According to Testa’s earliest biographer, the artist sought to study the light and atmosphere of night by standing along Rome’s Tiber River “drawing and observing some reflections of the rainbow in the water.” The results were melancholy landscapes that prefigure the work of nineteenth-century Romantic landscape painters. It was in such a situation of direct observation by night that Testa evidently drowned, allegedly by suicide, in 1650. This dramatic depiction of Alexander the Great suffering from a sudden chill while bathing in the river Cydnus is considered one of his final paintings, and it eerily echoes his biography.
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Title:Alexander the Great Rescued from the River Cydnus
Credit Line:Gift of Eula M. Ganz, in memory of Paul H. Ganz, 1987
Castelbarco-Albani; Paul H. Ganz, New York (by 1970–d. 1986); Mrs. Paul H. (Eula M.) Ganz, New York (1986–87)
Art Museum, Princeton University. "Italian Baroque Paintings from New York Private Collections," April 27–September 7, 1980, no. 47 (as "Alexander the Great Saved from the River Cydnus," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Paul H. Ganz).
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Pietro Testa, 1612–1650: Prints and Drawings," November 5–December 31, 1988, no. 117.
Cambridge, Mass. Arthur M. Sackler Museum. "Pietro Testa, 1612–1650: Prints and Drawings," January 21–March 19, 1989, no. 117.
Lugano. Museo Cantonale d'Arte. "Pier Francesco Mola, 1612–1666," September 23–November 19, 1989, no. 7, section 4.
Rome. Musei Capitolini. "Pier Francesco Mola, 1612–1666," December 3, 1989–January 31, 1990, no. 7, section 4.
Erich Schleier. "An Unknown Late Work by Pietro Testa." Burlington Magazine 112 (October 1970), p. 668 n. 52, notes that Paul Ganz informed him that he had recently acquired an unknown painting by Testa, formerly in the Castelbarco-Albani collection; states that it represents a scene from the life of Alexander the Great.
Hugh Brigstocke. "Testa's Adoration of the Shepherds in Edinburgh and Some New Thoughts on His Stylistic Development." Paragone 27 (November 1976), pp. 16, 19, 24 n. 2, p. 26 n. 24, fig. 34, places it with a group of late works which he dates in the mid 1640s, and describes it as "possibly representing a scene from the life of Alexander the Great".
John T. Spike. Italian Baroque Paintings from New York Private Collections. Exh. cat., Art Museum, Princeton University. Princeton, 1980, pp. 118–19, no. 47, ill., calls it "Alexander the Great Saved from the River Cydnus" and notes that the subject, as was often the case with Testa, was without pictorial precedent; agrees with Brigstocke [see Ref. 1976] that this picture is among Testa's last works.
Keith Christiansen inRecent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1986–1987. New York, 1987, p. 35, ill., concurs with Brigstocke and Spike [see Ref. Brigstocke 1976 and Ref. Spike 1980] that the picture "appears to be one of Testa's last works" and comments that the artist's depiction of the event is "at once romantic and highly focused"; notes that the two figures who bend over Alexander are based on Raphael's "Miraculous Draught of Fishes".
Elizabeth Cropper inPietro Testa, 1612–1650: Prints and Drawings. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1988, pp. 256–57, no. 117, ill., dates it about 1648–50 and notes that the bold chiaroscuro employed is very like the effect that the artist achieves in his late etchings.
Alessandra Ottieri inLa pittura in Italia: il Seicento. Ed. Mina Gregori and Erich Schleier. Milan, 1989, vol. 2, p. 900, calls it "Alessandro Magno salvato dai suoi soldati" [Alexander the Great saved by his soldiers].
Hugh Brigstocke. "Cambridge, Mass, Fogg Art Museum, Pietro Testa." Burlington Magazine 131 (February 1989), p. 177, ill., notes that it is "obviously a late work reflecting some disturbing presentiment by the artist of his own date with death".
Erich Schleier inPier Francesco Mola, 1612–1666. Ed. Manuela Kahn-Rossi. Exh. cat., Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Lugano. Milan, 1989, pp. 310–11, section 4, no. 7, ill., dates it about 1648–50; notes that the only other example of the same subject, but with a completely different composition, is a drawing by Castiglione from the 1640s (National Gallery, Washington); comments on how the artist has successfully integrated the figures with the landscape and the general atmosphere of the picture.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 133, ill.
Francesco Petrucci. Pier Francesco Mola (1612–1666): Materia e colore nella pittura del '600. Rome, 2012, p. 63.
Important Old Master Paintings: Part I. Sotheby's, New York. January 31, 2013, pp. 172, 174, fig. 3 (color), under no. 50.
Andrea Bayer. "Better Late than Never: Collecting Baroque Painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Buying Baroque: Italian Seventeenth-Century Paintings Come to America. Ed. Edgar Peters Bowron. University Park, Pa., 2017, pp. 137, 139, 153 n. 41.
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