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The multiplication of the loaves
17th Century
The multiplication of the loaves
[Raccolta della Manna]
Oil on canvas
143.5 x 218.5 cm  [HxW]
Private Collection

One of the earliest and greatest “Baroque” painters, Giovanni Lanfranco first started work in the school of Annibale Carracci in Rome. He very soon distinguished himself from other pupils of the Bolognese maestro, such as Albani and Domenichino, by his ability to create not so much the classicist trend as the naturalistic tension and the dynamic accentuation of the image: this was an inclination which came from his own personal study of the works of Correggio, and was to take form particularly in the seething vitality of the domes he frescoed in Rome (Sant’Andrea della Valle, 1625–27) and Naples (Cappella del Tesoro in Duomo, 1643).

With several variations, the painting repeats the subject Lanfranco tackled in 1624–25 for the Cappella del Sacramento in San Paolo Fuori le Mura in Rome, now in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. First attributed to Lanfranco by A. Boschetto (1952), its autography was later brought into doubt. As Erich Schleier first wrote to the owner on 5 May 1989, this negative reaction was the result of much, extensive repainting from which the canvas was liberated only recently, revealing the true quality of the work and confirming its autography entirely.

Schleier himself noted how the practice of replicating his own inventions was by no means uncommon for Lanfranco, and he considered the tone of this painting to be more lyrical and less heroic than the large canvas now in Dublin. This would suggest that it was made about four or five years later.

Daniele Benati

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