Tommaso Salini Revisited: Two New Attributions

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Aaron James Thom


Tommaso Salini (c.1575–1625) is a frequently forgotten Baroque artist that fell under Caravaggio’s spell, despite having a tempestuous relationship with the great painter. Salini, also known as Mao, was a friend of Giovanni Baglione, the Italian art biographer, who included Salini in his Le vite de’ pittori (1642). Salini is better remembered for his role in the Baglione libel trial of 1603 than he is for his oil paintings, which sit between Caravaggio’s innovative way of painting and Baglione’s mediocre Mannerism.

Art historians have often shied away from exploring Salini’s career because the canvases that have carried his name seem stylistically dissimilar. The recent tendency has been to attribute these works to the anonymous ‘Pseudo-Salini’ painters, but this should form the topic of a separate article. The twentieth century saw art historians generously attribute an excessive amount of work to Salini, and many of these pictures were probably done decades after his death. In order for Salini’s oeuvre to be presented with accuracy, connoisseurs have had to inspect the original works that Baglione mentions being by Salini’s hand, as well as the pictures that have been successfully attributed to him.

Bearing in mind what Baglione wrote, Salini can be revealed as an innovate artist and still life specialist. This article includes a newly attributed still life (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) as a forgotten Salini, as well as a refreshed attribution of the masterful Piping Shepherd Boy (Foundling Museum, London). These works add weight to Salini being a more famous and better-known painter in his own time than scholarship has shown.


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