This masterpiece of Caravaggio's late style was acquired after the second world war by Vincenzo Imparato Caracciolo of Naples. Previously unknown to Caravaggio scholarship, it was cleaned and restored by Pico Cellini (1959–1964) [see Ref. Marini 1987, p. 508]. First published by Pierre Rosenberg and then more fully by Marini, the picture quickly gained wide acceptance. Aside from Marini, who has repeatedly argued that it is a work of Caravaggio's first Neapolitan period (1606–7), scholars have recognized it as among Caravaggio's last works. The distinction between Caravaggio's first and second Neapolitan periods and the direction of his art towards greater narrative concision, a more rapid and summary execution, and a pervasive, dark tonality, is now well established.
Marini  was the first to suggest an identification of the picture with one cited in a 1650 inventory of the Savelli family ("Un' Ancella con S. Pietro negante, et una altra meza figura per traverso, p.mi 5, et 4 del Caravaggio, D. 250"). This must be the same picture listed, without attribution, in a 1624 inventory of the Savelli palace at Ariccia and then, again, in 1631, in Palazzo Savelli, Rome ("Un S. Pietro con L'ancella cornice dorata"). The early inventories establish that the picture belonged to Paolo Savelli, who died in 1632. When he acquired it remains uncertain: it is not listed in the 1611 inventory of the furnishing at Ariccia, but the picture was clearly known by a number of artists active in Rome shortly after that date. A painting in the Galleria Corsini, Rome, formerly ascribed to the Master of the Judgment of Solomon and now recognized as the work of the young Ribera when still in Rome—and thus dating to ca. 1613–15—clearly derives from the Savelli painting [see Refs. Papi 2002, pp. 22, 34–35 and Spinosa 2003, pp. 30–34], as does—even more clearly—a privately owned canvas by Lionello Spada [see Emilio Negro and Nicosetta Roio, "Pietro Faccini, 1575/76–1602", 1997, p. 24,...
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