A BOUQUET OF ORIENTAL HYCAINTHS, TULIPS, ROSES AND FURTHER FLOWERS WITH A BUTTERFLY
Gouache on vellum
27 x 21.5 cm
Alessandro Marsili is a little-known but stylistically immediately recognisable artist of the beginning of the 18th century, active in Malta and known for a group of gouache on vellum still lives similar to the present work which are now in the collection of the Galleria Palatina, Florence. Simari and Acanfora, in their important catalogue of flower still lives on vellum from the Medici Collections, describe how works these paintings by Marsili "form a homogenous group together...depicting bunches of flowers tied with ribbons belonging to Florentine collections" (1). The artist was unknown until Simari's re-discovery of a 1732 inventory for the Villa Lappeggi which described the four aforementioned works: "Quattro Quadretti alti soldi 9 larghi 1/3 miniatovi su la cartapecora dal Cavaliere fra' Alessandro Marsili Mazzetti di fiori diversi con adornamenti di pero scorniciati lisci tinti di nero con rapporti di cornicine d'albero intagliate e dorate, con vetri d'avanti, e cartella sopra scrittovi il nome del Autore tutte dorate".
The most readily identifiable and idiosyncratic characteristic of these works is the use of simple strip of coloured fabric tying the stems together: Luisa Maria Vitelli (better known as Sister Teresa Berenice) often used a similar composition, eschewing surfaces or vases in her works; however the fabric in her paintings is more often than not highly ornate and embroidered or dyed a deep Royal blue. See photos two and three for images of three of Marsili's works in the Medici Collections in Florence.
Marsili was a member of the Order of the Knights of Malta and was himself stationed in Malta (one of the Florentine works bears the inscription Fec. Melitae). Like Lorenzo Todini, another artist in the orbit of the Medici Court, Marsili paid particular attention to the naturalistic rendering of the flowers - especially the Hyacinthus orientalis, a flower which is a hallmark of the latter artist's works.
For a note on the Medici Court's affinity for still life paintings on vellum, see our listing of a pair of works by an artist in the Circle of Lorenzo Todini, previously in the collection of the Prince & Princess Sadruddhin Aga Khan.
(1) Flowers on Vellum: Floral Paintings from the Medici Collections, ed. Simari & Acanfora, Florence (2014), p.115