Valerio Castello: An Old Master Who Sampled

THE DAILY PIC: A neglected Baroque master grabs beauty wherever he finds it.


Any good day out at the galleries in New York should yield something utterly unknown. This 1650s painting of the Flight Into Egypt by Valerio Castello, recently cleaned and now on the wall at Dickinson Roundell gallery on the Upper East Side, certainly qualified for me, despite my background in Italian Old Masters. (Click on my image to enlarge it.) “Pastiche” is the word that comes to mind: Castello has thrown together juicy gobbets from Titian, Veronese, Correggio, Federico Barocci and the Bassano brothers, plus a foolproof bit of good old Leonardo, whose work Castello would have known from a stay in Milan. (On the obscurer side, I’m also seeing a dash of Andrea Schiavone, the much-neglected Venetian, and Perino del Vaga, the stylish follower of Raphael who painted in Castello’s hometown of Genoa.) But before we hold Castello’s pastichery against him, let’s remember that we’ve only recently abandoned the old “Zeuxian” ideal of beauty, which asks an artist to gather varied bits of loveliness from wherever it can be found.

At a meta level, you could say that that’s still a value that we hold today: A trip around the galleries includes an eclectic mix of art from all eras, such as earlier, more focused connoisseurs might have barely tolerated. We happily pass back and forth between Frankenthaler, Koons, Duchamp and … Castello.

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