Paintings | 16th Century | Mattia Preti | St. Anthony the Abbot | Expertise

62 x 62 cm
Oil on canvas


Artwork profile

St. Anthony the Abbot

Mattia Preti

The Expertise

The beautiful picture, portraying an image of “St. Francis of Paola” (or St. Anthony Abbot), is from the painter Mattia Preti and as such it has been discussed in my recent volume devoted to this artist. Preti is one of the leading figures in the European Baroque pictorial culture. His artistic development is marked by several journeys and researches that lead him to an acquaintance with various aspects of the art of the time. He made his debut in Rome where, in 1628, he reaches his brother Gregorio, also a painter. In the Papal city he could learn Caravaggio’s chiaroscuroed and dramatic naturalism which perhaps he might have already seen in Naples, on his way to Rome. But it is also the complex works of Guercino, Pierfrancesco Mola, Lanfranco, Gianlorenzo Bernini that draw his attention, giving him the chance to develop a powerful style, rich in formal, conceptual as well as inventive qualities that grant him relevant commissions, both in Rome itself (Sant’Andrea della Valle; San Carlo ai Catinari etc…) and in the Papal States (San Martino al Cimino Abbey, San Biagio in Modena etc…). In 1642 he is named Knight of the Order of Malta and in 1656 he is called in Naples to paint the “ex voto” frescoes for the end of the pestilence. Besides these, in the Vice-kingdom too Preti is engaged in artistic enterprises of great relevance. He spends, amid great honours and a frenetic activity, the last forty years of his life on the island of Malta. Here for the Knights and for their several “trusts” he has to realize (apart from the above mentioned ordinary artistic works) the cycle dedicated to the Stories of St. John the Baptist on the ceiling of St. John of the Knights Cathedral in La Valletta. Yet these last vicissitudes go beyond the matter of these notes. Indeed, the St. Anthony Abbot must have been painted in Rome, probably after the acquaintance with similar images from Guercino and Mola which, however, he imbues with visual subtleties that find their inspiration source also in Ribera’s punctilious descriptiveness. Significant comparisons can be made with other similar paintings of Preti, amongst which I mention the “Old Man with the Music Book” in the bottom right of the “Concert” (detail, Rome Palazzo Barberini); St. Peter in the “Tribute to Caesar” (detail) housed in the Doria Pamphili Gallery; “Diogenes”, Buskot Park, National Trust; St. Peter in the second version of the “Tribute to Caesar” (detail) Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica. To these we must add a pair of “God the Father” related to the altarpiece with the “Virgin and Child between the Saints Cajetan of Thiene and Francis of Paola” in the Church of Santa Barbara in Taverna (Catanzaro) and to the altarpiece with “St. John the Baptist Preaching” again in Taverna but in the Church of San Domenico. (Maurizio Marini)