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Jana Zapletalová – Silvia Benassai

Two Unknown Paintings by Onorio Marinari in the Castle of Rájec nad Svitavou

The Salm family’s collection of paintings in the Castle of Rájec nad Svitavou is one of the more important stately collections in the Czech Republic with many superior works by Dutch, Central European, and Italian artists and contains two remarkable oil paintings in particular. Until now the paintings had been identified as the work of an early 17th-century painter from northern Italy. They are not dated or signed. However, they are in fact two characteristic works of the Florentine painter Onorio Marinari (1627–1715), a cousin and student of Carlo Dolci. They had so far been considered to be personifications of Astronomy and Architecture. In fact the themes of these paintings come from the Iconology of Cesare Ripa, a very popular art handbook in the 17th century. They represent the allegory of Intelligence holding an armillary sphere, a snake, and a flower garland, with his gaze turned up towards the sky, and the allegory of Perfect Work, holding a pair of compasses in her right hand and a mirror in her left. There is no information about the circumstances behind the creation of these two paintings or their early history. Based on their style of execution of these, their almost identical size, and the fact that they both have the same type of frame dating from the first half of the 18th century, we can assume that they share the same history and that they entered the collection of the Salm family in Rájec nad Svitavou at the same time, though it is not known when. The estate in Rájec was built by Count Antonín Karel Salm-Reifferscheidt (1720–1769), who also laid the foundations of the family picture gallery. He was mainly interested in Flemish, and Dutch artists. It was mostly his son Karel Josef (1750–1838) who enriched the collection with Italian paintings. When compared with the surviving works of Onorio Marinari, the two oil paintings from Rájec nad Svitavou can be said to date from his mature period, around the middle of the 1680s. The closest stylistic parallels for these paintings are The Holy Martyr at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Saint Cecilia at the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen, Judith and Holofernes at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, and Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Museo de Arte di Ponce and the Bishop’s Palace in Arezzo.

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