Giacomo Ceruti, called il Pitocchetto (active Lombardy 1724-1757)
An elderly bearded peasant man resting his chin in his hand oil on canvas 54.7 x 43 cm. (21½ x 17 in.)
PROVENANCE: Anonymous sale, Phillips, London, 11th December 1990, lot 84, withdrawn at the owner's request
The present composition reflects Ceruti's interest in the theme of poverty. In this he was typical of a group of artists working in Bergamo and Brescia in the early eighteenth century who observed reality. Ceruti was paricularly distinguioshed for his depictions of beggars and vagabonds (pitocchi), hence his nickname, il Pitocchetto. The tradition of representing low-life subjects can be traced back to the etchings of Jacques Callot, on which some of Ceruti's works were directly based, but the genre was given particular impetus by the artist's noble Brescian patrons, who showed some sensitivity to social problems, especially poverty. The interest in this subject matter became subsequently of more widespread appeal to the most fashionable of connoisseurs, as was testified by the payments Ceruti received in 1736 from Johann Mathias, Graf von der Schulenburg, Marshal of the Venetian Republic, for a series of beggars, including the Three Beggars, now in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.