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London’s National Gallery Buys Record-Setting Cavallino, Once Owned By Met Trustee

London’s National Gallery acquired a painting by 15th-century Italian artist Bernardo Cavallino at Sotheby’s in New York, where it was set a record for $3.9 million (with buyer’s premium).

The painting, which depicts its titular subject Saint Bartholomew in a seated pose holding a knife, is believed to have produced between 1640 and 1645. The inclusion of the knife foreshadows the apostle’s martyrdom, as he was flayed alive.

During the sale, held on January 27, the museum won the Cavallino painting on a hammer price of $3.2 million; it was sold by developer Mark Fisch, a prominent Old Masters collector and a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The result surpassed the artist’s 2018 record of $532,457, paid for his Saint Cecilia (1645) at Christie’s London.

Saint Bartholomew was acquired with funds raised from the museum’s U.S. trustee group, American Friends of the National Gallery, according to a report by the Art Newspaper. In a statement announcing the purchase, the National Gallery described the work as “one of the largest and most splendid works Bernardino Cavallino ever painted and dates to the 1640s, when the Neapolitan artist was at the height of his artistic powers.”

When an image of the recently auctioned work was published in a Sotheby’s catalogue in 1988, it was then attributed to an anonymous “Spanish School” artist and sold for a price around $280,000.

After passing through the hands of several dealers, it later entered into Fisch’s collection, which he assembled with his partner, Rachel Davidson. Their holdings had been the subject of a contentious divorce proceeding that began earlier this year.

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