Skip to main content

Salvator Rosa

Salvator Rosa - Lucrezia as Poetry, c. 1641
Lucrezia as Poetry, ca.1641


Born on July 21, 1615, Salvator Rosa was an Italian Baroque painter from Arenella, near Naples. Rosa is one of the only artists from the era to have had an influence on the Romantic artists, namely Turner, for his emotionally charged landscapes and highly independent attitude of being an artist, often rejecting lucrative commissions and only painting "my brushes when I am in ecstasy". An accomplished poet, he wrote many satires and was highly cynical in matters of the heart and marriage, quoted as saying that Un buon cavallo e una bella donna sono due care bestie— a good horse and a beautiful woman are two dear beasts.

This painting above of his wife, Lucrezia shows a stylized yet perceptive manner of portraiture. Judging by her appearance she was younger than him by more than a few years. This image here from Wikipedia is not the best for detail but it illustrates Rosa's understanding of body language and facial expression.


Salvatore Rosa 001b
Astraias' Farewell to the Shepards, ca.1645

Here in the landscape is where Rosa shines. Look at the warm earth tones of the home with the dramatic curve of the tree in the foreground contrasts with the light blue of the background sky. Rosa has a style that is reminiscent of Tiepolo, but an earthier, Napolitano style.


Salvator Rosa - Grotto with Cascades - WGA20048
Grotto with Cascades, ca.1640

A astonishing landscape, Rosa conjures a capricious dream-like world of chiaroscuro and nature. It is not difficult to see how the Romantics were inspired here. A simple palette of warm yellows and greens with deep shadows, Rosa demonstrates that less is definitely more when you paint from the heart.


Demokrit, hensunken i betragtninger
Democritis, Absorbed in Thought, ca. 1651

This has the flavor and feel of a Renaissance era, like a dark Giorgione yet with a smoky atmosphere, lost in clutter and thought. Rosa heightens the claustrophobia with a dominant vertical composition, and dark muted tones except for the yellows of the urn and cowskull. Considered by many to be the father of science, here Rosa depicts him in chaos, a very dark interpretation of a brilliant mind in the ancient world.




The ghost of Samuel appearing to Saul in the Witch of Endor, ca.1668

Rosa's golden light returns here in a scene that is more reminiscent of a fantasy novel than a Baroque painting, and I am not certain of the history behind this work at all. I love the contrast of action with stillness here. Rosa demonstrates superb skill as story teller and painter with deft ease.


Landscape with Tobit and the Angel, ca.1670

The chiaroscuro of Rosa comes to life here once again. The towering clouds in the background heighten the drama. The angled tree to the left is touched by warm sunlight, as is the edge of the mountain off to the right. Rosa creates his world from a subconscious, deep, dark and surreal...and ahead of his time.

Popular posts from this blog

More Old Master Drawings

There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body.
Robert Henri








Charles Louis Müller, A Standing Female Nude Leaning Against an Arch, ca.1864

Once again I decided to talk about some Old Master drawings and delve into the thinking behind how these drawings may have been created and the knowledge of the artist. In the above drawing by Müller, done in sanguine with white chalk highlights, the figure is drawn from a low view-point, with her body twisting toward her left side while resting on one knee. Note how Müller alternates the bent right leg with the bent left arm to create dynamic contrast. The right arm is also foreshortened and partially in shadow. Expressing power and femininity, this is a study that is Renaissance in spirit, even Mannerist, revealing the female nude as sculptural yet always graceful.







Anton Raphael Mengs, Seated male nude viewed from the back, 1755

One of several Academic nude studies by Mengs, this …

Guercino il Magnifico

Self-Portrait of the Artist holding a Palette, ca.1635


Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino was born on February 8, 1591 in Cento, a small city near Ferrara. He is one of the great masters of the Italian Baroque and poet of painters. Noted for his speed and efficiency, Guercino also worked in a number of mediums with equal passion whether ink, chalk, charcoal, or oils. His nickname, which means 'little cross-eyes' in Italian, derives in part from an apocryphal childhood accident where he supposedly awoke from a deep sleep as a child from a loud scream that caused his eyes to cross. Another story says something was thrown into his eyes. At any rate, he was self-taught as an artist from as early as nine years old and by his early teens was discovered by the eldest of the Carracci where he would spend some time at the Accademia Degli Incamminati before venturing out on his own. Despite his apparent 'handicap', his vision and talent would make him a giant that few…

Pompeo Batoni

Apollo and two Muses, 1719

Giant of the Rococo and early Neoclassicism, Pompeo Batoni was born on January 25, 1708 in Lucca, Italy. Immensely popular in his time, his name sadly is not commonly recognized today because like many Old Masters, his work is not defined by one or two singular masterpieces but by an oeuvre that is overall, incredible. Batoni is something of an anomaly in that he had the midas touch in every genre he worked in, whether portraiture, mythological, and biblical. He trained under a few painters, notably Sebastiano Conca yet he quickly fused his own style together by reinterpreting Classicism with his own vigor for dynamic posing, color and anatomy that he felt was lacking in many artists of the Rococo. His reputation as a portraitist in Rome was highly successful, particularly for many British patrons of the Grand Tour who had heard of Batoni by word of mouth and sought his genius.

In Apollo and two Muses above Batoni seems to conjure mythology and Classicism w…