• gerard van weyenbergh

A rare discovery of a painting by Salai

The Penitent Magdalene, painted by the hand of Gian Giacomo Caprotti dit Salai, the sulfurous disciple of the Tuscan genius, will be auctioned on November 18 by Artcurial. The table has an estimate between 100,000 and 150,000 €.

A penitent Magdalene, painting by Salai, dating from 1515-1520 closest collaborator, Leonardo da Vinci, will be auctioned on November 18. The work shows "perfect knowledge of Leonardo's sfumato. " The Artcurial auction house.

We only know of four or five paintings authenticated as being by Salai's hand, including "Christ the Redeemer" kept at the Ambrosian Pinacoteca in Milan, the others being in private hands.

Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salai (1480-1524), was Leonardo Da Vinci's closest companions with Francesco Melzi. At the same time, his pupil, his workshop boy, his model, his treasurer, and his agent, historians today believe that he will also have been the lover of the Florentine genius. The Renaissance master would have given him the nickname "Salai" - synonymous with "little devil" - because of the nonsense, the pilfering, and the lies he will have committed throughout his life.

"This painting comes out of the blue. Its owner, who had bought it for a modest sum, entrusted it to us for sale. It happened to us without attribution. It was Cristina Geddo (recognized expert of the 15th century Lombard period), who, coming from Milan, revealed to us that it was from Salai," Old Masters expert Eric Turquin told AFP.

Perfect knowledge of sfumato

65 cm by 50 cm, the painting is in good condition but needs to be cleaned, the varnish which partially covers it being dirty and oxidized.

Marie-Madeleine is represented there on a black background, her eyes raised in ecstasy, her arms crossed. The naked, slender body is partially covered by abundant golden-brown hair: a characteristic found in Christ of Milan.

The character is ambiguous, between sacred and profane. The lips are full and sensual. "We found fingerprints: the painter crushed his thumb on the fresh paint, which is characteristic of the technique of Leonardo and Salai, "explained Eric Turquin.

The work shows "a perfect knowledge of Leonardo's sfumato". And another characteristic "is a white line marking the lower eyelid, giving a kind of hardness which underlines the eye, "noted the expert.

During more than 25 years with Leonardo, "Salai was able to assimilate the fine technique of the master. He positioned himself as one of the most influential promoters of Leonardo's models through the production of copies and variations of Leonard's masterpieces. But he is also the author of original works which bear witness to the master's lesson interpreted with a certain autonomy," said Eric Turquin.

© Le Figaro

© Artcurial