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In the article Così Caravaggio uccise un uomo a Milano (Il Messaggero, 5 marzo 2017) there is the following quote by Riccardo Gandolfi:

[La biografia di Caravaggio di Gaspare Celio] Racconta che Orsi chiamò tanti "pittorecoli a lodarne l'opera"; e che vedendo quelle figure al naturale e quegli scuri, molti si stupirono.

Is it conceivable that the word pittorecoli meant small painter in the 17th century? I've seen it quoted from a 17th century source but can't find that word anywhere else. Or it's perhaps a contraction?

The French journalist quoting this article in the Journal des arts writes "pittorecoli [petits peintres]".

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    Can you provide a full quote? That would help a lot.
    – Denis Nardin
    Dec 1 '17 at 17:00
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    Are you absolutely sure of the spelling? Pittore, as you'll know, is “painter”. It is conceivable to form pittorucolo by using the suffix -ucolo to denote a painter of small value, and pittorucoli would be the plural form.
    – DaG
    Dec 1 '17 at 17:02
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    Pittore Coli may refer to Giovanni Coli (1636-1681) an Italian painter. It’s just an attempt to decode your word...
    – abarisone
    Dec 1 '17 at 17:04
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    @egreg That is almost certainly true: if I use a proxy to pretend to be connecting from Italy I get your response, while if I connect directly I can see the article. I'll insert a more complete quote in the OP.
    – Denis Nardin
    Dec 2 '17 at 9:08
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    I can confirm @DenisNardin's experiment, the other way around (connecting from Italy I can't access, but pretending being elsewhere I do).
    – DaG
    Dec 2 '17 at 11:44
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It can be simply a typo for pittorucoli or maybe how the word was spelled in Celio's biography, which was after all written much before Italian spelling was standardized. In Italian the suffix -ucolo can be attached to any noun with diminutive or derogatory effect:

-ùcolo [maybe from lat. -ūcŭlus; the popular outcome, very rare, is -ucchio]. – Noun altering suffix with diminutive or derogatory value (chiesucola, paesucolo, straducola).

(From the vocabolario Treccani)

In this context pittorucoli probably means something alike to small-time painters, painters that are not particularly famous.

@JeanB adds: I don't think it's a typo. In Catalogo delle pitture che si conservano nelle chiese di Pesaro, Giovanni Andrea Lazzarini, Pesaro, 1783, I read "fece venire all'improvviso da Fano un pittorecolo, ..."

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    At this entry of the Vocabolario Treccani you can specifically find "pittorùcolo" as "spregiativo" of "pittore".
    – Charo
    Dec 2 '17 at 12:08
  • Thanks to all. I don't think it's a typo, however. By now, I've found pittorecolo in a number of 18th century texts.
    – JeanB
    Dec 2 '17 at 13:06
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    @JeanB: It would be useful if you add those examples of pittorecolo, if you are sure that they are correct, to Denis's answer, or post an answer of your own.
    – DaG
    Dec 2 '17 at 13:25
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    @JeanB It might sound better to your ears, but certainly not to mine, and I doubt to those of any other native speaker. That said, it's not too unlikely that the suffix -ecolo was indeed productive in the 18th century, as it is not today.
    – Denis Nardin
    Dec 2 '17 at 14:27
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    @JeanB: I agree with Denis: as a native Italian speaker, pittorecolo sounds quite awkward. This is not to say that it has never been deliberately used, but be warned that an Italian speaker reading that might assume that it is a misspelling. (Compare this with the relative abundance of instances of scrittorucolo and attorucolo and the absence of the corresponding form in -ecolo.)
    – DaG
    Dec 2 '17 at 15:20

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