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Some Painters of the Neapolitan Baroque
Salvator Rosa: self-portrait. The sign says,
"If you have nothing to say, be quiet."
Luca Giordano (see list, below) once said, “Anyone who really tries can draw. Not everyone can paint. I would rather be Luca Giordano, the painter, than all the sketch artists in the world.” Since I am known among my artsy friends as “Phil E. Stein,” I am now happy to have ammunition to support my idea that you start out drawing and when you grow up and get really good you learn how to paint. On the other hand, Luca and I have to contend with reams of art criticism declaring that the great painters of the Neapolitan Baroque couldn’t draw very well at all! I was blissfully unaware of that criticism until I stumbled across a book called I Disegni dei Maestri; il barocco a napoli e nell’italia meridionale by Walter Vitzhum (pub. Fratelli Fabbri editori, 1970 Milan). The author dismisses the art-critics by simply showing some of the drawings of the painters of the Neapolitan Baroque and by pointing out the ambiguity of the Italian word disegno; it can mean anything from “design” in the precise blue-print sense of the word, to “drawing” as a finished work but also as a “sketch” or “rough draft.” Since many of the painters in the following list were using their disegni as rough drafts for painting and not as finished sketches, the judgment of their drawing as inadequate misses the point. Here is a chronological list of some important painters of the Neapolitan baroque:
Giovanni Battista Caracciolo (also called Battistello) (1578 – 1635), was an important Neapolitan follower of Caravaggio—and only a few years younger. Like Caravaggio, he adopted a style of tenebrism, in which dramatic tension is carried by startling uses of shadow and light. He has many works in Naples, including on the premises of San Martino and Santa Maria la Nova.
Massimo Stanzione (c. 1586 - c. 1656) was born in Orta di Atella, in the modern province of Caserta. He was another of the Caravaggisti and possibly a student of Battistello (above), but he moved away from the darker and contrasted version to a softer style. He painted frescoes in the chapel of San Mauro and chapel of Saint John the Baptist in the Certosa di San Martino.
Giuseppe de Ribera (1591 - 1652) was a Spanish tenebrist painter and printmaker also known by his Spanish name José de Ribera. He was also called Lo Spagnoletto, or "the Little Spaniard". Ribera was a leading painter of the Spanish school, although his mature work was all done in Italy. In the 1620s he was regarded as the leading painter in Naples. His work can be found at San Martino, for example. Interestingly, he never returned to Spain, but more than one Spanish nobleman returning home from the vice-realm of Naples took works by de Ribera with them, works that subsequently had an influence on Spanish art. (Also see The Bearded Lady.)
Andrea Vaccaro (c. 1600–1670) was another tenebrist. He was from a family of painters that included Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, the creator of the spectacular majolica-tile courtyard of Santa Chiara. Although Andrea actually painted copies of Caravaggio, his own tenebrism is less harsh. Vaccaro was patronized by the Spanish viceroy, Gaspar de Bracamonte.
Aniello Falcone (1600-1665) was noted for his paintings of battle scenes. Falcone was accustomed to arms and an excellent fencer. One story says that during Masaniello’s Revolt of 1647, Falcone resolved to avenge the death of a nephew at the hands of Spanish troops; thus, he formed an armed band named the Compagnia della Morte, or Company of Death. They fought in the streets by day; at night they were painters again.
"Eruption of Vesuvius" (1631)
Domenico Gargiulo (1609/10 - c. 1675) was mainly known for his landscapes. He was commonly called Micco Spadaro because his father was a maker of swords (spade). He is well remembered for his representation of Masaniello’s Revolt and of the plague of 1656.
Mattia Preti (1613 - 1699) was born in Calabria. His studied with G. B.Caracciolo (above) and maintained a life-long fascination for Caravaggio. He was active in Naples in the 1650s. One of his masterpieces were a series of votive frescoes after the plague, painted on seven city gates; most of them have been lost to time. (The one on the Porta San Gennaro has been restored.) He also designed the nave and transept of San Pietro a Maiella. He moved to Malta in 1659 and spent the remainder of his life there. He had a considerable artistic output in his long life. In art history, Preti is one of "survivor artists of Naples," that is, one of the group that made it through the great plague of 1656 and lived to talk and paint about it.
Salvator Rosa (1615 -1673) was a painter, poet and printmaker, described as unorthodox and extravagant, a “rebel” and proto-Romantic. Rosa was among the first to paint "romantic" landscapes of rugged scenes peopled with shepherds, brigands, seamen, and soldiers.
Bernardo Cavallino (1616–1656) was born in Naples and likely died there during the plague of 1656. His paintings are some of the most expressive works by Neapolitan artists of the day, described in sources as “sweet tenebrism”. His works are on display in Milan, Florence and Naples, and his The Ecstasy of St Cecilia is a good example of a “disegno” become painting. The original drawing is in the Capodimonte museum in Naples, and the painting is in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
Carlo Coppola (1620?- 1672) was born in Naples and was a pupil of Aniello Falcone (above). Like Falcone, he specialized in battle scenes. Coppola is said to have enjoyed himself during the day and painted at night by candle-light, losing his eye-sight as a result.
Luca Giordano (1632—1705) is the one who agrees with me! There is a separate item on him, here.
Francesco Solimena (separate item, here) (self-portrait, left) (1657-1747) was perhaps with Luca Giordano, the best-known painter of the Neapolitan Baroque. Among his works to be found in Naples are Cacciata di Eliodoro in the church of Gesù Nuovo and various frescoes in the churches of San Paolo Maggiore and San Domenico Maggiore. Solimena was active during the short Austrian vicerealm in the first decades of the 1700s. A relevant article about that period in Neapolitan history is "Naples Under the Double Eagle".
Sebastiano Conca (1680 - 1764) was born in Gaeta and apprenticed in Naples under Solimena. In 1706 he settled at Rome, where he painted Jeremiah for the church of St. John Lateran on commission of Pope Clement XI. Conca was knighted by the pope and was elected to the Accademia di San Luca, becoming director in 1729-1731 and 1739-1741. He returned to Naples in 1752, and enjoyed the royal patronage of Charles III. In Naples he painted frescoes for the Church of Santa Chiara (1752-1754), five canvases for the Chapel in the Caserta Palace (subsequently lost), as well as many other works.
Corrado Giaquinto (1703-1775) was very late Baroque, thus known as a Rococo painter. He trained from 1719-23 in the Neapolitan studio of Solimena. Throughout his life, Giaquinto wandered between Naples, Rome, Turin, and Madrid and worked extensively in those cities, enjoying patronage and acclaim.
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