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Lazzaro Tavarone (Italy 1556-1641)

Ecce Homo (with self-portrait)

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 14 – 18 June 2022

Lot 618 Lazzaro Tavarone (Italy 1556-1641). Ecce Homo (with self-portrait). Oil on relined canvas, 106 x 126 cm.

Executed ca. 1592.
We would like to thank Anna Orlando for her kind help in cataloguing this lot.


100.000 – 150.000 SEK
€ 10.000 – 14.000


Ester Trollér (1890-1979), Malmö, acquired at auction in Malmö in the 1930s.
Thence by descent within the family.

In context

The newly discovered “Ecce Homo” by Lazzaro Tavarone

At first glance, this hitherto unknown “Ecce Homo” appears to be Venetian late 16th century, as there is so much that reminds of Titian, especially in the figure of Christ. The paint is carefully and neatly applied within the dark outlines of the forms and serves to set off the figures from the dark background. They form a beautiful and skillful orchestration of various darker and lighter colours of which its balance convinces even more when looking from a certain distance while at close inspection the eye is rather attracted by one particular colour.  

Fig. 1 – Titian, Ecce Homo, 1548, Museo del Prado.
Fig. 1 – Titian, Ecce Homo, 1548, Museo del Prado.

The strong Venetian appearance is confirmed when the painting is compared with for instance Titian’s “Ecce Homo” of 1548, presented to Emperor Charles V, and now in the Prado (fig. 1). Nevertheless, the evident indebtedness to Luca Cambiaso in the present painting, leads to Genova.

Indeed, this latter “Ecce Homo” is by the Genovese Lazzaro Tavarone (1556–1641), one of the many pupils of that genial painter of Moneglia (Liguria), Cambiaso, who was among his most faithful. However, in a sort of ‘second life’ Tavarone was among those pupils who later on developed their own artistic signature and autonomy.

In 1583, Tavarone followed Cambiaso to Spain to join him on the work on King Philip II’s commission for the decorations of the Escorial. After Cambiaso’s death in 1585 – away from his homeland – Tavarone, took over from his master as his favorite pupil and became the leader of the group of the Genovese artists, such as Luca Cambiaso’s son Orazio and Nicolosio Granello, who continued on the execution of the commission.

Fig. 2 – Palazzo San Giorgio, Genova.
Fig. 2 – Palazzo San Giorgio, Genova.

Upon his return in Genova by 1592, Tavarone was entrusted with numerous commissions for fresco decorations on the vaults and walls of the most important noble residences in the city, such as for the Doria’s, the Serra’s, the Spinola’s and others. It was Giulio Spinola, the banker, who had met Tavarone in Madrid, and who was the first to grant him such a prestigious commission, a series of fresco decorations for his residence at Strada Nuova (now Via Garibaldi 5). Subsequently Tavarone was commissioned by the government of the Republic of Genova to decorate the sea front façade of the Palazzo San Giorgio. It was among the most important commissions which Tavarone ever received as Palazzo San Giorgio was the city’s financial center and by its wide reach in fact the first World bank. It symbolized Genova’s key position in finance and confirmed it as the Capital of Europe, of which three subsequent generations of artists would benefit. (Fig. 2, fresco lost and rebuilt).

Tavarone is thus best known today as a painter of frescoes and as draughtsman, the more so as his fresco decorations, obviously visible for everyone, have been recorded in contemporary sources. However, his activity as a painter of cabinet paintings has yet remained somewhat unknown and has hardly been studied. The reappearance of the present “Ecce Homo” is therefore to be welcomed with interest as it brings back to light a painting which is to be appreciated for its high painterly quality.

Tavarone’s long career – he died at the age of 85 – gave him the opportunity to gradually emancipate himself from the Cinquecento idiom and from the Mannerism, which even a daring personality as Cambiaso had not been able to lay aside. Tavarone, who not just set foot in the 17th century but lived more than forty years in the new century, would soon engage in a more naturalistic pictorial language.

Fig. 3 – Luca Cambiaso, Christ before Caiphas, 
Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti.
Fig. 3 – Luca Cambiaso, Christ before Caiphas, Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti.

In the present “Ecce Homo”, of which is only known that it was in the South of Sweden in the first half of the 20th century (circa 1930s), it is not so much the figure of Pilate – he relates directly to the Pilate occurring in three different interpretations of “Christ before Caiphas” by Cambiaso (two are in private collections; the other in the Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti, (fig. 3) and also in two paintings of “Ecce Homo” (Suida – Manning Collection, The Blanton Museum, Austin, Texas; the other, 116 x 92 cm, was offered at auction at Cambi, Genova, 10 December 2020 (fig. 4) – the foremost step forward is the naturalism in the face and expression.

Even more autonomous – not so much in the idea as in the execution – are the figures on the right barely emerging from the dark. Here the light is not that of the protagonists or of the artificiality such as seen in Cambiaso, but more natural. This handling of light coincides with the developments taking place in the years around the turn of the century, which subsequently would accelerate under Caravaggio.

Fig. 4 – Luca Cambiaso, Ecce Homo, offered at auction, Cambi, Genova 2020.
Fig. 4 – Luca Cambiaso, Ecce Homo, offered at auction, Cambi, Genova 2020.

The present painting therefore in its composition and style presents a clear sign of change from one era to another. While the painting foreshadows 17th century developments, it is still embedded in the art of Titian, an artist whom Tavarone must have studied both at home and in Madrid (fig. 1). It does not yet have that specific colouristic quality of Tavarone’s mature works, when he too participated in the Genovese Baroque.

The stylistic analysis of the present painting, which was undertaken on the basis of inspection of the original in May 2022, suggests a date of execution in the last yeas of the century, circa 1592, immediately following the artist’s return from Spain.

Fig. 5 – Detail of the artist’s self-portrait.
Fig. 5 – Detail of the artist’s self-portrait.

Exceptional in any painting of “Christ before Pilate” and unique for Tavarone, is the inclusion of the figure with a feathered hat on the left who can be no other than the painter himself (fig. 5). This is a self-portrait and the only one known by the artist. He appears to be approximately 35 years old, which confirms the date proposed above.

The feather – red and white on the dark background – is attached to the cap by a circular golden brooch decorated with the face of man in profile, perhaps a coin or a medal. The armor of the man standing on the right is equally enriched with small details and fine decorations, showing the bravura of the artist and elevating it to a status symbol. While this was not an armor for battle but rather a ceremonial armor to be worn by few privileged noblemen only.

These latter details suggest that this unpublished masterpiece was perhaps painted as an important commission.

Anna Orlando, May 2022

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