UNTIL recently the only picture in the Museum of Fine Arts at Budapest to be generally accepted as by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino, was the fine altar-piece of the Flagellation of Christ, painted in 1641 for the Beregani family of Vicenza, which was paid for in 1644 and later recorded by Boschini as being in the church of S. Biagio Nuovo of that city. To this may now be added a Head of Christ crowned with thorns (Fig.21), formerly kept in the reserve collection as 'early seventeenth-century Bolognese'. This beautiful small picture on copper, which was probably painted about 1622, later belonged to the Esterhaizy family, whose magnificent collection of pictures was purchased by the Hungarian State in 1871 and now forms the nucleus of that of in the Museum of Fine Arts. Under- standably enough, it had always been thought to be by Guercino while in the possession of the Esterhaizy, and it was catalogued as such in a description of the family's picture gallery. Although mentioned in the early catalogues of the Museum as by Guercino, for unknown reasons the picture was downgraded and, eventually, forgotten. Quite how Guercino's authorship came to be doubted remains one of the minor mysteries of twentieth-century art history: it was presumably a decision of the immensely thorough and conscientious former curator, Andor Pigler, to dismiss the traditional attribution, perhaps on account of the picture's small scale and unusual, copper support.
BETWEEN 1605 and 1609 Monsignor Giovanni Battista Agucchi was involved in planning three commemorative monuments. Only two of them were constructed: the tomb of his brother, Cardinal Girolamo Agucchi in S. Pietro in Vincoli, Rome (1605–06) and the memorial to the same cardinal in S. Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna (1608–09). These were both designed by Domenichino, and affirm the artist's close ties to Agucchi with whom he shared an interest in architecture and ornament all'antica. The third, which has remained unknown until now, was a project initiated in 1608, shortly before Agucchi turned his attention to his brother's tomb in S. Giacomo Maggiore. It was never realised, but a group of drawings and letters recently discovered in the Vatican Library document the patron's intentions, showing that Agucchi had decided to embellish the modest memorial to Cardinal Filippo Sega that his brother had earlier erected in the presbytery of Piacenza Cathedral. The artist whom he asked to help with the designs was Lodovico Carracci.
THE manuscript of Borromini's Opus Architectonicum, drafted in 1647, begins with a handsome dedication to the 'Mar- chese di Castel Rodriguez', whom the architect had had occasion to know 'nel tempo chefui honorato di servirla in questa Citta nel disegno della regiafabrica cominciata da suoi antenati, e dei sepolchri de suoi heroi'.' Yet no trace is left in Rome of any such chapel or ancestral seat. Who was this man, who looms so large in Borromini's life and whose attentions moved the usually silent architect to say, che mi amava piz da figlio, che da servo?
AT THE time of the Guido Reni exhibition in 1988 an attentive reader of the catalogue would have noted that the documents regarding the Pietaz dei Mendicanti (Fig. 14) raised more questions than they answered. The earliest reference to the painting ap- pears in a letter from Cesare Rinaldi to Reni dated 26th April 1613, in which the poet suggests to the painter that he should remove the diadem of St Florian, as it detracts from the painting's three-dimensionality. This indicates that at least some image of the altar-piece, in which St Florian, one of the four protector saints of Bologna, appears as the last figure standing on the right, was already seen by Rinaldi in April 1613
ONE OF the most impressive painted Crucifixions of the seventeenth century is that by Jusepe de Ribera in the Collegiate Church of Osuna near Seville. Despite its poor state of preser- vation, the picture, which is neither signed nor dated, is recognised to be a most important work in the artist's oeuvre. Until recently no document had come to light which provided any information concerning the patron, the picture's early history or the circumstances of its passage to Osuna. It was assumed that the Crucifixion, (Fig.19), as well as the four paintings of saints by Ribera which are in the Museum of the Collegiate Church, had been donated by the third Duke of Osuna, Don Pedro Tellez Gir6n (1574–1624), who was Viceroy of Naples from 1616 to 1620 and, according to the sources, a patron of Ribera. Most of the recent literature on the Crucifixion dates the work to around 1626, observing in it a more developed style compared with the four paintings of saints (which are normally dated 1616–18), claiming a dependence on Guercino's Bologna and Alnwick Crucifixions (1616 and 1625) and identifying certain parallels in style and execution with Ribera's own Drunken Silenus in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples, signed and dated 1626, and the St Sebastian tended by St Irene in Leningrad, signed and dated 1628. If the painting is to be dated 1626 the patron could hardly have been the Duke of Osuna, since he died in prison in Madrid on 25th September 1624.
A HITHERTO unpublished group of letters and notes bound in a volume of memorie of the Confraternity of SS. Annunziata in Arezzo sheds some light on regional taste in the early-seventeenth century and is unusually revealing about the processes by which an altar-piece was commissioned. The documents relate to a bequest to the brotherhood of an Aretine physician, Bartolomeo di Christofano Spadacci, who had lived and worked in Florence. Along with his final testament and codicil, they include a long report addressed to the Confraternity by one of their members, Lionardo Accolti, from the deathbed of the benefactor in Florence. This recounts that Spadacci died on 15th July 1621, at the age of eighty-five.