In the dazzling comet's tail of painters called the Caravaggisti - the admirers of Caravaggio who kept alive his flame for more than a century - Matthias Stomer stands out for his considered temperament and cool execution. Almost an academic of the movement, though never an imitative hack, Stomer built a body of work on the basis of subjects like this. Antiquity in general and Roman history in particular were his primary source material, reflecting a classicism which had little to do with Caravaggio's own almost exclusively biblical interests. Stomer's 'Mucius Scaevola in the presence of Lars Porsenna' could be seen to anticipate the high moral tone, and consequent sober rendition, found in the works of later neoclassical figures such as David. This painting, after all, posits a test of faith by fire within a resolutely imperial context - precisely David's territory. There is a poorly preserved variant in Messina, datable to this Dutch-born painter's Sicilian period.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999


  • Title: Mucius Scaevola in the presence of Lars Porsenna
  • Creator: Matthias Stomer
  • Date Created: early 1640s
  • Physical Dimensions: 152.6 x 205.7 cm stretcher; 167.5 x 220.0 x 7.0 cm frame
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Purchased 1970
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Signature & Date: Not signed. Not dated.
  • Provenance: Agnew's, London (England, estab. 1817), 24 Apr 1968-24 Apr 1970, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Agnew's 1970 Ettore Viancini (Italy), pre 24 Apr 1968, Venice/Italy, Purchased by Agnew's from Ettore Viancini, 24 April 1968. This was possibly a joint holding, Viancini may also have been a dealer. Agnew's stock number J. 6067 Prince Branciforte di Mazzarino (Italy), 17th century, Caltanissetta/Sicily/Italy
  • Other Titles: Muscius Scaevola in the Presence of Lars Porsena
  • Artist Country: Netherlands

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