A STORY
OF PASSION

The decision to dedicate my professional life to the market and study of still life painting in Italy came about in the mid-1980s while I was researching 17th century painting together with my father Ulisse, a distinguished expert and collector. Our common interests led us to spend time with art historians such as Carlo Volpe, Mina Gregori, John T. Spike, Luigi Salerno and Federico Zeri. Zeri was busy coordinating the work of about 40 academics for two books on still life in Italy, which Electa published in 1989.
At first it was an instinctive choice, then it became more and more reasoned, guided by a real plea from Federico Zeri himself and his private revelations, which he loved to pass on to those whom he spent time with. He gave credit to international antique dealers for having taught him so much about the minor painting genres and the "applied", or decorative, arts.
The still life field turned out to be ideal because the private function behind the production of natural painting had involved a spread of secular subject matter that only the market was able to bring up to present day, facilitating a fact-finding mission that would otherwise have been hampered by the limitations of museum collections.
I had a good idea in mind of the composite reality of those who had always been involved in the world of antique art. The personalities couldn't exactly be pigeon-holed into a simple academic-dealer pair, which common thought elevated to the ranks of prominent yet antithetical figures, believing that one had an almost sacred knowledge of art and the other of the market (often understood as a second-rate phenomenon with which to negate the correct value of cultural migration). History and accounts actually speak of enlightened dealer figures, great collectors, connoisseurs with an exceptional eye, simple enthusiasts and various different experts, each with notable particularities, whose talents were cherished as an invaluable source of learning. I have always thought it essential to compare different professional skills and establish close collaborations with archivists, restorers and diagnostic x-ray, chemical and physical technicians.
From the outset, I have sought to become a new type of professional figure, moving in the art world as an historian, a critic and a dealer, from a synergistic yet official, transparent and intellectually honest viewpoint.
This is why I decided to combine study and research in the field of Italian still life with the great opportunities for knowledge that the market offers. I operate from a viewpoint of specialization that I feel perfectly fits with my previous studies in the medical and scientific fields, where honing specific skills had always been a primary objective.
Since taking that decision, my passion has grown. I have continued to research and collect still life, applying myself to deepening my knowledge of the Italian schools and their masters, guided by a scientific methodological approach that is as empirical as possible. My methods involve question, iconographical comparison, checking of biographical and anagraphical sources, former inventors and, in particular, past and present historiography.
Strengthened by this critical method, I have tried to give impulse to the development of knowledge in the artistic and historical fields, which are frequently dominated by secular dogmas. Texts also sometimes assert their validity more in virtue of the prestige of those who supported them than their effective worth.
Following the huge task of cataloguing still life painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, which Federico Zeri coordinated in 1989, the world of Italian art witnessed an exceptional flourishing of studies on this painting genre, to the point where knowledge has improved more in recent decades than in the whole of the preceding centuries.
There is still much to understand and discover as sources retain very few names of painters compared with the number of known paintings. Conversely, nothing is yet known about the life and works of many minor artists who we find cited in ancient inventories attached to testaments and in church censuses of parish registers.
I would like to continue my research of Italian still life painters in the years to come, encouraged by the results obtained thus far and conscious that I owe their achievement to the hard work of several academics, researchers, collectors, museum curators, directors of departments and dealers who have contributed. Over time, these contributors have gradually highlighted and shared my professional perspective.

Gianluca Bocchi