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Preti, Mattia (Il Calabrese) [Italian, 1613-1699]


[ 17th Century Artists | Baroque Artists ]
portrait

Mattia Preti, known as “Il Cavaliere Calabrese”, left his home town of Taverna in 1630, at the age of 17, destined for Rome. Poussin had recently settled there; the young Velazquez was then paying his first visit. The influence of Caravaggio, though he had died 20 years earlier, was still strongly felt. Preti would leave many works behind in the capital. Among them are the stunning frescoes of “The Martyrdom of Saint Andrew” in the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle — the setting for the first act of Puccini's “Tosca”.

This year's main commemorative exhibition, “Mattia Preti: Between Rome, Naples and Malta”, was held in Naples in the spring. It included no fewer than 70 paintings and 30 drawings, many of them on loan from public and private collections around the world. Nor has Calabria missed the opportunity to celebrate the legacy of “Il Cavaliere”. Calabria and Malta, where the artist spent the last 38 years of his life, have always had close connections. The Calabrian town of Rende secured an exclusive loan of paintings from Malta for an exhibition at its Museo Civico. The homage to Preti continued with exhibitions at Cosenza and Catanzaro.

Surveying under one roof a large number of Preti's hitherto widely scattered paintings enables one to trace his development as an artist. It is instructive to compare, for example, the various Saint Sebastians he painted over the years. The Saint Sebastian Preti undertook for the high altar of a Naples chapel was roundly rejected by the nuns who had commissioned it: they were scandalised by its frankly carnal aspect. To make matters worse, Preti's model for the saint was a humble Neapolitan docker. Such images invite biographical interpretation. But little is known for sure about Preti's private life. One has only the paintings to go on. During his lifetime Preti was highly esteemed. The various tercentenary exhibitions this year provide the ideal opportunity for a long-overdue reassessment of this by no means insignificant artist.

RS Archive pages at Powell's Books

  Preti, Mattia (Il Calabrese) [Italian, 1613-1699]

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