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Attributed to Bassante, Bartolomeo (Italian painter, 1618-1648) , The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds

Core Record

Title The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Attributed to Bassante, Bartolomeo (Italian painter, 1618-1648)
Previously attributed to Master of the Annunciation to the Shepherds (Italian painter, active 17th century)
Previously attributed to Velázquez, Diego (Spanish painter, 1599-1660)
Date Earliest about 1628
Date Latest about 1648
Description This painting was 'newly discovered' as an early period Velasquez in 1913 in a London auction house. In 1992 it was attributed to an artist named the Master of the Annunciation of the Shepherds after his preference for this subject of which there were several paintings by the same hand. This artist has now been identified as Bartolomeo Bassante (or Passante), a Naples-based painter active between 1628 and 1648.

In the wake of Caravaggio, gospel subjects were transformed into pastoral and peasant scenes. Here the artist shows 'personal sympathy for the travails of agrarian life and of humble humanity' (Spike, 1992). The artist emphasises the simple humanity of the shepherds who are shown with torn clothing, sunburnt faces, and, in the case of the shepherd to the right, still asleep.

Current Accession Number 1949P7
Former Accession Number P.7´49
Subject religion (Angel appearing to the Shepherds)
Measurements 127.5 x 180.5 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased with the aid of the Public Picture Gallery Fund 1949.
Provenance Julian Benjamin Williams (British Consul at Seville); Frank Hall Standish of Duxbuy Hall, Lincolnshire; bequeathed to King Louis Philippe, 1841; On display in Louvre (Standish Collection) 1842 - 1853; Louis Philippe's Standish Collection sale, Christie's, 28 and 30 May 1853, bought by Rev. W. J. Davenport, Bromely; Bromely sale, Christie's, 12 June 1863, bought by Lord Ashburton ('Bath House' in catalogue) [;]; Louisa, Lady Ashburton sale, Phillips, Son & Neale, 26 September 1911, lot 1431 as Murillo, bought by Baron von Grundherr; Christie's, 19 April 1912, bought by M. H. Spielmann.
Principal Exhibitions The Standish Collection, Louvre, Paris 1842 - 1853, cat. no. 153 as by Velasquez; Spanish Old Masters, Grafton Galleries, London, 1913, cat. no. 44 as Velasquez; Holbein and other Masters of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Burlington House, London, 1950, cat. no. 319 as Passante; Pictures from the City Art Gallery, Birmingham, Agnew, London, 1957, cat. no. 1; Primitives to Picasso, Royal Academy, 1962, cat. no. 49; Important Italian Baroque Paintings 1600 - 1700, Matthiesen Gallery, 1981, cat. no. 8; Painting in Naples from Caravaggio to Giordano, Royal Academy, 1982; Battistello Caracciolo, Castel Sant'Elmo, Naples, 1991; Caravaggio - Darkness and Light, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2003.
Publications Waagen, G. F., Art Treasures in England, vol. 3, 1854, p.380; Mayer, A. L., Jusepe de Ribera, 1923, p. 177; Bologna, F., Francesco Solimena, 1958, pp.18,30; Spielmann, M. H., 'L'Annonce aux Bergères de Velazquez', Revue de l'Art, vol. 34, no. 196, 10 July 1913, pp. 45 - 54; Catalogue of Paintings in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, 1960; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 109; Spike, J. T., 'The Case of the Master of the Annunciation to the Shepherds, alias Bartolomeo Passante', Studi di Storia dell'Arte, vol. 3, 1992, p. 203.
Notes Since the 'discovery' of this painting as a lost Velasquez in 1913 by M. H. Spielmann, there has been much debate surrounding its attribution. Phillips did not accept it as a Velasquez. However, Sir Walter Armstrong confirmed that it was 'an early Velasquez, dating from about 1633-5 [...] almost contemporary with the Christ on the Cross at Madrid' and 'one of the most important works of the master's early maturity outside Madrid' (letter in gallery archives, 17 June 1913). Experts, Paul Lambotte and P. Lafond agreed. Courtney Pollock attributed it to Ribera based on a very similar (but landscape format) painting in the Brooklyn Institute Museum (letter in gallery files, 1913). August L. Mayer was the first to suggest an attribution to Passante (1923). John T. Spike made a case for Passante in 1992 identifying him as the artist known as Master of the Annunication to the Shepherds. This is now the consensus opinion. Passante (Bassante) was a follower of Ribera. There are pictures by Bassante on the same subject in Aix-en-Provence, Quimper, Musée de Nantes and the B. Stephens Collection, New York.
Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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