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Antonio Joli  (1700 c. — Naples 1777)

Looking at Antonio Joli's paintings of Naples is like having a photographer from the mid-1700s around. His work is accurate and precise to a degree that it serves as a document of the life of that period. The first time I saw this view of the square of the Spirito Santo, I vaguely recognized it from the church of that name (just out of sight on the left in this cut image); it was completed by the year 1600). The rest was a bit confusing, but I managed to figure it out. That grand gate to the city—so evident in the painting—that permitted entrance from the north is gone. The gate, itself, was a Spanish innovation from the mid-1500s when they expanded and fortified the city. The Bourbons later in the 1700s got rid of the gate when their turn came to expand the city—in this case, meaning a new road out to the north to the new royal palace (now an art museum) on the Capodimonte height. Joli captured it a number of years before it was torn down.

Joli was born in Modena and served an apprenticeship in Rome and in Venice. He then worked throughout Italy and abroad gaining a reputation as a stage designer and landscape painter. His paintings become known, as I have indicated, for their, what we would call, "photographic" quality; that is, they display a clear and objective style of representing nature as well as man-made artifacts. Joli worked in Naples for the Bourbon court starting in the late 1750s; he worked on stage design for the San Carlo theater and the Teatrino (small theater) at the royal palace in Caserta. He painted many highly detailed scenes of court life in Naples. The best known of these is probably the Departure of Charles of Bourbon for Spain in 1759, on the occasion of that monarch's abdication and return to Spain to assume the throne as King of Spain. (The painting is on display in the national museum of San Martino in Naples.)




B
esides the painting of the Spirito Santo street scene that accompanies this article, Joli is also known for a rendition of the royal procession along the Chiaia in Naples towards the church of the Madonna of Piedigrotta. The painting is very realistic, with no attempt to make the scene "folkloristic" in any way—something which other painters often used to do with this popular yearly ritual. Joli was also one of the first to produce so-called "bird's-eye" perspective. His best-known example is a painting of the then newly excavated archaeological site at Paestum (above), showing the temples and plains of the ancient Greek city as seen from above.  Because of the accuracy of his work, he was popular among the Grand Tourists of the day, who wanted real-life views of Naples to take home with them.

[Also see Joli's painting of the Neapolitan Cuccagna.]


other paintings:



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