Vincent Malo - The Baptism of Christ
17th century Flemish old Master painting
The present painting is truly a little jewel with its vibrant colours and skilful brushwork. It depicts the Baptism of Christ, a depiction of a tale filled with hope and positivity, it is a very fine example of Malo's talent.
We would like to thank Anna Orlando for her assistance in cataloguing this painting. A copy of her entry on the present painting will be given to the buyer.
She writes about the present painting: The painting illustrated here, unpublished, refers to Vincenzo (Vincent) Malò, a Flemish artist active in Italy and in particular in Genoa in the first half of the seventeenth century, by now well known. The critics who started studying him in the sixties of the last century recognized the initial confusion of our painter with Vincenzo Alemanno (1595-1675); many documents subsequently traced both in the Genoese and Roman archives have partially specified his biographical details, but certainly his identity. Son of a certain Nicola, Vincent trained in Antwerp with David Teniers the Elder and then with Rubens, he was intermittently enrolled in the painters' guild, between 1623 and 1634. It is unlikely that he first arrived in Genoa in 1625 , when the city was at war against the Savoys, and it is entirely probable that his stay in Italy fell between 1634 and the year of his death, documented in Rome in 1644. It were about ten fertile years, also thanks to the lessons from Rubens who had taught him to paint speedily. He executed many works on the scheme of paintings conceived by Rubens, of which he evidently had study drawings and certainly some prints. In many other cases he performs variations of the master's successful compositions, and is also distinguished by the fact that he repeats them several times, with minimal variations, evidently to satisfy a favorable market for him.
The Genoese clientele, and the growing free market to satisfy the needs of a rising class - that of the bourgeoisie, known in Genoa as 'populares' - ensured that Malò continued and evidently successful activity. In the Superba he also painted the altarpiece. Over time, also studying his Genoese pupil Anton Maria Vassallo (1617-1660), I was able to track down and publish various works that bear his initials, in the form of a monogram of superimposed letters V and M, unfortunately very similar to that of Vassallo ( AMV) from which we must learn to distinguish it. The corpus of his works, not yet organically arranged in a catalog raisonné, is decidedly substantial and allows him to be easily recognized due to his very precise stylistic constant. Malò passes from portraits to sacred or profane works; from the large dimensions of historiated paintings, animated by a convulsive dynamism of Rubensian and Baroque origin - such as the great Triumph of Venus of the S. Paolo Institute in Turin - to small canvases or branches, in which he shows all his skill as a Flemish, capable, in fact, of painting 'in small'. However, his manner is always strongly contaminated by 'Italian' culture and doing and the unpublished work presented here only confirms this. From the point of view of drafting, despite the reduced dimensions, he uses the full paste and a quick brushstroke, typically Rubensian (fig. 4). However, his hand, compared to a more generic (and anonymous) Rubensian manner, can be ascertained here first of all for the way he creates the drapery, especially those that flutter taking on a completely peculiar shape (fig. 5).
The recurring physiognomies (fig. 6), then, allow for easy recognition (fig. 7, Beheading of the Baptist, private collection; fig. 8 for Assunta, Rome, Galleria Colonna).
Our small canvas, given the size, could be the sketch for a larger work, even if we do not know other sketches nor this habit of working by Malò. It could therefore more credibly be a devotional work performed for a private individual in Genoa, also in consideration of the fact that San Giovanni Battista is the patron saint of the city and is a very frequent name in Genoa at the time.
The oil on canvas measures ca. 36,5 by 27,5 cms and with the frame ca. 52 by 41 cms.