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Newly acquired ’Saint Bartholomew’ by Bernardo Cavallino to go on display at National Gallery

The recently acquired ’Saint Bartholomew’, a 1640–45 work by Bernardo Cavallino (1616–1656?) will go on display alongside other Italian Baroque masterpieces in Room 32 of the National Gallery on Tuesday 11 April 2023.

Image: Bernardo Cavallino, ’Saint Bartholomew’, 1640–45 © The National Gallery, London
Image: Bernardo Cavallino, ’Saint Bartholomew’, 1640–45 © The National Gallery, London

The painting was last exhibited in public in 1993 (at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in in New York), so the public will be able to enjoy it for the first time in 30 years.

The National Gallery purchased the life-size 178.8 x 127 cm painting by auction at Sotheby’s New York back in January from the Fisch Davidson collection – one of the most important collections of Baroque art ever to appear on the market. The cost was $3.9 million (hammer $3.2m), with funds coming from the American Friends of the National Gallery.

It has long been a desire of the National Gallery to acquire an important painting by Cavallino in order to represent the full glory of the Neapolitan Baroque and Caravaggio’s influence in Naples.

The National Gallery has one other work by Cavallino – Christ driving the Traders from the Temple – which is a beautiful example of the poetic handling that earned Cavallino the nickname ‘the Poussin of Naples’, but it is relatively small and does not show the full emotional power of the artist’s greatest works.

This depiction of Saint Bartholomew, one of the most splendid works Cavallino ever painted, dates to the 1640s, when the Neapolitan artist was at the height of his artistic powers.

’Saint Bartholomew’ will make its natural home in the refurbished Hans and Julia Rausing Room among the Gallery’s 17th-century Italian pictures by artists such as Caravaggio, Artemisia and Orazio Gentileschi, Guercino, Reni and Ribera. We believe it will immediately become, alongside Caravaggio’s Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, one of our most important Neapolitan paintings, adding a very different dimension to the collection.

In addition to the Gallery’s Christ driving the Traders from the Temple, there are four paintings by Cavallino in UK public collections – two at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham and one each at Compton Verney, Warwickshire and York Art Gallery.

Dr Francesca Whitlum-Cooper, Acting Curator of Later Italian, Spanish and French Paintings said, ’We have long wanted to strengthen our collection of 17th-century Neapolitan paintings with a major work by Cavallino. This life-size depiction of Saint Bartholomew, with its extraordinary emotional intensity and beautiful treatment of flesh and fabric, is a very exciting addition to our walls.’

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, says ’Cavallino is an elegant, lyrical and slightly reticent artist of immense technical skill, and the newly acquired Saint Bartholomew is undoubtedly one of his very best pictures. He painted very few works on this scale and I am delighted that it can now be enjoyed by all visitors to the National Gallery.’


Bernardo Cavallino (1616–1656?) was one of the leading Neapolitan artists of the first half of the 17th-century. While many details of his life and career remain shrouded in mystery, he was renowned in his lifetime for his small, sensitive paintings of mythological and biblical subjects which he painted for a private clientele. Cavallino probably received his training in Naples, the city of his birth, perhaps in the studio of Massimo Stanzione. The early influence of Jusepe de Ribera’s severe naturalism is especially evident in his work, which Cavallino seems to have blended with the more lyrical styles of Anthony van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens, whose works he could have studied in Neapolitan collections. He almost certainly collaborated with Artemisia Gentileschi.

Cavallino’s painterly style is highly distinctive, characterised by harmonious colours, virtuoso brushwork and dramatic, stylised compositions. Just eight of Cavallino’s known works are signed or initialled, and only one is dated: knowledge of the artist has been developed through careful analysis of his style. His career is usually divided into three broad stages. In the early period, his tenebrism and attention to texture are reminiscent of Ribera. By the early 1640s, his paintings take on the lighter cast and more mannered, elegant compositions for which he is best known, such as the National Gallery’s Christ driving the Traders from the Temple. His later works, painted during the final years of his life, display a renewed interest in theatrical displays of emotion.

Cavallino probably died during the plague that devastated Naples in 1656. He was well regarded in the decades following his death, but knowledge of his paintings – which were often mistaken for the work of other painters – remained rudimentary until the second half of the 20th century when scholars developed a fuller sense of his poetic contribution to 17th-century art.

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the late 13th to the early 20th century. The collection includes works by Artemisia Gentileschi, Bellini, Cézanne, Degas, Leonardo, Monet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Velázquez. The Gallery’s key objectives are to care for and enhance the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors. Admission free. More at

The American Friends of the National Gallery (AFNGL) is an independent charity based in the United States that supports the work of the National Gallery in the United Kingdom. It welcomes gifts from individuals, foundations and corporations who wish to contribute towards the work of one of the world’s premier art galleries. Grants from AFNGL to the National Gallery have supported the acquisition of such masterpieces as Raphael’s ’Madonna of the Pinks’, Titian’s ’Diana and Actaeon’, Sir Thomas Lawrence’s ’The Red Boy’ and Bernardo Daddi’s ’The Coronation of the Virgin’. More at:


Bernardo Cavallino (1616–1656?)
’Saint Bartholomew’
about 1640–1645
Oil on canvas
H x W: 176 x 125.5 cm
The National Gallery, London. Bought with the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery, 2023
Photo © The National Gallery, London

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