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Carlo Saraceni (Italian, Venetian, 1579?–1620)

Oil on copper
Overall 21 3/8 x 18 7/8 in. (54.3 x 47.9 cm); painted surface 20 7/8 x 18 3/8 in. (53 x 46.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, by exchange, 1971
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    In this scene, representing Paradise, Christ and God the Father are above, surrounded by the symbols of the Evangelists and flanked by the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist. The foreground figures represent (left) the Doctors of the Church, (center) Saint George and (right) Saint Christopher. It is likely that the man looking out from bottom left may be a portrait of the original (unidentified) patron. Saraceni left Venice for Rome in 1598, and this picture, which is based on an altarpiece by Francesco Bassano in the church of the Gesù, was painted about this time.

  • Catalogue Entry

    At the top of this exquisite painting, the Trinity—God the Father on the right, Christ on the left, and the dove of the Holy Ghost above—preside over Paradise. Around them are the symbols of the four Evangelists, and the Virgin to the left and Saint John the Baptist to the right, surrounded by a golden glory of angels. Below them are two tiers of saints and Old Testament prophets, many of whom are recognizable. In the middle level, from the left, are Saint Cecilia with her organ, Saints Peter and Paul, Moses with the tablet of the Ten Commandments, Saint Lawrence dressed in red and holding the handle of the gridiron, and possibly Saint Stephen next to him in yellow. Below (again from the left) are Saint Jerome, possibly with other Doctors of the Church, Saint George, and Saint Christopher (often mistaken for Saint Roch).

    The overall composition is indebted to Titian’s Gloria, painted for King Philip II of Spain (Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid). More specifically the upper part of the painting is a quote from Francesco Bassano’s altarpiece of the same subject in the church of the Gesù in Rome, and the lower part is close to Niccolò Circignani’s Pentecost in the same church.

    The original patron of this small devotional copper is unknown, but it is likely that the figure looking out of the painting at the bottom left may be his portrait. The painting was first documented in the collection of Henry George Charles Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, before 1932 when it was sold at auction (Sotheby’s, London, April 7, 1932, no. 55) as the work of an anonymous Flemish artist and with the title of "Triumph of the Trinity". Recognized as a work by Carlo Saraceni (Nicolson 1970), it was acquired by the MMA in 1971.

    Paradise is probably one of the first paintings produced by Saraceni after his arrival in Rome from Venice, around 1598. The influence of Venetian artists in terms of composition is still strong, but the stylistic impact of Northern artists active in Rome—Adam Elsheimer in particular—is already striking. The figure of Saint Christopher at bottom right is similar to Saraceni’s Saint Roch (Museo di Capodimonte, Naples).

    Marcantonio Bassetti, a collaborator of Saraceni, painted an almost exact replica of the painting, now in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples.


  • Provenance

    Henry George Charles Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, Chesterfield House, London (until 1932; his sale, Sotheby's, London, April 7, 1932, no. 55, as "The Triumph of the Trinity," Flemish School, to Saxton); private collection (until 1969; sale, Sotheby's, London, July 16, 1969, no. 128, for £480 to Patch [Weitzner]); [Julius Weitzner, London, 1969–71; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976, unnumbered cat.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Caravaggio," February 5–April 14, 1985, no. 57.

    Naples. Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte. "Caravaggio e il suo tempo," May 14–June 30, 1985, no. 57.

  • References

    Benedict Nicolson. "The Art of Carlo Saraceni." Burlington Magazine 112 (May 1970), p. 312, fig. 53 (color), attributes it to Saraceni and calls it "Community of the Blessed adoring the Trinity"; dates it to the beginning of the seventeenth century, although finding that the artist's mature style is already visible in some of the female figures; relates the color and iconography to Titian, especially his "La Gloria" (Museo del Prado, Madrid); notes that Saraceni reused the reclining figure at the lower right for his "Saint Roch" (Museo di Capodimonte, Naples).

    Winston Alt. Manuscript. 1971, pp. 1–5, notes that it "was produced as an object for quiet contemplation"; identifies the figure in the lower right foreground as Saint Roch; states that the middle and upper portions of the picture are based on Francesco Bassano's "Adoration of the Trinity" in Il Gesù, Rome, and that the lower portion and general spatial configuration are based on Niccolò Circignani's "Pentecost," also in Il Gesù; states that it was probably painted soon after Saraceni's arrival in Rome (1598).

    Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 49–50, pl. 55, date it soon after Saraceni's arrival in Rome in 1598; identify the figure at lower right as Saint Christopher.

    Anna Ottani Cavina. "Il tema sacro nel Caravaggio e nella cerchia caravaggesca: indicazioni per il Bassetti." Paragone 25 (July 1974), pp. 41–42, pl. 35, compares it with a painting of the same subject by Marcantonio Bassetti (Museo di Capodimonte, Naples).

    Anthony M. Clark in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 90, ill., sees the influence of Gentileschi in the figure of Saint Christopher at lower right.

    Anna Ottani Cavina. "On the Theme of Landscape—I: Additions to Saraceni." Burlington Magazine 118 (February 1976), p. 84 n. 9, dates it to the first decade of the seventeenth century.

    Benedict Nicolson. The International Caravaggesque Movement. Oxford, 1979, p. 87 [2nd ed., rev. and enl. by Luisa Vertova, "Caravaggism in Europe," Turin, 1989, vol. 1, p. 171; vol. 2, pl. 166].

    Anna Ottani Cavina in The Age of Caravaggio. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 190–91, no. 57, ill. [Italian ed., "Caravaggio e il suo tempo," Naples, 1985], discusses Saraceni's conception of the theme in relation to its treatment by other artists; notes that the colors recall northern painting.

    Wolfgang Prohaska in Opus Sacrum. Exh. cat., Royal Castle, Warsaw. Vienna, 1990, p. 204.

    John J. Chvostal in The Dictionary of Art. 27, New York, 1996, p. 815, dates it slightly after Saraceni's earliest surviving work, "Perseus and Andromeda" (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon; ca. 1598–1600); notes the influence of Adam Elsheimer.

    Ugo Ruggeri in The Dictionary of Art. 3, New York, 1996, p. 353, notes that Bassetti's painting of the same subject (Museo di Capodimonte, Naples) is derived from this work.

    Laura Testa. "Carlo Saraceni: nuovi documenti per una rilettura della biografia del Baglione." Giovanni Baglione (1566–1644): pittore e biografo di artisti. Rome, 2002, p. 171.

  • See also
    In the Museum