PENSIONANTE DEL SARACENI
(active 1610-1620s in Rome)
In an article published in 1943, the scholar Roberto Longhi, a great authority on Caravaggio's followers, attributed a group of four paintings to an artist whose identity remains unknown, but who was clearly influenced by the Venetian painter Carlo Saraceni. He dubbed this presumed pupil or associate 'Pensionante del Saraceni', literally the lodger or boarder of Saraceni. Saraceni, who worked in Rome from 1598 until about 1619, is documented as having accommodated several artists and the so-called Pensionante may have been one of them. On occasion, the artist has been identified as Jean LeClerc (c. 1587-1632), a native of Nancy, documented as Saraceni's assistant. This identification, however, remains conjectural and Netherlandish or Flemish origins have also been proposed.
The artist's oeuvre consists principally of pure genre scenes, void of religious or allegorical meaning, and still-lifes, produced for private collectors. The four paintings originally assigned to the artist are The Fruit Vendor (Detroit Institute of Art), The Fishmonger (Galleria Corsini, Rome), The Chicken Vendor (Museo del Prado, Madrid) and The Denial of St Peter (Pinacoteca, Vatican), to which subsequently was added Still-Life with Fruit and a Carafe of White Wine (National Gallery of Art, Washington) and The Burial of St Sebastian (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), although this latter is not universally agreed upon.
In style and subject, the work of the Pensionante comes close to that of Caravaggio, to whom several paintings, including the Fruit Vendor and the Still-life with Fruit and a Carafe of White Wine were formerly attributed. There is often, however, a particular sense of geometry underlying the organization of the Pensionante's paintings which distinguishes them from the work of both Saraceni and Caravaggio.