Mucius Scaevola in the presence of Lars Porsenna
circa 1600 - post 1650
In the dazzling comet's tail of painters called the Caravaggisti - the admirers of Caravaggio who kept alive his flame for more than a century - Matthias Stomer stands out for his considered temperament and cool execution. Almost an academic of the movement, though never an imitative hack, Stomer built a body of work on the basis of subjects like this. Antiquity in general and Roman history in particular were his primary source material, reflecting a classicism which had little to do with Caravaggio's own almost exclusively biblical interests. Stomer's 'Mucius Scaevola in the presence of Lars Porsenna' could be seen to anticipate the high moral tone, and consequent sober rendition, found in the works of later neoclassical figures such as David. This painting, after all, posits a test of faith by fire within a resolutely imperial context - precisely David's territory. There is a poorly preserved variant in Messina, datable to this Dutch-born painter's Sicilian period.
AGNSW Handbook, 1999.
Muscius Scaevola in the Presence of Lars Porsena
oil on canvas
152.6 x 205.7 cm stretcher; 167.5 x 220.5 x 6.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Darkness and Light: Caravaggio & his world:
European Old Masters 16th-19th Century from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, 28 Sep 2017–03 Dec 2017
Prince Branciforte di Mazzarino, 17th century, Caltanissetta/Sicily/Italy
Ettore Viancini, pre 24 Apr 1968, Venice/Italy, Purchased by Agnew's from Ettore Viancini, 24 April 1968. This was possibly a joint holding, Viancini may also have been a dealer. Agnew's stock number J. 6067
Agnew's, London, 24 Apr 1968-24 Apr 1970, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Agnew's 1970
Referenced in 27 publications
Vincente Abbate, L’Ultimo Caravaggio : e la cultura artistica a Napoli in Sicilia e a Malta, ‘Per il collezionismo siciliano del Seicento: la quadreria mazzarinese dell’Ecc.mo Signor Principe di Butera’, Apr 1985. Papers presented at the international symposium organized by Centro Internazionale di Studi sul Barocco in Sicilia, held Apr 1985, in Syracuse
Vincenzo Abbate, Ricerche sul ‘600 napoletano, 'Il “repertorio” dei beni mobili del signor Principe di Butera', Milan, 1986, pp 33–44: p 35, illus p 44, fig 3.
Vincenzo Abbate, Pittori del Seicento a Palazzo Abatellis, 'Quadrerie e collezionisti palermitani del Seicento', Milan, 1990, pp 13–57: pp 31, 55 note 59, illus p 33, fig.15.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 1995, Sydney, 1995, pp 28–29. Conservation treatment.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, p 8, col illus p 8.
Richard Beresford, Caravaggio & his world: darkness and light, Sydney, 2004, p 190, col illus p 191.
Edgar Peters Bowron and Mary G. Morton, Masterworks of European Painting in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 'Matthias Stomer: The Judgement of Solomon', New Jersey, 2000, pp 66–69: p 68, illus p 68. AGNSW work illustrated in reference to 'The Judgement of Solomon' in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, Sydney, 1984, p 23.
Edmund Capon, Great philanthropists on trial : the art of the bequest, ‘The James Fairfax collection’, Melbourne, 2006, pp 126–35: p 134.
Giuseppe Consoli, Messina: Museo regionale, Bologna, 1980, p 52.
Patricia Crawford, History and legend in some selected paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1980, p 9, illus p 9.
Elvira D'Amico (Curator), La pittura nel nisseno, dal XVI al XVIII secolo, Sicily, 2001, pp 158–59, no 22, col illus pp 158 (detail), 159.
Giulia Davì, Caravaggio in Sicilia, Palermo, 1984, pp 238, 246.
Franziska Fischbauer, Matthias Stomer: Die sizilianischen Nachtstücke, Frankfurt am Main, 1993, pp 68–72, 130, illus p 154, pl 7.
Renée Free, Art and Australia, vol 10, no 1, Art Gallery of New South Wales special number, 'European collection', Sydney, Jul 1972, pp 63–75: p 63, col illus p 70.
Michael Hill, Look, 'Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio: exploring the popularity of a singluar artist', Sydney, Oct 2003, pp 24–27: col illus p 27.
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', Sydney, 1999, pp 17–77: p 28, col illus p 28.
Clem Lloyd and Peter Sekuless, Australia's national collections, North Ryde, 1980, p 253, illus p 253.
Norbert Middlekoop, The golden age of Dutch art: seventeenth century paintings from the Rijksmuseum and Australian collections, 'Art and Reality', Perth, 1997, pp 9–25: p 12, illus p 12, fig 8.
Benedict Nicolson, The internationale Caravagessque movement, Oxford, 1979, p 92, illus fig 163 np.
J L Schrader, Museum of Fine Arts Houston Bulletin, 'New acquisitions, a Caravaggesque judgement of Solomon', Houston, Sep 1970, pp 54–55: p 55. AGNSW work mentioned in reference to 'The Judgement of Solomon' in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Peter Tomory and Robert Gaston, European Paintings before 1800 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1989, p 132, no 405, illus p 132.
A Zalapì, Porto di mare: 1570-1670: pittori e pittura a Palermo tra memoria e recupero, ‘Il soggiorno siciliano di Matthis Stom tra neostoicismo e “dissenso”: nuove acquisizioni documentarie sull’ambiente artistico straniero a Palermo’, Palermo, 1999, pp 147–57: p 154, illus p 152.
Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1970, pp 6204 (27 Feb), 7281 (24 Apr), 7323 (24 July).
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Newsletter 7, Sydney, Dec 2005, np.
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Burlington Magazine, vol 119, no 889, 'Stomer brought u, p-, Apr 1977, pp 230-44: pp 239, 242.