(active 1610-1620s in Rome)

The Chicken Vendor

c. 1618
Oil on canvas, 95 x 71 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

This painting and a small group of other paintings were attributed in the 1940s to an anonymous artist called 'Pensionante del Saraceni', literally the boarder of Saraceni. He was believed to be French. The theme of the chicken vendor was popular with sixteenth-century northern painters, as well as with Lombard and Bolognese artists. Pensionante has studied the subtle atmosphere of Caravaggio's Gypsy Fortune Teller and created an intense relationship between the two figures. The soft, velvety quality of the light and modeling differs sharply from the chiaroscuro of other Caravaggesque painters.

The theme of the painting, like that of Caravaggio's painting, is trickery. The young man holds out two coins for the two chickens to the vendor, whose crafty expression suggests a foolish pleasure in the transaction, behind his back his customer filches a third.