Technique: oil painting on canvas
Dimensions: 46 x 64 cm
Leopoldo Antonio Eleuterio Firmian, Bishop of Salzburg (as indicated in the inventory of Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini, 1750, "Inventory of all the donated paintings that you bought, which are now found in the Excellency Casa Corsini with the names of those from which they are donated. The annotations and additions are by the hand of Monsignor Bottari. TC [Tommaso Corsini]. Done in the year 1750 ", Rome, Palazzo Riario alla Lungara,); Rome, Pope Clement XII Corsini.
Rome, Corsini Collection (1730, as Cignani and in 1808 referred to Giovanni Lanfranco).
Florence, Galleria Corsini (1856?; According to label on the back).
Florence, Beatrice Corsini Pandolfini Collection (second label on the back: Ix [crossed out] / Prop. B. PANDOLFINI / Prov. CASA CORSINI / Inv. N. 306 Note N. 25)
Rome, Falcone Lucifero Collection (1898-1997).
Rome, Current ownership.
The beautiful Nativity "at night" presented here, in a coeval frame probably restored in the twentieth century, is accompanied by a careful critical study by Massimo Pirondini who attributes the canvas to Antonio Balestra, thanks to precise and punctual references. For example, it is possible that, during the study trip that Balestra made during the early years of the eighteenth century, through Lombardy and Emilia, it was in Modena that he drew inspiration from the well-known Notte di Correggio (at the time still present in the Ducale Galleria Estense ), also taken up by Maratti, his Master, in the Church of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami in Rome. The professor also compares our Nativity to the canvas that appeared on the antiques market at Sotheby's (April 24, 2008) and to another nocturnal one such as the Adoration of the Shepherds at the Potsdam Museum.
The stylistic consonances are therefore numerous and acceptable but it is still necessary to remember the attributions mentioned in the various inventories of the Corsini Collection: the work has in fact been attributed to Cignani, Lanfranco and more recently (1886) to Sebastiano Conca. It is therefore clear that critics do not have a univocal view on the authorship of the painting. It is therefore considered more prudent to ascribe the work more generically to the sphere and workshop of Carlo Cignani (the first to be mentioned in the inventories), perhaps recognizing the hand of his son Felice, waiting for new studies and attributions.
Thanks to its dynamic and fast brushwork, the painting is extremely modern and gives the composition an impression of immediacy and liveliness. The fluid and free brushstroke embraces the entire surface of the painting and defines both the clothes and the faces of the character.
The work, with an intimate and subtly chiaroscuro tone, documents the artist's balance between a naturalistic taste and the will to idealize his devotional images. In this case we can see his propensity to re-read the pictorial texts of Correggio, Guarcino and Annibale Carracci.
An ancient label on the frame states that the work comes from the Corsini collection in Florence, which came by inheritance to Beatrice, the daughter of Prince Tommaso, who married Count Roberto Pandolfini in 1889. Immediately after the death of Tommaso Corsini, his heirs began to sell several paintings from his collection.
The work is accompanied by a critical card by Massimo Pirondini.