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    Description

    Antonio de Bellis (Italian, 1610-1700)
    St. John the Baptist in the wilderness
    Oil on canvas
    47-3/4 x 55-1/4 inches (121.3 x 140.3 cm)

    PROVENANCE:
    Private Italian collection, circa 1982;
    William E. Johnson Fine Art and Antiques, Dallas, TX, 1997;
    Private collection, Dallas, TX, acquired from the above, 1997.

    A major figure in Neapolitan painting of the seventeenth century, Antonio de Bellis was highly regarded for his mastery of the male nude and for his exceptional draftsmanship. His works frequently give full rein to these twin strengths. Like many Baroque artists of his time, de Bellis was influenced by the powerful monumentality and dramatic lighting effects pioneered by Caravaggio, although his point of contact came through the more immediate work of Jusepe de Ribera in Naples. De Bellis frequently created compositions with large-scale figures commanding a great deal of the picture surface, and his subjects were often those experiencing extreme emotional states or undergoing physical torture. De Bellis' Flaying of Marsyas (Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida), St. Sebastian (Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Orléans), and Lamentation over the dead Christ (Church of St. Rocco, Solofra), for example, all present the male nude (or near-nude) in the immediate foreground, in complex poses that showcase the artist's gifts for pathos and anatomical precision.

    Another side of de Bellis' art, exemplified by St. John the Baptist in the wilderness, is quieter and intensely poetic. De Bellis was also a highly skilled landscape painter, whose acute observation of natural details, such as the bark and lichen patterns on the ancient gnarled oak in the present work, created equivalents to emotional states he conveyed in his figures. As a storyteller in paint, de Bellis would often situate small figures within a shadowy landscape of woodlands and grottoes. He was fond of asymmetrical arrangements--placing a simple figure cluster to one side, spotlighting it against an inky darkness, and then puncturing the opposite side of the composition with a bright sky, and a luminous vista receding into the distance (cf. De Bellis' Death of Abel and The Good Samaritan, both in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples).




    Condition Report*: Glue-lined canvas. Fine craquelure throughout commensurate with age. UV examination reveals that the painting bears an old varnish which has been selectively cleaned in the areas of the figure and in the distant landscape and sky. There is no restoration in the cleaned areas. The older varnish obscures a reading of any restoration in the uncleaned areas. Framed dimensions: 47.75 x 55.25 inches.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2017
    8th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,722

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