Mr. Mathis had always told his guests that the painting depicted “Lazarus and the Rich Man”, and that it was painted by Peter Paul Rubens. Well, the Rubens part may be in fun, but the Lazarus part was right on target. Here is our painting in full to compare to the following pictures.
Mark discovered that our painting is one that was almost copied from the painting Parable of the rich man and the poor Lazarus, c.1590-1595, by Leandro Bassano (right). This painting depicts the biblical story, Luke 16, 19-31, of Lazarus.
It reads as follows: “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. At his gate lay a poor beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and wishing to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus in his bosom. So he called to him, `Father, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire’. But Abraham replied, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted and you are in agony.”
Leandro Bassano’s painting hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
When compared to the Villa Finale painting, some components in this are almost identical, others have had their positions shifted around, such as the monkey and the cat, and some are completely different.
And about Peter Paul Rubens. Here is a detail photo of the signature on our painting, which is quite abraded and very difficult to make out, but seems to probably start with “P.”, then probably another “P” (or possibly an “R”), then probably another “R”, although each letter is more abraded than the one before. Perhaps this is where Mr. Mathis might have gotten this idea! The word “Roma” below the name is more clearly decipherable. Like most other details on Villa Finale’s painting, the signature will probably be somewhat easier to see once the painting is cleaned and re-varnished.