BAROQUE IN NAPLES
Virginia Avegale De Vega
This catalogue has been published in conjunction with the exhibition Triumph of Baroque in Naples held at Reggia di Caserta, Campania, Italy (July 1-September 15, 2014).
Copyrights © 2014 Virginia Avegale De Vega
Jacket/Cover Illustration: Jusepe de Ribera, The Clubfooted Boy
This exhibition is dedicated to my friend and maestro, the epitome of Neapolitan tenacity,
Paintings, Prints, Drawings
A Brief History
the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, after the idealism of the Renaissance
(c. 1400-1530), and the highly unnatural maniera of Mannerism (c. 1530-1600), a period known as Baroque emerged and triumphed with a style known for its dynamism and dramatic effect, successfully evoking emotional states by appealing to the senses. Most accounts of the development of the arts during this period largely focus on
Rome as it was then imperative for all artists to submerge themselves in the studies of classical arts in Rome. Indeed, influences of important
Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo
Buonarroti and Raphaelo Sanzio da Urbino are deeply rooted in Rome and provided significant inspiration for sixteenth and seventeenth century artists. In addition, the contributions of three pioneering Bolognese artists, the brothers Annibale and Agostina
Carcacci and their cousin Ludovico Carracci, simply cannot be ignored for the true reform b e g a n i n t h e i r L’ A c c a d e m i a D e g l i
Incamminati. The beginning of what we know as Baroque art can be attributed to their radical movement away from the then contemporary maniera mode. No city, except
Rome, however, can offer the depth and continuity of artistic achievement in the seventeenth-century found in Naples; yet, for the most part, it is underestimated1. It is then the objective of this exhibition to shed light on the developments and achievements of the arts in Naples during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
In the seventeenth century, Naples was one of the great as well as most turbulent cities of the world and, with Paris, one of the two largest metropolitan centers in Europe. Ruled from
Madrid by viceroys and considered the largest and most prosperous city in the Italian p e n i n s u l a , Na p l e s o f fe re d a b u n d a n t opportunities for major commissions that drew artists from Bologna, Rome, and Spain.
The southern capital had strong connections with cultural centers elsewhere in Europe engendered both by its Mediterranean trade and by its Hapsburg and then Bourbon court connections. Major catastrophes later on such as bombings during World War II and devastating earthquakes along with rampant poverty took a toll on the city. In addition, the
Bubonic Plague of the 1650’s killed 218,000 people in Naples, Rome, and Genoa out of a total population of 498,000 in these three cities alone2 Despite the image that these disasters have created of Naples in the seventeenth century as a kind of urban inferno, the city was complex and richly faceted. The cultural life of Naples was rich and the city filled with sophisticated people whose outlook was not only Neapolitan but
European. Nevertheless, Naples continued to thrive and became an important center of baroque painting, literature, philosophy, s o c i o l o g i c a l a n d e c o n o m i c t h e o r y, jurisprudence, music, and theater. The poet
Giambattista Marino (1569-1625) and the natural philosophers Giordano Bruno
(1548-1600) and Tommaso Campanella lived and studied in Naples at the end of the
sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century. the Seven Acts of Mercy circa 1607 for the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia.
Another remarkable artist whose career flourished in Naples was Jusepe de Ribera (“Lo
Spagnoletto”), one of the greatest Spanish artists from Valencia, Spain. No one spoke with greater, more disconcerting directness