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Painting Title Roman Charity: Cimon and Pero
Collection York Art Gallery
Artist Attibuted to Baburen, Dirck van (Dutch painter, ca. 1595-1624)
Date Earliest about 1622
Date Latest about 1623

In a prison cell, a young woman, wearing a turban, left, nourishes an old man chained and captive. A face appears at the spy hole upper left. The subject of Cimon, condemned by his judges to starve in prison, being breast-fed by his daughter Pero, comes from the chapter on filial piety in Valerius Maximus's Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium, Libri IX, v. 4. Pero was eventually found out by a jailer but her act of selflessness impressed the officials so much that they decided to release her father; it was a very popular subject in the 17th century.

Dirck Jaspersz. van Baburen was born about 1595, he spent his youth in Utrecht and before 1615 he went to Rome. It was there where he had a chance to become familiar with the art of Caravaggio and his followers. He was influenced by their dramatic chiaroscuro, non-idealistic way of depicting the characters and choice of subject matter. Van Baburen was one of the first members of so called 'Bentvueghels' (meaning 'Birds of a Feather'), a group of Dutch artists active in Rome between about 1620 and 1720, painters, sculptors, engravers and poets. He returned to Utrecht in 1620; YORAG : 788 was painted after that date.

Current Accession Number YORAG : 788
Subject literature (Valerius Maximus, Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium); figure; interior
Measurements 127.6 x 151.1 cm
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Given by F.D. Lycett Green, Esq. through the National Art Collections Fund 1955.
Provenance Possibly the art dealer Forchoudt, Antwerp, 1675, as no 73; possibly sold from Quirijn van Biesum Collection, Rotterdam, 14 April 1717, lot 216 ('daer Dochter de Vader spyst door Babure'); A. Heppner, 1938; P. Bottenweiser, Berlin; Sotheby's 8 March 1944, lot 94, purchased by F.D. Lycett Green.
Principal Exhibitions F.D. Lycett Green Gift, York City Art Gallery, 1955, no. 68; Primitives to Picasso, Royal Academy, London 1962, no. 105; Gods, Saints, and Heroes: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt, Detroit Institute of Arts and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1980-81, no. 15; Dutch Seventeenth Century Paintings from Yorkshire Public Collections, City Art Gallery, Leeds, 1982, cat. no. 1; Nieuw Licht op de Gouden Eeuw. Hendrick ter Brugghen en tijdgenoten / Holländische Malerei in neuem Licht: Hendrick ter Brugghen und seine Zeitgenossen, Centraal Museum, Utrecht, and Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick, 1986-87, no. 38; Masters of Light: Dutch Painters in Utrecht during the Golden Age, Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, National Gallery, London, 1997/98, no. 24.
Publications PREVIEW. City of York Art Gallery Quarterly, 30, April 1955, vol. VIII, p. 299; Nicholson, B., ‘The Lycett Green Gift to York', The Burlington Magazine, XCVII, April 1955, p. 99, fig. 4, as by Jan Janssens; Nicholson, B., Hendrick Terbrugghen, London, 1958, p. 52, as by Baburen; York Art Gallery Catalogue - Catalogue of Paintings, Vol. I: Foreign Schools 1350-1800, City of York Art Gallery, York, 1961, p. 45, pl. 41; Primitives to Picasso, London, 1962, cat. 105; Slatkes, L.J., Dirck Van Baburen (c. 1595-1624): A Dutch Painter in Utrecht and Rome, 2nd ed., Utrecht, 1969, pp. 81-83, 125-127, cat. A22, fig. 20; Catalogue Supplement 1974: Amendments and Additions to Catalogue Volumes I and II, City of York Art Gallery, York, 1975, p. 10; Wright, C., The Dutch Painters: 100 Seventeenth Century Masters, 1978, pp. 56-7; Blankert, A., et al., Gods, Saints, and Heroes: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt, Washington, 1980. cat. 15, p. 112; Wright, C., Robertson, A., Dutch Seventeenth Century Paintings from Yorkshire Public Collections, Leeds, 1982, cat. 1, pp. 8-9; Blankert, A., Slatkes, L.J., Holländische Malerei in neuem Licht: Hendrick ter Brugghen und seine Zeitgenossen, Braunschweig, 1986, cat. 38, pp. 191-3; Nicolson, B., Vertova, L., Caravaggism in Europe, Torino, 1989, I: 53, 3, pl. 1069; Spicer, J. (ed.), Masters of Light: Dutch Painters in Utrecht during the Golden Age, Yale Univ. Press 1997, cat. 24, pp. 204-206; Franits, W., The Paintings of Dirk van Baburen, ca. 1592/93 - 1624. Catalogue Raisonne, Amsterdam 2013, cat. A29, pl. 29, pp. 53, 147-150; Oil Paintings in Public Ownership. North Yorkshire, London, 2006, p. 236.

The subject of Cimon and Pero was a favourite one with artist and patrons in the 17th century. Four paintings by Rubens of that subject are known; subject was also painted by Bauren's fellow Caravaggisti of the Utrecht circle (e.g. Mattheus Stomer and Paulus Moreelse). The initial suggestion that YORAG : 788 may be by Jan Janssens has been rejected and the attribution to Baburen is now accepted, as well as the dating of about 1623. A replica of YORAG : 788, traditionally attributed to Jan Janssens and dated about 1625, is in the Academia de San Fernando, Madrid. Another copy (only described as old and in poor condition) is in the Musee de la Chartreuse in Douai.

Francis Denis Lycett Green (1893-1959) was a member of the wealthy industrial Green family from Wakefield that was among the great philanthropic benefactors of York. He began buying pictures during the 1920s, advised by some of the most famous art historians of the day. By the 1940s, he owned examples from almost every school and period of European Art – a comprehensive collection of over 130 paintings dating back from the early 14th century to the end of the 18th century, representing every important European school of art. In 1952, he offered it to the National Gallery of South Africa, having moved to Cape Town in the hope that the climate would improve his health (which was poor because he was badly injured in the First World War). However when a dispute arose with the Cape Town Gallery, Francis withdrew his pictures in protest and shipped them back to England. The entire collection of 130 pictures was at first on loan to the York Art Gallery and in the spring of 1955 he decided to give it to the Gallery.

Rights Owner York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery)
Author Dr Magdalena Łanuszka



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