Giovanni Stanchi

(Rome, 1608 - Rome, 1672)

Giovanni Stanchi was born into a family of artists. The municipal archive in Rome lists three painters with the name Stanchi who lived in the Strada Paolina in 1656: Giovanni (1608- after 1675), Niccolò (ca. 1623-1690) and Angelo (1626- after 1675). Although ail three brothers were active as painters, records of their commissions have only been preserved for Giovanni, since, as the oldest brother, he was responsible for the invoices and contracts. Identifying the different hands in the Stanchis’ paintings is therefore not without problems. Only in a few cases is the name of one of the younger brothers mentioned. Between 1685 and 1686, Niccolò decorated the Palazzo Flavio Chigi in San Quirico near Siena with frescos of flowers. Later, in 1686, he painted a fresco in the large hall of Poggio Imperiale in Florence. At this time, Giovanni Stanchi may no longer have been alive.

The name Giovanni Stanchi is mentioned for the first time in 1634, in the register of the painter’s guild “Accademia di San Luca”. It seems to be a receipt of payment for Giovanni Stanchi. Paid membership of the painter’s guild didn’t only provide a social net, it was also the basis for receiving commissions from important Roman families. In 1638, Stanchi made a painting for the Barberini family that depicted their coat of arms wreathed with flowers. He subsequently received commissions from almost all of the important families in Rome. In collaboration with Baciccio and Maratta, two painters specialising in figures, and in collaboration with Mario Nuzzi, Stanchi was given important commissions. An invoice dated 1670 identifies Giovanni Stanchi and Nuzzi as the painters responsible for the still lifes that decorated the famous mirror in the Palazzo Colonna for the Colonna family. Stanchi’s now recognisable manner of weaving dements of a Franco-Flemish style into his painting might stem from this important commission from the Colonna family, since the wife of Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna had a special penchant for all things French.

In 1660, he was commissioned by Cardinal Flavio Chigi to decorate a gallery with flower and fruit still lifes. The Chigis remained his principle employers until after 1673. He was also commissioned by Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili to paint still lifes on the cases of musical instruments. In 1675, Stanchi worked with Andries Bosman and the figure painter Ciro Ferri on the decoration of mirrors in the Palazzo Borghese on the Campo Marzio. Like Mario Nuzzi, he also worked as a theatre decorator, although with a strong preference for Franco-Flemish motifs. The majority of Stanchi’s surviving paintings are found in Rome. The Galleria Pallavicini has two paintings with flowers and game; in the Pinacoteca Capitolina, there are two overdoor paintings with flowers and birds that had previously belonged to the Sacchetti Collection. Flower garlands decorate the lunettes in the Palazzo Colonna. However, two garlands of flowers are mentioned that were commissioned by Vittoria della Rovere before 1686 and are currently found in Florence in the Uffizi and the Palazzo Pitti.

The attribution of the pair of paintings to Giovanni Stanchi, the older brother of Niccolò and Angelo, is based on compositional elements such as fruits and vegetables, cherries, artichokes, figs and apples, as they were introduced in the second half of the 1630s in Roman still life painting through the Accademia del Crescenzi. Among the artists of this academy, which was founded by the Marquis Crescenzi, was Pietro Paolo Bonzi (ca. 1576-1636). Bonzi, also called “Il Gobbo dei Caracci” for his work’s proximity to the Caraccis and his probable physical deformation, was crucial in shaping the development of still life painting in Rome in the period after Caravaggio. Bonzi consciously drew on archaic prototypes arid Spanish still lifes. His compositions were distinguished by the two-tiered arrangement that was the trademark of Spanish still lifes. This unadorned realism quickly gained great popularity in Rome. What is striking is that the two still lifes by Stanchi display this realism very precisely, thereby complicating the dating of this pair of paintings. Above all, they show stylistic qualities that place them outside the usual decorative style of the Stanchis. In the catalogues from Munich and Florence, Mina Gregori has suggested a date between 1635 and 1655.

In his monograph on the Stanchis, Ravelli hesitates with his attribution of this pair of paintings between Giovanni and Niccolò Stanchi, since he finds stylistic elements of both hands. However, based on the early date and the stylistic affinity with neo-Caravaggesque painting, Mina Gregori considers an attribution to Giovanni Stanchi as warranted.

Eckart Lingenauber