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Giuseppe Bernardino Bison

A Collector’s Cabinet

Canvas: 55 x 65,5 cm
Signed at the lower right "Bison"

introduction

Although Bison is known for his Venetian vedute and depictions of Italy in general, in fact his œuvre is not limited to this genre. His curiosity led him to address a wide range of subjects, and the northern influence can be seen in his production in Trieste in the early nineteenth century. At this time a large number of prints based on works by David Teniers, Jan Steen and Adriaen Van Ostade were in circulation which served as a model and inspiration for Bison's interior scenes.

This painting presents a highly specific genre, related to the interior scene: the collector's cabinet. The genre was developed in Antwerp in the 1610s by Frans Francken the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder, although it was initially seen rarely outside the city. By the middle of the century, David Teniers took up the subject at the request of Archduke Leopold-Wilhelm von Habsburg who wanted to record his very rich collection of paintings. In this way, he contributed to the spread of the genre outside of the city when he left for Brussels.

The painting by Bison is no exception to the tradition and is clearly inspired by a sixteenth-century Flemish painting preserved at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, which was part of the collection of the same Archduke who commissioned Teniers. Bison surely had access to the composition through an engraving, which would explain the difference in his choice of colours. In reworking the motif, he also somewhat simplified it. Particularly, he leaves out the central group, retaining only the two figures admiring the painting on an easel. The paintings depicted on the walls closely resemble the model but with much less detail. It should be borne in mind that Bison was not working from the original, which was at the time already in Vienna, but from a much smaller engraving which would have made the details difficult to discern.

The scene shows a wide variety of genres: historical paintings, still lifes, landscapes, seascapes, as well as classical sculpture and curiosities such as seashells and vases. In the original work, it is already difficult to identify the known paintings, and the majority are no doubt the product of the artist's imagination, nevertheless reflecting the taste of the era. In contrast, the central painting, placed on an easel, is easily recognisable. It is an original work by Rubens, the Resurrection of Lazarus . Destroyed during the Second World War, it is known to us only through black-and-white photographs, and the motif is highly faithful to the original. The transposition of a collector's cabinet from sixteenth-century Flanders to nineteenth-century Italy is a very interesting statement that reflects the curiosity and passion of the collectors of the city of Trieste. Even today, this painting still retains its charm and the care with which it has been produced elegantly reflects this highly particular subject.

Provenance :
Private collection.