Bonifacio de' Pitati - inv. 1604
The story of Antiochus and Stratonice has been referred by various classical sources, from Valerius Maximus to Plutarch and Appian: Antiochus, son of the Macedonian king Seleucus, fell in love with Stratonice, his father’s young wife. Not wanting to offend his father, the young man hid his passion, which soon led to him falling ill. Erasistratus, the doctor looking after him, realised that the young man only revived in the presence of his step-mother and so guessed the cause of his illness: he informed Seleucus, who gave his wife up to his son with half of his kingdom.
In the centre of the painting Antiochus is in bed, assisted by the doctor, while Stratonice, with a maid and a page, enters from the left bringing something to drink. On the right, in the landscape, the meeting between Erasistratus and Seleucus.
Focusing on the theme of moderation, this iconography became popular in the Baroque period, while it rarely appears in sixteenth-century painting. These subjects were often used to decorate the front of wedding chests or bedheads.
In this work you can appreciate the description of the domestic interior and the familiar tone of the story, as in the conversation between the doctor and his patient. This is typical of Bonifacio de' Pitati’s late paintings, especially those of small size. However, attribution to this artist has been questioned prefering another painter active in his workshop during the sixth decade, who painted several works after the master’s death. Among these, The Queen of Saba Visiting King Solomon, today in the Accademia in Venice (inv. 991), seems similar to the Poldi Pezzoli work both in composition and in the description and type of figures.