Aureliano Milani, ‘The Incorruptibility of Gaius Fabricius’, Christie's Old Masters

Apparently a preparatory drawing for Milani's painting in a private Bolognese collection (A. Cera, La pittura bolognese del' 700, no. 24 under 'Aureliano Milani'). The title given to the present drawing is taken from the picture in Bologna, as the compositions are so similar that they must have been intended to show the same scene. Gaius Fabricius Luscinus Monocularis was a Roman ambassador and consul and is best known for negotiating the Roman surrender to Pyrrhus of Epirus after the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC. Pyrrhus (who later gave his name to the concept of a Pyrrhic victory) was impressed by the fact that Gaius Fabricius resisted Greek attempts to bribe him during the discussions over the fate of the Roman prisoners, and the Roman's name subsequently became a byword for integrity.

However, the inscription on the verso of the drawing suggests an alternative identification of the subject. Curius Dentatus, who became consul of Rome in 290 BC, was also known for his imperviousness to bribery. After defeating the Samnites in battle, he was charged with negotiating the peace treaty and was approached by Samnite representatives who offered him gold in the hope of improving the terms. Curius Dentatus received them in his tent where he had been cooking roots and announced that he counted honor more important than wealth. The presence of the bowl and spoon on the table in both the present drawing and the painting in Bologna suggests that this identification of the subject should be given serious consideration, despite the traditional title of the picture.

Signature: With inscription 'Vanni' (lower left) and with inscription 'Dentatus rejecting the Bribes of the Samnites/ [...]/ Barker Am 1789/ March/ 1841' (on the verso)

B. West, P.R.A. (L.419).

W. Esdaile (L.2617), with his attribution 'aureliano' (on the mount) and his initials, date and inscription '1820 WE B West's sale P4 N50' (verso).

About Aureliano Milani

Italian, 1675-1749, Bologna, Italy, based in Bologna, Italy

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