Private collection, New York; private collection, London
Our painting represents an ideal wall composed of seven famous masterpieces of Italian painters of late 16th and 17th century that can all be found in the “Pinacoteca dei Musei Capitolini” in Rome.
Starting from the left, it is possible to recognize the Sibilla Persica (1647) by Guercino, the Ratto d’Europa (1580-85) by Paolo Veronese, the Sibilla Cumana (1622) by Domenichino. At the center we can see: La Buona Ventura (1593-94) by Caravaggio; on the bottom: San Sebastiano (1615-16) by Guido Reni, La Cacciata di Agar e Ismaele (17th century) attributed to Giovanni Bonati and finally the Maddalena Penitente (1598-1602) by Tintoretto.
The bizarre presence of Bonati’s painting among these masterpieces is motivated by the fact that it had been attributed to other more famous artists, but also because Bonati had been the one who selected the paintings that constituted the collection of Cardinal Carlo Francesco Pio: a great part of the “Pinacoteca Capitolina”.
Our trompe-l’oeil follows the pictorial tradition of the depiction of private picture galleries (Cabinet d’amateur) of the 17th century and that since the second half of the 18th century had evolved into the representation of museum fittings. Furthermore, the choice of proposing this selection of work could have been motivated by the importance of the “Pinacoteca Capitolina” which had been instituted in 1748-9 by Pope Benedict XIV’s will, and which represented the first Italian collection of paintings open to the public. Our painting could thus be intended as a tribute to Italian art and to the modern concept of “museum”.
This piece has been most likely composed for some northerner illustrious traveler as a souvenir of his Grand Tour in Rome.
 A. Scarpa Sonino, Cabinet d'amateur. Le grandi collezioni d'arte nei dipinti dal XVII al XIX secolo, Berenice, 1992.