Photo credit: Museums Sheffield
I strongly suspect this is an image of the Jewish Ghetto in Rome, which was demolished in 1888. It dated back to 1555, so it lasted over 300 years.
Compare to this 1874 engraving by Samuel Valentine Hunt after a painting of the Roman Ghetto by Louis Haghe. https://bit.ly/3mYKlAN
For further comparison, Telemaco Signorini, ‘The Ghetto of Florence’, 1882. https://bit.ly/3mZkRDu
This looks like a nineteenth-century work. The figure in black could conceivably be a rabbi or a Jewish scholar.
This discussion is now closed. The attribution has been amended from ‘unknown artist’ to ‘Italian (Tuscan) School’ and ‘Italian’ has been added to the existing title. The picture has been dated to around 1885. A brief description has been added to the effect that the scene depicted is probably from a town in Liguria (possibly Camogli) or Tuscany.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.
I do not know but it is a real nice painting!
This picture was a gift from John George Graves (1866-1945), who donated nearly 700 paintings to Sheffield. It would be of interest if the collection has any further provenance information in its records, and if there is anything on the painting (especially the back) which may be helpful in terms of either origin or authorship.
The same motif appears in the Florence painting - not conclusive but interesting. It feels more like an oil sketch than a finished work - that, and the paint surface looks quite abraded in this work so it is hard to compare technique with the Florence example. Also, to my eyes, the figure in black looks a bit like something out of a painting by Goya....as if to evoke an earlier time period....but from the wikipedia entry on him it doesn't look like this artist ever painted in Spain.
The houses rising up a steep hill behind probably rule out Florence, at least in its historic centre which is on the river plain of the Arno. Rome or, as another option perhaps Naples, seem more likely though I don't recall images of buttress arches of that sort there. The ghetto idea might also be misleading: it could be just an old gent (priest?) in black and wearing clothes that would have been getting out of fashion by about 1820 I'd have thought even if, as probable, painted later: artist also a puzzle -presumably British if bought by Graves but not necessarily.
There is a similar street in Siena - the Viccolo del Verchione. And Spoleto.
Modern photos of the Viccolo del Verchione in Siena certainly resemble this image but I do not think it is the same place, though our picture clearly looks like an Italian location (at least to me).
If this painting is supposed to represent a ghetto, one element missing from it is any gate or door, as appears in the above-referenced engraving and in many other art works that depict such places. The alley appears to lead to an open square.
I expect it leads to a street, not a square, Kieran.
Here is the Viccolo del Verchione in Siena, which at least now only has four as opposed to five "flying buttresses":
Jacinto, although the amount of sunlight flooding the space and the distance of the shadow of the onion-shaped dome on the recessed facade of the furthest wall suggest that it is more than a street, what the alley leads to is not really the point. The fact that there is no gate or door is the observation that I was making, reducing the likelihood that it is a ghetto, or certainly not one like the enclosed ghettos in Venice or Rome, or any other relevant Italian cities.
Also, as it is required to be placed within approximately three inches (8cm) of the doorway opening, the absence of a mezuzah from the right side of the first doorway on the left of the painting also suggests that this is not a Jewish quarter, although I do accept that the door itself might be further away from the opening than would be necessary for it to be visible.
In my experience, this has nothing to do with a ghetto, but rather represents a narrow street in Liguria - somewhere like Varigotti or Camogli (see attachment). I should say it is by a Tuscan painter, and executed around 1885. Assuming the image is faithful, the light shadows and warm tonality point in that direction, and the initial allusion to Signorini is probably right, although I should exclude the possibility of it actually being by him. Rather by someone working near or with him, like Adolfo Tommasi. Adolfo Tommasi exhibited in Milan in 1886 a painting entitled Monte Esoli, presso Camogli. He also painted occasionally in Liguria later. I am not fully convinced it is by his hand, but it's the best I can do on the evidence of the image. A high definition image would help.
Yes, it may simply be a street scene in a town in northwestern Italy. It is certainly plausible as such.
It is also quite plausible as a work by a member of the Macchiaioli group of Tuscan painters, which included Signorini.
In my opinion, not by a member of the original Macchiaioli group, but possibly by a Tuscan artist of the second generation, some of them loosely called post-Macchiaioli, and born in or around Leghorn (like Adolfo Tommasi) who, in their early work, often took their cue from the Macchiaioli.
Would it be possible to have a photo of the back of the painting? And also technical details, which would also be useful. I don't know if a 100% identification is possible, but I think it is possible to get quite near.
Paul, I do not presume to expertise as to the Macchiaioli or their followers, and it sounds like you are rather more familiar with them than I, so I hope the collection can provide more data for your consideration. In case it helps, the size listed for the picture (oil on canvas) is 37.9 x 19.9 cm, so it is relatively small.
The Macchiaioli, albeit a notable movement, are still little known outside of Italy, where most of their work no doubt remains. If this is a work of that school, it would be significant for a UK collection.
Perhaps someone at the Estorick collection of modern Italian art in London could give an opinion, although their holdings start somewhat later and are largely from the first half of the XX century.
Jacinto, somehow a reply of mine does not seem to have got through. Briefly, although I have studied and dealt in Italian Ottocento paintings for over 50 years, I am always cautious about attributions and careful to take into consideration the opinions of others who, like yourself, are not directly concerned with this limited field. Paradoxically, they can sometimes come up with an answer. I looked at the image with Giuliano Matteucci, a scholar-dealer who is I think the most informed expert today on the Macchiaioli and their school, and we agreed that the work is probably a view of Camogli, painted by a Tuscan artist around 1885. He does not think it is by Adolfo Tommasi, as I surmised, but by one of the many Tuscan artists who operated between Florence and Genova. The canvas support was unusual, but not unknown, for Tuscan artists of the period, who usually preferred panels, initially often cigar-box lids and sides. Never Mahogany (Paris) or pinewood (too coarse).
I think that is as far as we can get - the Estorick collection is unlikely to provide an answer, for the reasons you mention. There were over 10000 Italian artists (4000 were sculptors) active in Italy between 1815 and 1915 - it is almost impossible to recognise the work of all of them. Nice painting anyway.
Thank you, Paul. It is unlikely that we can do better than you and Giuliano Matteucci, so it seems reasonable to title this picture "Italian Street Scene," list it under Italian (Tuscan) School and date it c. 1880s. A descriptive note could be added to the Art UK entry to the effect that the scene depicted is probably from a town in Liguria (possibly Camogli) or Tuscany. Naturally, this would be pending approval from the Group Leader and obviously the collection.
That sounds like a sensible interim solution. If I have any further information, I shall let you know. It intrigues me!
Ghetto by Haghe-Hunt:
I´m surprised to see a picture of a woman with a child and candle burning before it in a Ghetto!
Isn´t it very similar to the traditional "Mary with the child Jesus"?
Dirk-Gerd Erpenbeck, Bochum
Based on Paul Nicholls' very helpful contribution to this discussion and Jacinto's summary, I can make the following recommendation: The picture should be listed as Italian (Tuscan School) and described as "Italian Street Scene," dated around 1885. A descriptive note could be added to the Art UK entry to the effect that the scene depicted is probably from a town in Liguria (possibly Camogli) or Tuscany.
I'd just like to update the discussion that the collection has been contacted, but they are working limited hours.