Salvator Rosa

Saint Onuphrius. Salvator Rosa
Saint Onuphrius

Salvator Rosa (born June 20, 1615 died March 15, 1673) 17th century painter, representative of the Italian Baroque, engraver, poet, actor. The biography of Salvator Rosa, full of romance and adventure, later became the plot of books, paintings, musical works. The artist’s work surprises with its diversity: the masters were interested in historical, religious, mythological and fantastic subjects, he painted landscapes, battle scenes, portraits, still lifes.

Salvator Rosa. An Angel appears to Hagar and Ishmael in the Desert.
An Angel appears to Hagar and Ishmael in the Desert.

Biography of Salvator Rosa

Salvator Rosa was born on June 20, 1615 in the small village of Arenella near Naples. The father of the future master worked as a simple land surveyor. Wanting to give his son a good education, he assigned him to the monastic order.

Here the boy studied science, and also diligently studied music: he played various instruments, composed serenades. As a result, he decided to connect life with art, left the walls of the monastery and returned to Arenella. Salvator Rosa soon became attracted to painting and began to copy paintings by the artist Francesco Fracanzano, his brother-in-law. He praised his work. The inspired young man went to travel to the Abruzzo mountains to look for subjects for his works. He painted valleys with their extinct volcanoes, caves, ruins of ancient Italian cities.

Allegory of lies. Salvator Rosa
Allegory of lies

master moved to Rome

In 1635, the future master moved to Rome, where he quickly became famous for his works. Being multi-talented, Rosa also succeeded in the acting field, and eventually even founded his own theater. However, by nature he was a rebel, conflicted with the existing government, wrote accusatory poems, wrote satirical allegorical paintings. The painter was persecuted, hired killers hunted him. As a result, Rosa returned to Naples. Here he took an active part in the Masaniello revolution.

Battle. Salvator Rosa

In the years 1640-1649. Salvator Rosa lived and worked in Florence, was the court painter of Cardinal Giovanni Carlo de Medici, periodically visited the Eternal City. Highly educated people gathered in the master’s house: composers, philologists, mathematicians. He ironically called this circle of the elect “the Academy of the bruised.” During the Florentine period of creativity, the painter created a number of self-portraits and seascapes.

In 1649 Rosa settled again in Rome, refusing the tempting offers to live at the courts of France and Austria. Last years of his life, the painter became interested in the art of etching, created over 80 compositions, many of which can be called the best creations of the master.

In Rome, the artist left this world on March 15, 1673. Shortly before his death, Salvator Rosa married his beloved Lucretia, who lived with the master for many years and gave him two sons.


The most famous paintings by Salvator Rosa

The painter’s works are distinguished by a variety of subjects and the originality of their interpretation. The palette of his works is restrained, it creates the right mood, gives the viewer peace. Among the famous paintings by Salvator Rosa, the following are worth highlighting:

  1. “The Temptation of St. Anthony” (1645) the image of the saint was repeatedly played on in painting. Rose, possessing a rich imagination, offers her own interpretation, creates bizarre images of demons.
  2. The Prodigal Son (first half of the 1650s) the plot of repentance was also common in the visual arts of the 17th century. The figure of the character is very expressive. The artist truly conveys the youth’s excitement. Kneeling, he rushes to the sky in a passionate impulse.
  3. “Heroic Battle” (1650s) Salvator Rosa especially succeeded in works of the battle genre. He brilliantly wrote complex battle scenes, conveying all their dynamics.
  4. “Allegory of Fortune” (circa 1658-1669) the goddess of fate resembles a public woman in her appearance. And the gifts from her cornucopia go to unworthy people depicted in the form of animals.
  5. “Prometheus” (1659) the famous work of the genius is filled with thoughts about the unjust structure of the world, about the retribution for virtue.
Prodigal son
Prodigal son
Self-portrait (Allegory of Silence), National Gallery, London
Self-portrait (Allegory of Silence), National Gallery, London
Ships in the storm
Ships in the storm
Witches at their Incantations
Witches at their Incantations
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