A self-taught prodigy, Angelo Caroselli was born in Rome and quickly fell under the influence of Caravaggio. He was registered in the Accademia di San Luca in 1604 and, according to his 17th-century biographer, Filippo Baldinucci, at that date had already been painting for twelve years. Caroselli began his career producing paintings in the style of his contemporaries as well as of Renaissance artists such as Titian. These replicas were so skilled that, according to Baldinucci, Nicolas Poussin was unable to distinguish a Madonna that he had painted after Raphael from the original. Caroselli traveled to Florence (1605) and Naples (1613), but had returned to Rome by 1615, the date of his first marriage. Caroselli produced wall paintings for Roman churches such as the Chiesa Nuova, but also enjoyed secular patronage. Between 1615 and 1618, he collaborated with Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri to decorate the Palazzo Borghese in Campomarzio, and later shared a studio with the Lucchese painter Pietro Paolini.
The present tondo, painted on slate, reflects the influence of Dutch painters who traveled to Rome in the 17th century, such as Honthorst and ter Brugghen, who also had been caught up in the artistic revolution surrounding Caravaggio. Ter Brugghen's Violinist and Girl with a Glass in the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefield (1624, L.J. Slatkes and W. Franits, The Paintings of Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-1629), Amsterdam, 2007, no. A 66), for instance, portrays a similarly bawdy couple engaged in revelry and seduction. The woman in Caroselli's painting is likely a courtesan, as the coins in her hand and her wanton disposition suggest. Her identity is suggested by the figure of Danaë on her hat badge, as at the time, this mythological figure was closely associated with courtesans and women of questionable virtue (see E.J. Sluijter, 'Emulating Sensual Beauty: Representations of Danaë from Gossaert to Rembrandt', Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, XXVII, no. 1/2, 1999, pp. 4-45). The present painting may be related to another tondo by Caroselli, also on slate, that was sold at Sotheby's, London, 2 December 1997, lot 48 (fig. 1; see Semprebene, op. cit., p. 95), in which a woman holds a glass of wine next to a masked man in black, evoking the drunken frivolity of carnival. Semprebene dates the present painting to the middle of the 1620s.
London, Whitfield Fine Art, Caravaggio's Friends and Foes, 27 May-23 July 2010.
D. Semprebene, Angelo Caroselli, 1585-1652: un pittore irriverente, Rome, 2011, p. 177.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, Milan, 18 October 2006, lot 259 (eu 102,000).
With Rob Smeets, Milan, from whom purchased by the present owner.