The Baroque Painting of Naples and Southern Italy | WEA Sydney

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The Baroque Painting of Naples and Southern Italy

<p>Caravaggio’s five years in Southern Italy, were critical to the artistic trajectory of the region during the seventeenth century baroque period. Meet artists such as Caracciolo, who drew upon both


Caravaggio’s five years in Southern Italy, were critical to the artistic trajectory of the region during the seventeenth century baroque period. Meet artists such as Caracciolo, who drew upon both Caravaggio’s technical and inventive inspiration. See how a naturalistic depiction of life and dramatic contrasting light and shadow, were used to create Southern Italy’s own aesthetic ethos, in the at times gritty world of its cities and regions. In the later decades of the seventeenth century, we will see such naturalism superseded in the vast and effortlessly lyrical paintings of the international Master of the brush, Luca Giordano. Above all, discover a region whose painting is as raw and tactile as the land that it is from.


  • Face-to-Face


  • Christopher Marshall, Baroque Naples and the Industry of Painting (Yale University Press: 2016). ISBN-13: 9780300174502
  • Bernardo Cavallino of Naples, ed., Anne Percy (Indiana University Press: 1984). ISBN: 9780910386753
  • Giuseppe Scavizzi, Luca Giordano: His Life and Work (Arte'm: 2017). ISBN: 8856905701
  • Keith Sciberras, Mattia Pretti: The Triumphant Manner (Midsea Books: 2012). ISBN: 978-99932-7-407-0


  • Giovanni Battista Caracciolo (1578–1635): We will examine one of the first southern Italian artists to adopt the chiaroscuro style of painting developed by Caravaggio, following his short but highly influential eight month stay in Naples. Caracciolo began a tradition of Neapolitan painting inspired by Caravaggio that was often as gritty, as the rough and turbulent world of 17th century Naples.
  • Massimo Stanzione (1585 – 1656): The artist became one of the two principal painters in Naples, in the early decades of the 17th century. While adopting the chiaroscuro naturalism of Caravaggio, Stanzione tempered this with classicising traits, which in part mirrored the Florentine baroque. We will also discuss the artists relationship with the female painter Artemisia Gentileschi.
  • Jusepe Ribera (1591 – 1652): The Spanish born painter was the most prominent rival to Massimo Stanzione, working in early 17th century Naples. His paintings are among the darkest and at times graphically violent, interpretations of the style of Caravaggio. In addition to his painted works, we will also examine his robust and technically brilliant etchings. These are among the greatest printed works on paper during the baroque period.
  • Paolo Finoglio (c. 1590 – 1645): An artist who was influential within regional areas of the south of Italy. We will examine his painted series from Torquato Tasso’s famous epic, Jerusalem Liberated (1581), made for the Count of Conversano.
  • Bernardo Cavallino (1616–1656): We will examine his unique classical and biblically themed subjects, which exhibited a stronger sense of narrative drama than Massino Stanzione, his likely teacher. Cavallino and many of his artistic contemporaries, died of the plague that ravaged Naples, ending the hegemony of the prevalent and distinctive Caravaggio inspired style in the city.
  • Mattia Pretti (1613 – 1699): One of the most significant Caravaggio inspired painters. The Calabrian born artist, was less of an imitator of Caravaggio than an individual skilled at absorbing stylistics traits from across the Italian peninsula and making them his own. Pretti was an artist who had a career that spanned from Malta to Rome.
  • Still Life in Naples: Neapolitan Still Life is unique in its robust and tactile depiction of objects from around the kitchens, pantries and markets of Naples.
    We will see how these works conveyed the energy and produce, of what was then the second largest city of Europe. We will contrast this with the more subdued mercantile world, embodied in the now more familiar 17th century Dutch Still Life.
  • Luca Giordano (1634 – 1705): Was Naples and one of Europe’s, most prolific artists. Giordano developed a facility in painting that enabled him to paint life size figures in the space of just one day. We will see how the artist was pivotal in a move away from the dominance of Caravaggio in the art of Naples, following the devastating plague of 1656.
  • Francesco Solimena (1657 – 1747): Another painter of incredible technical facility. We will see how like Luca Giordano, he embodied a style of painting that came to dominate both Naples and Rome towards the end of the seventeenth and into the early eighteenth century.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Have gained an overarching historical understanding of painting in Southern Italy through the lives of some of its most prominent painters.
  2. Perceive of Neapolitan and Southern Italian painting more broadly, within its specific cultural, social and political context.
  3. Be able to clearly recognise historical developments within painting in Southern Italy.
  4. Learn to visually analyse a work of art.

Dominique Millar

Dominique has two Master's degrees in Italian art history and art curatorship. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Sir William Dobell Scholarship for Classical Drawing and Painting at...