TANZIO DA VARALLO
(b. ca. 1580, Riale dAlagna, d. ca. 1632, Varallo)
Oil on canvas, 80 x 64 cm
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
The pendant of this painting, representing St John the Baptist, is in a private collection in England. These paintings bear striking witness to the painter's long sojourn in central-southern Italy, and ability to assimilate what he saw there. Tanzio's Jerome seems to evoke the realism of the Neapolitan school as seen in Ribera and Battistello. The Vanitas still-life in the foreground is a masterpiece of Spanish-Neapolitan intensity: the beautifully silken light strikes golden reflections onto the book, resting wide open on the round skull in an almost caressing position, protecting it with its cast shadow. The saint's hand exhibits the bony leanness of a hermit, and the motif of the dirty fingernails evokes Caravaggio.