MASTER of the Hartford Still-life
(active c. 1600 in Rome)


The artist was named in 1952 after the Still-life with Flowers and Fruit in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. Since then a number of identifications have been made, including Francesco Zucchi, Bernardino Cesari and Giovanni Battista Crescenzi. The identity of this enigmatic master remains uncertain: if the proposition that he is the young Caravaggio is reconcilable, he may be a painter close to him. Two pictures in the collection of the Galleria Borghese, one a Still-life with Birds, the other Flowers, Fruit, Vegetables and Two Lizards, have been linked to the Master of the Hartford Still-life because of their stylistic similarities and shared early provenance.

Prone to an archaising tendency, the Hartford picture displays a number of Caravaggesque motifs, including light entering at an angle, a projecting fruit basket, reflective vases filled with flowers, and single pieces of fruit strewn across a surface seen from above. The provenance of the Borghese pictures and probably also the Hartford picture can be traced back to Cavaliere d'Arpino, whose collection was confiscated in 1607 and given to Pope Paul V's nephew Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Even if they are not by Caravaggio, who is credited with instigating a new fashion for still-life painting, the works are usually dated soon after his arrival in Rome, around 1593, when he was employed in the workshop of Cavaliere d'Arpino. Most recently, however, it has been suggested that the works be placed in the first decade of the seventeenth century.