Paintings by Carlo Maratti
17 East 76th Street, New York
26 October – 30 November 2017
Nicholas Hall is delighted to present the exhibition Paintings by Carlo Maratti. The exhibition will be the first dedicated to the painted works by Carlo Maratti, an artist who was as successful a painter as Bernini was a sculptor in Baroque Rome. Despite his art historical significance and international influence that extended well into the eighteenth century, Maratti is represented in very few US public collections, and not one in the New York area. This is a rare opportunity to see significant works by this distinguished painter.
There has never been a monographic exhibition devoted to Carlo Maratti and this tiny focus show certainly does not fill that strange lacuna. Despite his huge importance as the pre-eminent High Baroque painter in Rome, still the center of grand style taste in the second half of the seventeenth century, and painter-in-chief to eight succes- sive popes, there are no paintings by Maratti in the National Gallery, London; the National Gallery of Art, Washington; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; and, indeed, most major American museums.
He is perhaps the most important unknown painter of the seventeenth century, in part because so many of Maratti’s greatest works are altarpieces and still in their original locations in out-of-the-way baroque churches in Rome and the Marche. It is also because the very qualities as an exemplar of high classical style, which made Maratti such a resounding success in his own day, make him seem unapproachable to an audience today. Just as people warm more to Michelangelo than to Raphael and to Caravaggio more than the Carracci, so too it is to Bernini more than to Maratti that most tourists now gravitate.
Carlo Maratti was born on May 18th, 1625 in the town of Camerano on the west slope of Monte Conero, situated a few miles south of Ancona in the Marche region bordered by the Adriatic Sea. In fact, his elderly father had migrated as a boy with a group of Dalmatians to this area where he subsequently prospered as a landowner and married a young widow, Faustina Masini. Maratti was carefully educated but very early revealed a precocious artistic talent in experimenting with drawing and colors derived from plants. Some of the former caught the eye of Domenico Corraducci, a member of the most important local family who sent them to Maratti’s stepbrother Bernabeo Francioni, an aspiring painter resident in Rome, who in turn showed them to Andrea Camassei. This master was so impressed that he advised that the boy should be trained in Rome and, with the help of Corraducci, he arrived there at the age of 11. Bernabeo soon introduced him to Andrea Sacchi who, together with Pietro da Cortona, was one of the foremost painters during the papacy of Urban VIII Barberini (1623–1644).
Formative training with Sacchi
This rapid chain of events determined Maratti’s future success since he soon became the favorite pupil of Sacchi, who promoted him with paternal affection. In the following years, he underwent a severe curriculum studying the celebrated prototypes of Raphael, Annibale Carracci, Reni, Domenichino, and ancient sculpture of which he made drawings and engravings. That he had fully absorbed his master’s style and figural types is evidenced in the 1644–45 altarpiece of the Madonna with Saints Monica, Augustine, and Dominic painted for Corraducci and now in the Chiesa Parrocchiale of Camerano (fig. 1). Yet Maratti was already experimenting with other subjects such as the Cross on the Book (fig. 2), an unusual trompe- l’oeil still-life commissioned in 1645 by John Evelyn, the first of the numerous English travelers who would acquire the artist’s pictures and drawings, and then collaborated with Sacchi on the frescoed decoration of the Lateran Baptistery (San Giovanni in Fonte).
Public debut in Rome
“Caposcuola della Pittura Romana”
Apotheosis of Baroque painting
The last thirty years of the seventeenth century were the most intense of Maratti’s career in terms of his artistic production. The vast 1672–73 Triumph of Clemency (fig. 16) frescoed on the vault of the Salone in the Altieri Palace, full of statuary figures levitating on clouds, exemplifies his articulation of the classicizing-academic approach in late Baroque decorations, so different from the illusionistic effects of Baciccio’s frescoed nave vault of the Gesù church situated in the same piazza. Yet the poignant representation of the Death of Saint Francis Xavier painted by Maratti in 1674–79 for the Negroni chapel in the same church (fig. 17) is nevertheless wholly “baroque” in conception and execution. As for portraiture, it is worth citing his 1677 one of Sir Thomas Isham in the Lamport Hall Preservation Trust, Northamptonshire (fig. 18), both tender and elegant in the representation of the young English nobleman captured in a reflective pause during his “Grand Tour” abroad.
With the enchanting 1679–81 Apollo Chasing Daphne commissioned by the minister Colbert for Louis XIV and now in the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts at Brussels (fig. 19), Maratti was honored with the brevet of “Peintre du Roi”, thus formally received in the prime court of Europe without moving from Rome. By this time, he had found his most valuable private patron in the very wealthy and discriminating Marchese Niccolò Maria Pallavicini, a Genoese banker who lived in Rome and was in the process of forming the most impressive contemporary art collection there. One of his numerous pictures by Maratti, the 1680– 92 Romulus and Remus now at Sanssouci in Potsdam, is indicative of the superb quality demanded by this exigent connoisseur, whereas another canvas of the same scope painted for Paolo Savelli in 1682-84, The Rape of Europa, now in the National Gallery of Ireland, is even garnished with flowers attributed to Karel van Vogelaer (fig. 20).
Maratti’s most spectacular late masterpiece is the Tempio della Virtù, or, more precisely, Marchese Niccolò Maria Pallavicini (1650–1714) Guided to the Temple of Virtue by Apollo with a Self-Portrait of the Artist—now in the National Trust Collection at Stourhead, Wiltshire (fig. 24). A putto (Fame) flies to place a crown of laurels on his head and Pallas Athena writes his virtues on a shield in the distance while Maratti, seated in the right foreground and flanked by the Three Graces, is designing the scene on a canvas. Begun around 1690 and completed before 1700, Maratti retouched it by adding on his breast the Cross of Cavaliere di Cristo, which he received from Clement XI in 1704. This, then, represents not only the apotheosis of Pallavicini but also, in a certain sense, that of Maratti himself. He had recently erected a tomb with his portrait bust in the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli and in 1699 he was proclaimed “Principe” of the Academia di San Luca for the second time; moreover, following the bestowal of the Cross, both he and Faustina were elected members of the prestigious literary, Academia dell’Arcadia, founded in 1690 on the precedent of the “conversations” held in Rome by Queen Christina of Sweden.
Last years and legacy
During the last decades of the seventeenth century, Maratti’s “School” held in his studio was the most frequented in Rome, even by foreign artists such as the portraitist Hugh Howard; he trained some three generations of talented painters, several of which had very successful careers, from Berrettoni and Passeri to Pietro de’ Pietri, Andrea Procaccini, Giuseppe Chiari, and Agostino Masucci. In the last years of his life, Maratti increasingly availed himself of their collaboration, especially in the execution of his major commissions due to the frailty of his old age, a case in point being the 1704–07 Assumption of the Virgin lateral canvas in the Albani Chapel of the Duomo of Urbino, completed by Chiari only in 1726. Consequently, his completely autograph pictures in the ultimate phase are primarily the small devotional ones such as the exquisite 1697 Christ Child Sleeping Surrounded by Music-Making Angels in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (fig. 25). With the election of Cardinal Gianfrancesco Albani as Clement XI in 1700, also from the Marche and a longstanding admirer of his work, Maratti became the most trustworthy advisor for the ambitious artistic projects promoted by this pope. Moreover, he was commissioned to produce the cartoons for the mosaic decorations in the Baptismal Chapel and the atrium of the Presentation one in the basilica of San Pietro as well as the designs for the statues of the Apostles executed by the foremost sculptors active in Rome for the niches in the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano. Upon the death of his beloved wife Francesca Gommi in 1711, he made an inventory of his conspicuous collection and drew up a testament with subsequent codicils. From the latter it emerges that he was preparing a chaplainship for the town of Camerano and also a chapel in the church of Santa Faustina there adorned by the last altarpiece he painted, Saint Nicholas of Bari and the Three Boys, flanked by portrait busts of himself and Francesca sculpted by his friend Camillo Rusconi.
Carlo Maratti died on December 15th at the venerable age of 88. His solemn funeral in Santa Maria degli Angeli was described as an exceptional event, attended by princes and prelates, ladies of rank, nephews of the Pope, Romans and foreigners plus all the members of the Academia di San Luca. A year later, Pallavicini, nominated his testamentary executor, as well as his gifted pupil, Passeri, died, and in 1716, Francesco Montioni. This sequence of demises was felt by the artistic community as the end of a fulgent and durable epoch. Faustina inherited his collection and sold a large portion of it for a vast sum to King Philip V of Spain in 1722. Quantities of his drawings were thereafter purchased and now are in the academies of San Fernando in Madrid, the Künstmuseum in Düsseldorf, and the Royal Collection in London. Giuseppe Chiari continued to maintain the influence of Maratti’s style and imagery up to 1726 and Agostino Masucci even to 1768; moreover, an ever increasing number of engravings after his paintings and drawings perpetuated Maratti’s inven- tions as models to be studied. Nevertheless, the Roman scene had already changed with the advent of Pompeo Batoni and other gifted contemporary painters. Therefore, it is interesting to recall in this context the generous comment of Anton Raphael Mengs, registered by G. N. d’Azara in 1783 at the threshold of the Neo-classical period: “Maratti sustained Roman painting so that it did not precipitate as elsewhere”. Fact of matter is that Maratti’s reputation had already eclipsed and would be resurrected only by the re-evaluation during the past century of the period in which he operated, prospered and became a dominant figure. ❖