Florence 1611-Venice 1678
The Tribute Money
oil on canvas, cm 98×151,5
The rediscovery of this painting, the work of one of the most intriguing and rare artists in Florence in the Seventeenth century, namely Sebastiano Mazzoni, is a true gem for aficionados.
This innovative and surprising painting is worthy of the fantasy and inventiveness of the Tuscan painter. To begin with, the composition is completely new: the episode from the Gospel with tribute money, in which Christ pronounces the famous phrase “render unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” is tackled by Mazzoni with a stringent assemblage of expressive and passionate personalities shown in three-quarters view, compressed in a space reduced to the essential, in which we also notice the inclusion of a mysterious nude reclining youth in the foreground. The below-upwards angle of the painting, which is especially evident in the latter, has made Paolo Benassai, who wrote a monograph on the artist in 1999 and who has now authored a study on this newly discovered work, hypothesize that it was meant to be seen below, perhaps as a decoration above a door.
According to the scholar the canvas features – even if it is possible to trace parallels with works retraceable to the Florentine period – “greater points of contact […] with the works from the artist’s early maturity, painted after he settled definitively in Venice”. In this period Mazzoni proves an “original interpreter of the lesson of Bernardo Strozzi and an anticipator of many Venetian tenebrosi”; and it really seems hard to imagine such a creative force and such a bold and nonchalant brushwork without considering the consequences of the arrival in the Lagoon of this “double madman” – as Mazzoni defined himself, hinting to his roles as both painter and poet – of Italian art.
Baolo Benassai, who knew this painting from a reproduction in black and white included in the Zeri photo archive with the correct attribution (n. 58150) , recently published the work in the catalogue raisonné about the artist.
“Catalogo Fototeca Fondazione Federico Zeri”, entry no. 58150.