Most famous representative of the magnificent family dynasty of Italian artists
Francesco Solimena is a famous Italian artist of the 17th 18th centuries, an outstanding master of the religious genre. Francesco Solimena is rightfully considered one of the best masters of the Neapolitan school of painting of his era, and his paintings are now kept in museums in London, St. Petersburg, Paris and many other cities. The artist’s work was highly appreciated by his contemporaries; over a long career, he earned a huge fortune selling his works. The painter’s biography is closely connected with Naples the city in which the great genius spent most of his life.
Francesco Solimena, often called l’Abate Ciccio for his devotion to the religious genre, was a brilliant mentor to young colleagues and brought up many famous artists. Among the huge number of his students, names can be distinguished:
- Francesco De Mura;
- Corrado Giaquinto Giuseppe Bonito Gaspare Traversi;
- Sebastiano Conca;
- Domenico Antonio Vaccaro;
- Tommaso Martini;
- Paolo De Majo (Paolo De Majo).
Biography of Francesco Solimena
Francesco Solimena was born on October 4, 1657 in the small town of Canale di Serino, located on the Adriatic coast. His father Angelo Solimena (Angelo Solimena) was a very successful artist who, a year before the birth of his son and his wife, left Naples for the province, fleeing a terrible plague epidemic. Two of Francesco’s younger brothers, Tommaso and Horace, were also born here.
Francesco’s only teacher was his father, who from early childhood attracted his son to work in his workshop. And the artist’s spiritual mentor was Cardinal Pietro Francesco Orsini, who later became Pope under the name of Benedict XIII. It was he who first discerned in the boy a talent for painting and advised his father to develop the abilities of a gifted boy.
Having settled in Naples in 1674, the painter later very rarely left the city, with the exception of a few short trips to Rome in 1700 and 1707. Nevertheless, rumors about the gifted young man quickly spread throughout Italy and by the age of thirty he surpassed his father in popularity and skill. In the early 1680s, Francesco Solimena began an independent career as an artist, organized his own studio and took up orders for fresco painting of churches.
In addition to painting, Solimena worked actively in the field of architecture.
He designed all sorts of building elements, including columns, stairs, balustrades and arches, as well as implemented several full-fledged architectural projects, for example, the bell tower of the Nocera Inferiore Cathedral in the suburbs of Naples.
Almost nothing is known about the artist’s personal life. He was never married and did not leave behind direct heirs, but he made a lot of efforts so that his nephew Orazio Solimena (Orazio Solimena) became a famous painter and repeatedly delegated to him the right to carry out his orders.
Dozens of young students constantly worked in Francesco’s workshop, who came to him not only from different parts of Italy, but also from other European countries. Throughout his creative career, Solimena had influential patrons from among the highest clergy of the Catholic Church, nobility and royalty. In addition to the Pope, he enjoyed the special favor of the French monarch Louis XIV and the Austrian military leader Eugene of Savoy.
By the beginning of the 18th century, Francesco Solimena had amassed a decent fortune and acquired a luxurious villa on the outskirts of Naples. Painters, architects and sculptors studied at his art school, and the work of the great master had a huge impact on subsequent generations of artists. Solimena’s work has been admired by many famous painters, including Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Francisco Goya and François Boucher.
The brilliant artist for many years led a healthy lifestyle and did not have bad habits.
Despite the many temptations available, he devoted himself entirely to art, loved to experiment and willingly passed on the accumulated knowledge to his students. Remaining sane until his last days, Francesco Solimena died in his Neapolitan villa surrounded by friends and family on April 3, 1747 at the age of 89. The remains of the great master were buried with great honors in the Neapolitan church of San Domenico in Barra, where in 1997, on the 250th anniversary of his death, the city authorities installed a memorial plaque.
The most famous works of Francesco Solimena
The brilliant Italian has created many wonderful masterpieces during his long life. And yet the most famous works of Francesco Solimena are rightfully considered:
- The frescoes on the vaulted ceiling of the Church of San Nicola alla Carita in Naples (late 17th century) are a chic example of Baroque fresco painting created by the artist. In the temple, where the relics of St. Nicholas of Bari are kept, there are also several paintings by Solimena.
- The fresco “The Victory of Faith over the Dominican Heresy in the Church of San Domenico Maggiore” (1701-1707) is one of the few works of the master created in the Rococo style. A beautiful multi-figured composition still adorns the vault of an ancient Neapolitan temple.
- The painting “Diana and Endymion” (1705-1710) is one of the few works of the mythological genre from the creative heritage of the Italian painter. It depicts an ancient Greek goddess intently watching a beautiful sleeping youth, who is unaware of the presence of the formidable Diana nearby.
- The bell tower of the Nocera Inferiore Cathedral (1740s) is the artist’s most famous architectural masterpiece. Solimena designed and built this building on the site of the 15th century bell tower destroyed during the earthquake.
Francesco Solimena left a notable mark on the history of Italian Baroque art. He gave his descendants many wonderful works that are admired today by guests of Naples and visitors to the best European museums.