Completed Continental European before 1800 19 Could 'Girl with a Flute' be by – or after – Bernardo Strozzi?

WYR_KLMUS_1983_1573
Topic: Artist

This painting is either by – or at the very least after – Bernardo Strozzi (1581–1644). The same female figure, flanked by two male musicians, appears in a composition by Strozzi, which is known in a number of versions (see, most recently, Camillo Manzitti, Bernardo Strozzi, Turin, 2013, pp. 163-64, nos. 201–203).

molly.tresadern@artuk.org, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade King,

This painting is now listed as being after Bernardo Strozzi (1581–1644).

This amend will appear on the Art UK website in due course. Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.

18 comments

Jade King,

Kirklees Museums and Galleries indicate that they do not have a wealth of information about this painting, but there is an old label on the back stating ‘Versponck, a pupil of Frans Hals’ and a suggestion of a signature in the left-hand corner.

Interestingly, the NICE Paintings page (please follow the link above) lists a different attribution for this work: attributed to Flemish School, previously attributed to Verspronck...

Toby Campbell,

I don't believe this has anything to do with Verspronck and would also question whether this was Dutch or Flemish. I think David Ekserdijan is correct in saying it is either by Strozzi or a copy after him. Without seeing a higher resolution photograph or the painting itself it is hard to be certain.

Al Brown,

I agree with Toby Campbell that this has nothing to do with Verspronck.

For refererence, one version of the work is in the beleaguered DIA: http://www.dia.org/object-info/a3265f26-413e-4c48-ba44-7c9f4c61aca1.aspx. And, interestingly, the artist here has also left the ground showing in the proper left shoulder.

I seem to recollect seeing Strozzi's with this paler tonality, it's lacking his tenebrist brushwork: in the fingers particularly.

Alice Read,

Please see attached a high resolution image. Please note this should only be used for research purposes.

1 attachment
Toby Campbell,

Apologies but even on a high resolution screen that photograph is not good enough.

Toby Campbell,

It is still hard to see as I think the photograph is not a good one but from what I can make out the painting is not unfinished rather the pigment is fugitive. It is still hard to tell the quality of the painting from that photograph but I think it is likely to be autograph. Mary Newcombe-Schleier should be consulted as she is an authority on Genoese painting.

There is no doubt about the connection to Strozzi. Many versions of his works were produced by himself and others. This painting seems severely worn and damaged. Nevertheless, it is difficult to accept that Strozzi himself painted it. The very weak painting of the mouth, chin and neck area and the eyes seem well below his quality. The state of the painting should be inspected. I wonder whether Richard Green ever finds himself in the Kirklees area?

Revisiting this discussion after a long interval, I don't think there is more to add. Bernardo Strozzi is the only artist one would consider here. The painting is in a poor state of conservation. It seems unlikely that it is autograph, but first-hand inspection would be required to establish this.

With thanks to Grant Scanlon at Huddersfield Art Gallery, today I was finally able to inspect the ‘Girl with a Flute’, not currently on public display. There does not seem to be any condition problem. The canvas, which has been lined, could be seventeenth-century, though it might be later. The paint surface is sound and not obviously obscured by discoloured varnish. There does not appear to have been any fading of the pigments (the PCF’s digital image is misleading in this respect) and the tonality is closer to what might be expected of Strozzi.

However, while the painting is accomplished in certain aspects – particular in the face – there are clumsy elements which make it difficult, if not impossible, to accept this as by Strozzi himself. The hands, in particular, cannot have been painted by someone who understood their structure, surely betraying the work of a copyist, and there is a similar lack of understanding in the connection between the neck and the head. I suggest that the painting is a copy of one of Strozzi’s typical bust-length depictions of female figures in allegorical or similar roles, perhaps now lost. Compare for example: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2013/old-master-paintings-n08952/lot.43.html

The original Strozzi would be related, for example, to the central figure in the DIA painting but in pose only for, in comparison, the Huddersfield figure is considerably sweetened and prettified.

There is a stencilled mark on the stretcher of the painting – perhaps Christie’s – which I shall investigate. However, I do not think this will affect the status of the work.


Al Brown,

Richard, do you have any first-hand comments on the seemingly unfinished areas of the painting? From the images provided they give the impression, almost, of a painting-by-numbers: ie the artist knew beforehand precisely what areas were to consist of - hands, shift, flute, etc. Also, are there any visible pentimenti or other indications of hesitancy?

As is the case of the 'Jupiter and Semele' for which Verkolje has been suggested as the author, also belonging to Kirklees, the PCF image of the 'Girl with a Flute' is very misleading. The painting is behind glass and perhaps a filter of some kind was used for photography, or perhaps the resulting photograph was digitally corrected to eliminate reflections. In any case, the actual painting has a much more integrated appearance than the PCF images suggests. There is a degree of separation into discrete parts (exemplified by the crude disconnection between the head and neck), but overall there is not an obvious painting-by-numbers feel to the work. Moreover, in reality, the darker part of the girl’s costume does not look unfinished in the way it does in the PCF image. Through the glass I did not detect obvious pentimenti. I’m not sure about hesitancy, but I did, and do, sense a lack of confidence on the part of whoever painted the work in understanding and conveying the forms ostensibly represented.

I did not take a digital snap of the painting the other week. However, I have asked the collection if some kind of informal image could be provided to give a more accurate overall impression of the painting.

I have investigated the stencilled numbers and letters on the stretcher. The painting was indeed with Christie’s, London, entered in a sale of 20 July 1906 by the dealer W.B. Paterson of 5 Old Bond Street, London. It was catalogued as 'Dutch school: A shepherdess playing a pipe’, but in the event was not, it seems, offered for sale, being returned to Paterson. Although this does not really help with the current discussion re attribution, it provides an interesting addition to the work’s otherwise scant provenance and I am passing full details to the collection.

In the event it has proved impossible to produce a simple digital photograph of the 'Girl with a Flute' avoiding reflections from the glass. Picking up Tim LLewelIyn's last comment, I suggest that the discussion could now be closed -- with the attribution changed to 'After Bernardo Strozzi'. I understand from Grant Scanlan
at Kirklees that the collection would be happy to accept this.