The Young John the Baptist at a Well
Oil on canvas (relined). 76 x 64 cm.
Dr Rudy Chiappini recently added this work to the known corpus of 15 paintings that make up the oeuvre of Giovanni Serodine in the context of an extensive article.
Serodine was born into a family of plasterers from Tessin and was taught to paint in Rome, where he achieved renown early in his career. His first documented commission was for a fresco for the Chiesa della Concezione in Spoleto in 1623. Further public commissions were to follow, but sadly his successful career ended after less than a decade with Serodine's untimely death in 1630. Even in this short period, the Swiss artist was able to develop a unique personal style characterised by an expressive rendering of reality, the naturalistic tendencies and formal tensions which were strongly influenced by Caravaggio. Alongside this eccentric style, his work displays a prominent spirituality: The artist's primary goal was to uncover the core meaning behind religious events. In following this end, Serodine often placed greater emphasis on the narrative dimensions of religious stories than on the formal attributes of the saints and thus the rhetorical component of his compositions.
Dr. Chiappini's attribution is based on a stylistic analysis of our painting in comparison to other works by Serodine. The freshness and immediacy of the brushstrokes, the at times undefined treatment of the anatomy, the skilful use of chiaroscuro in a way that is dramatic yet delicate, as well as the rendering of the fabrics, embellished by reflected light, are typical of the artist. Dr. Chiappini places our painting in Serodine's early creative period, noting a proximity to works in Ascona as well as to the painting of Saint Margaret now in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. He suspects that the little boy depicted in our painting, despite the lack of traditional attributes, could be John the Baptist. In keeping with Serodine's tendency to favour the narrative over the formal aspects of religious subjects in order to bring out the essence of the story, the saint is depicted here for what he was: A young boy of humble origins, ready for his divine mission. This emphasis on the everyday aspects of the depiction highlights Serodine's intimate and personal interpretation of the Bible, to which he provides the viewer direct access in his works.
Londoner art market. - Italian private ownership.