Painters of the Neapolitan
Salvator Rosa: self-portrait. The
"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:
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.
(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
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.
(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)
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(1632—1705) is the one who agrees with me! There is a
separate item on him, here.
(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".
(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.
(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
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