(Verona 1588 - Verona 1630)
The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist
Inscribed (by Calvière) Palma. Vechio.- twice (once partially cut off) on the mount.
196 x 126 mm. (7 3/4 x 5 in.)
Bassetti’s oil sketches on paper, of which the present sheet is a very fine and fresh example, seem to have been done not as studies for paintings but were rather intended as independent works of art. That they were highly prized by collectors, and particularly foreign visitors to Verona, is seen in a comment made by his biographer, Carlo Ridolfi. In his Le maraviglie dell’arte, published in 1648, Ridolfi praised Bassetti’s drawings, ‘which he used to heighten with white and black oil paint on the paper’, and noted that ‘one still sees many drawings executed in this manner and which he mostly made during the winter, displaying them around his studio, and which he still used to sell to those who took delight in studying, and in particular to the foreigners who passed through Verona.’
The present sheet was part of the collection of drawings belonging to Charles-François de Calvière, Marquis de Vézénobres (1693-1777). A friend and contemporary of such 18th century collectors and connoisseurs as Pierre Crozat, the Comte de Caylus, Charles Coypel and Pierre-Jean Mariette, Calvière assembled the bulk of his collection between 1720 and 1760, although he continued to acquire drawings until his death. Almost all of Calvière’s collection, including 459 lots of drawings, was dispersed at auction in Paris in May 1779. The present sheet was, however, among a small number of drawings which were not included in the 1779 sale and which remained in the possession of the collector’s heirs until 2003.
Following a period of training in the studio of Felice Brusasorci in Verona, where he studied alongside other local painters such as Alessandro Turchi and Pasquale Ottino, Marcantonio Bassetti was in Venice by about 1605. There he met the Venetian painter Palma Giovane, with whom he may have worked as an assistant, and who certainly had a profound influence on his draughtsmanship. Around 1616 Bassetti travelled to Rome, where he worked with Carlo Saraceni and became strongly influenced by the Caravaggism of Saraceni and Orazio Borgianni. He became a member of the Roman Accademia di San Luca, and between 1616 and 1617 participated in the decoration of the Sala Regia in the Palazzo Quirinale. While in Rome, Bassetti painted a Martyrdom of Saints Vito, Fermo and Rustico for the Augustinian church in Munich, followed a few years later by an altarpiece of Five Bishop Martyrs for the Veronese church of Santo Stefano. By 1620 he had returned to his native Verona, where he earned commissions for several altarpieces for local churches. He also worked on a series of portraits, most of which are today in the Museo del Castelvecchio in Verona. Bassetti died during the plague of 1630, at the age of around forty-four.