Christ with the Samaritan Woman
Olio su tela
Artwork nr. 49 — Hall 37 — 2nd floor
This painting came into the possession of the Gallery in 1971, when it was bought by the state from Lucia Marocchi Mazzuoli. Datable to 1622, the painting demonstrates the French artist’s convinced adherence to the methods of Caravaggio. Very close to the other work by Valentin on show in the Gallery, the Noli me tangere, it invests all its dramatic meaning in the concentration of the description in a space defined exclusively by the gestures of the characters, which are intensified by the marked contrast achieved in the distribution of lights and shadows.
This painting was discovered in 1973 by Francesco Santi in the monastery of San Francesco Borgo in Todi, bought in 1976 and published in the same year as a work of Orazio Gentileschi (1562-1647), one of Caravaggio’s first followers. Featuring a very close vantage point, the scene shows the two figures one next to the other, emerging from a dark background that makes the flesh of their faces and the colour schemes of their clothing stand out. Saint Cecilia is wearing a red dress and is depicted on the left of the painting, in the act of playing the spinet, her face looking down towards the keyboard, while the angel next to her, wearing a yellow ochre dress, is watching her while focusing on showing her the sheet music. The critic Santi drew a parallel between this painting and one with a similar subject (in the Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington), although there are certain variations in form: the saint only has a garland and a halo in the Perugia version, the different positioning and lighting of the angel’s wings, and the choice of musical instrument: a spinet in the painting in Perugia and an organ in the Washington version. The two paintings have both been found to be related to the altarpiece with The Virgin Presenting the Child to Saint Francesca Romana (previously in the church of Santa Caterina Martire in Fabriano and now in the National Gallery of the Marche in Urbino). Although there is disagreement among the critics about the chronology of these paintings, Schleier believes that the Urbino altarpiece was the prototype for the other two, although he leaves the question of their attribution open. For the Saint Cecilia and an Angel in Perugia, an iconographic prototypes has been suggested in the figure of Mary Magdalene in Caravaggio’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Doria Pamphili Gallery, Rome), which can be seen in particular in the humanised interpretation of the holy dimension. Another hypothesis suggests that this painting may be derived by an as-yet unidentified artist from a work by Gentileschi.