PASSEROTTI, Bartolomeo
(b. 1529, Bologna, d. 1592, Bologna)

The Fishmonger's Shop

Oil on canvas, 112 x 152 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

The two paintings in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica (The Butcher's Shop an the Fishmonger's Shop) were originally part of a series of four. The dating of the pictures, considered to rank among the best examples of Italian genre painting, oscillates between 1578-80 and 1585-90. There are close stylistic connections between these canvases and the works of the Dutch masters Aertsen and Beuckelaer, as well as with the Butcher's Shop by Annibale Carracci (now at Oxford).

The fish shop is rich with the most minute naturalistic description, with the woman holing up the blowfish and with various types of sea shells on display reflecting Passerotti's interest in naturalistic study. A participant in the scientific culture of Bologna, of which Ulisse Aldovrandi was a protagonist, Passerotti created his own varied collection of curiosities and monstrosities.

In both pictures the sparrow appears: as this bird's Italian name is the passerotto, the artist used it as a type of pictorial signature.