Along with his great
predecessor, Luca Giordano,
Solimena is the best-known painter of the Neapolitan
Baroque.The easiest painting by Solimena to find in
Naples is in the Church of Gesù Nuovo (located in the square of the same name),
but you might actually miss it if you go into the church
for the reason that you should go into a church. That is
to say, you have to go in and turn your back on the
faithful and look directly above the entrance to see the
massive and spectacular The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple.
Even a graphic dunce such as myself (anti-references
available upon request!) notices Solimena's signature
characteristics—light and color, from the white charger
in the middle to the splashes of the bright blue robes.
I don't know why artsy types of the day didn't like it;
perhaps it was too "busy" (it is indeed jammed) or
perhaps not sombre enough. Indeed, descriptions of
Solimena's works abound in vocabulary such as "golden
light," "lovely harmonies of colour," "brilliant
luminosity," "vibrant, atmospheric light," etc.
Other of his
works in Naples include The
Massacre of the Giustiniani at Chios, in the Capodimonte museum; The Trinity, the Madonna and
St Dominic, in the sacristy of San Domenico Maggiore; and
various frescoes in the churches of San Paolo Maggiore and San
Domenico Maggiore. His self-portrait (here shown) is in
the Museum of San Martino. He is
responsible, as well, for the frescoes on the ceiling of
the royal bedroom in the Royal
Palace, put there to celebrate the marriage of
Charles III (the first Bourbon king of the then newly
independent Kingdom) to Maria Amalia of Saxony in 1737.
Solimena had a long and very successful career and was, at
the height of his powers, one of the most sought-after
painters in the Europe of his day.