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Andrea Camassei

(1602 Bevagna – 1649 Rome)

The Virgin and Child with St. John as a Boy. Etching. 17 x 22.4 cm. Bartsch 1.

The painter, Andrea Camassei, produced just one etching which, according to Adam von Bartsch, radiates “beaucoup de goût et de grace dans la composition” and was described by the author as very rare. However, the second print recorded by Bartsch, depicting the Holy Family, is in fact a work by Giulio Cesare Procaccini (see catalogue number 9).

Camassei studied in Rome under none other than Domenichino and Andrea Sacchi and began a successful career as a painter of pictures and frescoes in the 1620s. He enjoyed the special protection of Pope Urban VIII Barberini, being appointed by him to the honourable office of Custodian of the Sistine Chapel. Thus at the outset of his career Camassei enjoyed a prestige comparable to that of his fellow artists, Andrea Sacchi and Pietro da Cortona, together with whom he ranked among the painters favoured by Urban VIII. Later on, however, his fortunes took a turn for the worse. Petty jealousies among his rivals in Rome, inner-family disputes and even an arrest for brawling resulted in a life of increased isolation for the artist, who died embittered and impoverished in 1649. Ultimately, the adversities Camassei encountered meant that he never achieved the artistic heights attained by the main masters of Roman Baroque such as Cortona and Sacchi.

The present etching has been executed in a light, energetic and spirited manner. Certain technical deficiencies indicate that it represents a first attempt. Nonetheless, the scene is remarkable for its distinctly painterly, atmospheric style and tender intimacy. The posture of the baby Jesus, who nestles up to his mother in search of protection, is rendered with great sensi­ti­vity. A superb, tonal and subtly differentiated impression, trimmed to the occasionally inky platemark. Slight ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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