Michele Cortazzi

Lesser known than his son Oreste, born in Paris in 1836, who trained with Leon Bonnat and is recognised for his genre paintings, selling at auction for five figure sums (“A Musical Soirée” sold for £55000 at Bonhams 23rd June 2015), Michele Cortazzi’s life and career have not yet been fully investigated by the academic world.

He is presumed to be born near Neaples, in Ceraso, sometime before 1808, and to have moved to the former Borbonic capital at a young age, where he must have attended the Neapolitan Reale Istituto from around 1827-28, since we know in 1830 he was awarded a bursary for a “pensionato romano”[1]. A proof of his presence in Rome at that time is a mention of him working as a copyist in a studio in Via del Corso[2].

He must have acquired a circle of wealthy commissioners in a short period of time, if in 1833 his paintings were exhibited at the Royal Bourbon Museum in Naples, including a copy of Guercino’s 'The Prodigal Son', kept at Villa Borghese in Rome.

It is worth mentioning in this respect that in 1845 he received a commission from the English palaeontologist Richard Owen to paint a copy of Peter Lely’s portrait of Oliver Cromwell, under the recommendation of the Grand Duke of Florence, who displayed it at Palazzo Pitti.

We are unsure whether the Madonna and Child offered in our 26th January Fine Sale is a copy or an original creation by Cortazzi, although the clear influence of the Old Masters, in this instance Guercino’s in particular, is strongly felt.

With the Madonna’s delicate gaze and the Child’s natural demeanour, in a composition that feels very intimate and natural, this artwork, acquired by the present owner at Bonhams about twenty-five years ago for £3500, is an occasion to own a piece of Renaissance as perceived by a talented interpreter of the Italian glorious era.

- Daniela Guardiani

[1] L'Accademia di belle arti di Napoli (1752-1952)’ by F. Le Monnier, [1953].

[2] 'Guide to the Studios in Rome' Bonfigli, F. Salverio, 1860.

Cortazzi 2
Cortazzi 3

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