Colnaghi Collections_Vol 01 - Page 120

Stylistically and chromatically, Giordano again takes cues from
his Spanish colleague, as demonstrated by thick strokes of
impasto paint used to render the skin and ruddy complexion
of Marsyas, Apollo’s golden, shimmering hair, and the deity’s
luminous skin. Giordano is probably also indebted to Ribera
in his depiction of Apollo’s traditional lyre as a modern string
instrument, a violin or viola da gamba, though in Giordano’s
work it is held victoriously aloft by a winged putto. Indeed,
the influence of Ribera is so profound that Ferrari considered
Giordano’s composition to have been based on an earlier version
of the subject by Ribera, possibly one noted by Giulio Cesare
Capaccio in the hands of Gaspare Roomer, a Flemish collector
active in Naples from the 1630s until his death in 1674.1
Despite the influence of the Spanish master, Giordano’s image
presents a different atmosphere to Ribera’s Capodimonte
version; the younger Neapolitan artist suspends the drama of
Fig. 15.2 Jusepe de Ribera, Apollo and Marsyas, 1637, oil on canvas, 182 x 232 cm,
Naples, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte.
the scene by portraying a slightly earlier moment in the story.
In Ribera’s canvas, Apollo has already sliced into the skin of
Marsyas, peeling it away from the flesh of his thigh, with the
satyr’s heroic body contorted in agony, while the god stands over
him, his shimmering drapery billowing up over his shoulder and
behind his head. By contrast, Giordano depicts the moment just
prior to the actual flaying. Marsyas’s body, though taught with
anticipation, is still. Apollo, again in contrast to Ribera’s dynamic
figure, is motionless, gazing at the blade with which he is about to
inflict suffering. His poised, elegant form emerges from drapery
rendered with the same deeply saturated pink used in the Vienna
canvas; this is offset by an intense diagonal of blue sky visible
at the centre of the composition. Full of nervous energy, the
composition is closely cropped, bringing the figures nearer to the
viewer and giving the picture the feeling of living spectacle, albeit
one pervaded by a paradoxical sense of calm.
Fig . 15.3 Luca Giordano, Apollo and Marsyas, oil on canvas, 205 x 259 cm,
Naples, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte.
Giordano’s interest in the subject of Apollo and Marsyas
The present painting was unknown until its appearance on the
is evident from his numerous and compositionally-diverse
market in 1988, though the as yet unidentified inventory number
variations on this theme executed over the course of his career.
at the lower left, which can be read as either ‘566’ or ‘366’,
Other versions are found in the Museo Bardini, Florence, the
indicates that the canvas once formed part of an important and
Pushkin Museum, and the Capodimonte Museum in Naples
extensive collection, most likely in Italy or Spain.
(fig. 15.3). Two further paintings dated to a more mature phase
of Giordano’s career are housed in the Escorial and the Spanish
W ill E lliott
Embassy in the Hague, and there is an autograph replica of the
Fig. 15.1 Luca Giordano, The Fall of the Rebel Angels, ca. 1660-1665, oil on canvas, 419 x 283 cm, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum.
latter in the Royal Palace of Caserta.
Ferrari and Scavizzi, Giordano, p. 270.


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