The work is part of the series of four landscapes on copper, purchased by Prince Giovan Battista Borghese in 1678, the year in which the artist was finishing the prestigious decoration of the gallery of Palazzo Borghese in Campo Marzio. In these paintings, the true protagonist is the landscape, and the Bolognese Giovan Francesco Grimaldi showed remarkable skill in this genre, continuing on the path first trodden by Annibale Carracci and Domenichino.
The work depicts some fishermen discussing their business, portrayed in a typical Bolognese landscape, bearing witness to the important role that Annibale’s landscapes played in Grimaldi’s training.
19th-century frame decorated with palmettes 67 x 89 x 10 cm
Rome, Giovan Battista Borghese Collection, 1678 (Della Pergola 1955, p. 49); Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, pp. 17 (27, 28), 23 (7, 13); purchased by Italian state, 1902.
In 1678, Prince Giovan Battista Borghese made a payment to the Bolognese artist Gian Francesco Grimaldi for ‘several executed paintings, as recorded at account no. 718 in the ledger in the amount of 926 scudi’ (Della Pergola 1955, p. 49). Paola della Pergola was in fact the first scholar to track this bill down in the Borghese papers in the Vatican Apostolic Archive; in her view, the payment concerned other more important works, including, however, the present painting and three other landscapes (inv. nos 38, 296 and 298), which were later mentioned by Domenico Montelatici (1700, p. 302) among the works at the Casino di Porta Pinciana: ‘Four similar paintings representing landscapes with small figures, painted on copper, the work of Gio. Francesco Bolognese’. In fact, the artist must have executed the four paintings during the period of his work in Palazzo Borghese in Ripetta (1672-1678); in all likelihood, they were commissioned to be placed on the ground floor of the apartment.
As suggested by Batorska (2012, p. 202, no. 145), the subject of this painting alludes to Fishing Scene by Annibale Carracci (Paris, Louvre), an artist who had a significant influence on Grimaldi, whose compositions show similar traits to those of the well-known landscape painter.