cura di Gianluca e Ulisse Bocchi, Galleria d’Orlane, Casalmaggiore, 1998, page 248, pic. 308;

– L. Ravelli, Bartolomeo Arbotoni, Piacenza 1594-1676, s.l., 2000, pages. 40-41, tav. 16;

– La natura morta in Emilia Romagna. Pittori, centri di produzione e collezionismo fra XVII e XVIII secolo, a cura di Daniele Benai e Lucia Peruzzi, Banca Popolare dell’Emilia Romagna, Skira, Milano, 2000, page 164, pic. 158.


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