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Italian, 'An Old Man holding a Pilgrim-Bottle', probably 1650s

Key facts
Full title An Old Man holding a Pilgrim-Bottle
Artist Italian
Date made probably 1650s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 112.5 × 91.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1945
Inventory number NG5595
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
An Old Man holding a Pilgrim-Bottle

An elderly man, his face weathered by age and his clothes ragged and patched, leans on a crutch. He looks down towards a globe or sphere, on which a scene of a country inn at dusk is painted. In his right hand he holds an earthenware pilgrim-bottle or flask – such a bottle could be attached to the waist of a traveller or pilgrim by cords (visible here hanging along the left side of the flask’s belly). These types of bottles were produced across Europe and in widespread use during the seventeenth century.

This painting has been in Britain since the early nineteenth century, and was long thought to be Spanish. It is now considered to be north Italian, and probably Venetian – alternative attributions to Antonio Carneo (1637–1692) and, more convincingly, Pietro Bellotti (1625–1700) have recently been put forward.

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