Naples:life,death & Miraclecontact: Jeff Matthews


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Gian Battista Cavagna (c. 1550-1613)


Cavagna is one of those “other” painters, architects and engineers in Naples, whose name is often lost in the shuffle of the greats of the Neapolitan Baroque, working as he did in the shadow of his great contemporaries. In architecture, that would be Domenico Fontana (See also this list of painters of the Neapolitan Baroque.)

Cavagna was from Rome, but did most of his work in Naples. Many of the buildings that he helped design and build were finished by others. A partial list includes the grand monastic complex of San Gregorio Armeno in the historic center of Naples (photo, right, still a formidable landmark in the city); the Basilica of San Paolo Maggiore; and the Monte di Pietà, the first great pawnbroking establishment in Naples (which burned in 1903 and has since been restored). He was also responsible for much of the stucco and panel painting in the vast monastery of Monteoliveto (most of which disappeared in 20th-century urban renewal) as well as for the church (still extant) belonging to that complex, Santa'Anna dei Lombardi (aka S. Maria di Monteoliveto). He also designed the royal grain storage facility in 1601. Cavagna left Naples when his plans for a new vice-royal palace were rejected in favor of those of his rival, Domenico Fontana.

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