An outstanding painter of sacred stories, still lives and genre scenes, Tommaso Salini is now receiving greater credit for his work, thanks to the contributions of recent critics, as one of the most interesting and original personalities in the artistic circles of Rome between the 16th and 17 centuries. In actual fact, the corpus of Salini’s works, even though not complete and of uncertain chronology, reveals an artistic development which lasted about thirty years and which was highly complex and wide-ranging.
Although he was on the side of Baglione in 1603 in the trial against Caravaggio, Salini appears to have learnt much from his great rival. Even so, unlike other painters who were slavish imitators of Caravaggio’s style, he was able to create a recognisable figurative language of his own, applying themes and compositional suggestions from the young Merisi into his Late Mannerist style. After an initial period in which he painted sacred stories (including some altarpieces), Salini specialised most successfully in producing still lives and genre scenes, most of them half-figures, for private patrons. In his mature period, he continued producing genre or pastoral scenes, shifting towards more complex compositions with one or two full figures, some with landscape backgrounds. In many of these paintings, Salini reveals his exceptional skill in portraying animals, and indeed he appears to have been the only painter of this genre in Rome at the time.