Fred R. Kline Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico




PIER FRANCESCO MOLA (1612-1666, Italy)

Aaron, Holy to the Lord, circa 1650, Rome

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"A New Discovery:

Aaron, Holy to the Lord by Pier Francisco Mola"

Text and image copyright 1991, 2010 Fred R. Kline



The painting depicts a sharply naturalistic single figure of Aaron - from the waist up - carrying out his priestly duties as Yom Kippur begins. It is sunset and Aaron stands within the Tabernacle in the wilderness. He holds a silver censer, within which is a glowing red ember. His face shows an intense and pious concentration. The background landscape features a puffy cloud at upper left and part of a palm tree at upper right.

The title of the painting is derived from the Hebrew inscription on Aaron's crown, "Koddesh Le YHWH". YHWH is the Hebrew manner of transcribing Lord or God; thus avoiding the actual word Yahwah, which in the orthodox Jewish tradition would present if written a sacrilegious "image".




PIER FRANCESCO MOLA (1612-1666, Italy)

Aaron, Holy to the Lord, circa 1650, Rome


37 x 27 inches (94.6 x 70.5 cm)

Oil on canvas

Unsigned (It should be noted that most known paintings in Mola's rare and small body of work of some 50 paintings are not signed.)

Condition: The painting was received in very good condition, needing only cleaning and minimal restoration. Conservator: Nancy Krieg, New York City



Palazzo Colonna, Rome, late 17th c. (Determined by a descriptive inventory in the Getty Museum archives discovered by Dr. Craig Felton; however no artist was designated as author).

19th century auction, New York City (unidentified artist)

Donated to a New England Theological Institution (unidentified artist)

Skinner Auction (May 10, 1991, Lot #1, Continental School, 17-18th c.)

Fred R. Kline Gallery (here the Mola suggestion was first researched, developed, attributed, and authenticated by Fred R. Kline)

Private Collection, New York


Expertise: a short history

The development of the Mola authorship began (1991) under the early direction of Fred R. Kline (Fred R. Kline Gallery & Kline Art Research Associates, Santa Fe), with the assistance of Dr. Craig Felton (Chairman, Art History, Smith College). Kline's first idea had been Ribera, for whom Felton is a leading scholar.

Mola authorship was first suggested to Dr. Felton by the late Dr. Robert Manning in 1991, who (along with Eugene Thaw), saw the painting at Nancy Krieg's studio.

The suggestion was verbally upheld to Dr. Felton (based on study of transparencies) by Sir Denis Mahon (Independent Scholar, London).  FRK's attribution was verbally upheld (from transparencies) by Dr. Keith Christiansen (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998), and by Mola scholars Dr. Dawson Carr (J. Paul Getty Museum, 1998) and William Kloss (Independent Scholar, Washington, DC, 2007).



Fred R. Kline Gallery, Santa Fe.  "A New Discovery: Aaron, Holy to the Lord by Pier Francisco Mola". Summer 1992.



Fred R. Kline Gallery. "A New Discovery: Aaron, Holy to the Lord by Pier Francisco Mola". (from 1997)


Research facts

1. Of Mola's some 50 known paintings, Aaron bears the closest affinity to Mola's masterpiece and most famous painting, Barbary Pirate (Louvre), sharing with it the same model, style, period, and dramatic characterization.

2. The Palazzo Colonna inventory described Aaron (size, composition) and its pendant Moses (unlocated); the identity of the artist was not noted.

3. Aaron, Holy to the Lord is the unique single figure of Aaron known to have been painted by an old master, circa 15th-18th centuries (Ref: Pigler). The Judaic iconographic details are rare and may have significance related to mid-17th c. Jewish history, which can be characterized as messianic.



Mola's Aaron can be compared most favorably to the artist's significant works in other U.S. collections: to the Getty's The Vision of Saint Bruno and the Met's Rest on the Flight into Egypt.  Clearly, Aaron's aesthetic quality and its metaphoric and naturalistic power places the painting alongside the Louvre's Barbary Pirate as among Mola's greatest paintings and among the most notable Baroque paintings of the 17th century.


                     Sold to a New York private collector


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