Colnaghi Collections_Vol 01 - Page 118

Naples, 1634 – 1705
Apollo and Marsyas
Oil on canvas
125 x 180 cm
A masterpiece of Luca Giordano’s youth, this canvas depicts the
Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 8 July 1988, lot 108.
story of Apollo and Marsyas, as recounted by Ovid. The satyr
Private Collection, Naples.
Marsyas became so skilled with the aulos, a flute-like instrument,
Pandolfini, Florence.
that he daringly challenged the lyre-playing Apollo to a musical
contest, with the winner being able to dispose of the loser in
any fashion he deemed fit. The Muses, who judged the contest,
Nicola Spinosa, “Ribera and Neapolitan Painting,” in Jusepe de Ribera.
unsurprisingly awarded the victory to Apollo, who punished the
1591-1652, eds. Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez and Nicola Spinosa, exh.
hubris of Marsyas by flaying the satyr alive.
cat. (New York, Naples, and Madrid: The Metropolitan Museum,
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, and Museo del Prado, 1992),
p. 30, fig. 14; Oreste Ferrari and Giuseppe Scavizzi, Luca Giordano.
L’opera completa, 2 vols. (Naples: Electa Napoli, 1992), I, pp. 31, 270,
no. A 130, pls. XV and XVII, and II, p. 533, fig. 206; Luca Giordano.
1634-1705, exh. cat. (Naples, Vienna, and Los Angeles: Museo
Nazionale di Capodimonte, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Los Angeles
County Museum of Art, 2001), pp. 167-168; Sylvia Ferino-Pagden,
ed., Dipingere la Musica. Musik in der Malerei des 16. Und 17. Jahrhunderts,
exh. cat. (Vienna and Cremona: Palais Harrach and Santa Maria
della Pietà, 2001), p. 48, p. 204, no. II, and p. 303; Sebastian Schütze,
In their catalogue raisonné on Giordano, Ferrari and Scavizzi
date the painting to ca. 1660, and indeed the work presents
strong parallels, in figures, lighting, and tonality, with another
significant work from the early 1660s, namely the Fall of the
Rebel Angels in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (fig. 15.1).
At this moment in his career, Giordano, still only in his midtwenties, was profoundly influenced by Jusepe de Ribera. In
the present case, Giordano clearly looks to Ribera’s celebrated
version of the subject, signed and dated 1637, now in the Museo
Estetica barocca (Rome: Campisano, 2004), p. II, fig. 1; M. Utili, in
di Capodimonte, Naples (fig. 15.2). The composition, in which
Ritorno al Barocco. Da Caravaggio a Vanvitelli, exh. cat. (Naples: Museo
a dramatically foreshortened and inverted Marsyas takes centre
Nazionale di Capodimonte, 2009), I, pp. 254-255.
stage, recalls Ribera’s treatment of the subject. From this work,
Giordano also borrows the youthful, classically idealized Apollo,
positioned to the left of Marysas, as well as the group of satyrs at
Dipingere la Musica. Musik in der Malerei des 16. Und 17. Jahrhunderts, exh.
the right, who watch in horror as their companion’s punishment
cat. (Vienna: Palais Harrach, 2001); Ritorno al Barocco. Da Caravaggio a
ensues. In both paintings, Apollo’s physical perfection is
Vanvitelli (Naples: Museo di Capodimonte, 2009-2010).
contrasted with the horrific disfiguration of the coarse creature.


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