List of Artworks

Research Notes: Part 1, no. 2, Folio 1 verso

Francesco Bassano II, Return of the Prodigal Son (ca. 1577)
Figure 1, 2, a
Attributed to Francesco Bassano II (Italian, 1549–92); previously attributed to Jacopo Bassano, il vecchio (Italian, ca. 1510–92); previously attributed to Leandro Bassano (Italian, 1557–1622)
Title: The Return of the Prodigal Son
Date: ca. 1577
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 108 x 92 cm (42 1/2 x 36 1/4 in.) (estimate)
Current location: Northampton, U.K., Northampton Museum and Art Gallery
Image Source: VADS

The composition described in the two documents (inventory and poem) fits in with the type of paintings that the Bassano family was doing in the 1560s, in which certain biblical themes were accompanied by rustic scenes in the foreground; the paintings have a more or less standard quadrangular format (approximately 95 x 120 cm). The Bassano did several versions of The Return of the Prodigal Son; based on the description in the two documents, we can assume that the Mellini owned one of the other versions of the composition now at the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, of which there are various versions and copies (fig. I, 2, a).1 Federico Zeri recorded a version that, based on a black-and-white photograph, he attributed to Leandro Bassano, and which in 1973 he said was in a private collection in Buenos Aires (fig. I, 2, b). This version is slightly different from the previous ones in that there is a heavy curtain in the upper portion of the painting that does not appear in the others. The Buenos Aires version might correspond to the one owned by the marquis of Exeter, which we have not been able to see. In the inventory of the Loyd collection, another version is mentioned that was on the market in Vienna in the 1920s, offered by the Dorotheum auction house.2

Leandro Bassano, Return of the Prodigal Son (ca. 1570-1622) Figure I, 2, b
Bassano, Leandro (Italian, 1557–1622)
Return of the Prodigal Son / Ritorno del figliol prodigo
circa 1570–1622
Oil on canvas
107 x 91 cm (42 1/8 x 35 7/8 in.)
Buenos Aires, private collection
Fondazione Federico Zeri
This photographic reproduction was provided by the photo library of the Federico Zeri Foundation. The property rights of the author have been met.

The attribution of the painting at the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery has gone back and forth between the various members of the Bassano family and has been attributed at different times to Leandro, Jacopo, and currently to Francesco.3 We should keep in mind that the collaboration between Jacopo and his sons, especially Francesco, in the elaboration of these kinds of themes has been extensively documented. As a result, many works simply were attributed to the “workshop of Bassano.” It is also important to remember that highly productive and successful operations such as the Bassano workshop routinely produced multiple versions and copies of popular subjects, and that at the time there was no negative connotation attached to such works.

Footnotes

  • 1. Galerie Pardo, “Advertisement for the Sale of The Return of the Prodigal Son by Jacopo Bassano,” Burlington Magazine 105, no. 721 (1963): xxxi.
  • 2.C. L. [Christopher Lewis] Loyd, The Loyd Collection of Painting and Drawings at Betterton House, Lockinge near Wantage, Berkshire (London: Bradbury, Agnew, 1967), 2–3.
  • 3.See VADS record for bibliography.

References

Arslan, Edoardo. I Bassano. Milan: Ceschina, 1960.

Ballarin, Alessandro. Jacopo Bassano. 5 vols. Edited by Vittoria Romani. Cittadella (Padua): Bertoncello, 1995–96.

Brown, Beverly Louise, and Paola Marini, eds. Jacopo Bassano c. 1510–1592. Exh. cat. Fort Worth: Kimbell Art Museum, 1993.

Forlai, Marta, and Anna Ottavi Cavina. La pittura italiana nella Fototeca Zeri: Fotografie scelte: Lazio, Toscana, Marche, Umbria, Emilia Romagna. Turin: Allemandi, 2011.

Loyd, C. L. [Christopher Lewis]. The Loyd Collection of Painting and Drawings at Betterton House, Lockinge near Wantage, Berkshire. London: Bradbury, Agnew, 1967.

Pardo. “Advertisement for the Sale of The Return of the Prodigal Son by Jacopo Bassano.” Burlington Magazine 105, no. 721 (1963): i–xl, 144–84.