Male Academy by Francesco Solimena


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Vigorous anatomy study by the main Neapolitan Baroque painter.

Male Academy by Francesco Solimena.

Francesco Solimena

Campanie 1657 – Naples 1747

Male Academy

Inscribed F. Solimena alla cupola de Gerolaminiand Solimene.

Black chalk.

427 x 257 mm – 16 13/16 x 10 1/8 in.

Provenance – Anonymous 18th century collection. 

This academy of a standing man by the leading exponent of Neapolitan 18th  century painting, bears testimony of the high regard in which Francesco Solimena hold anatomical study. A prolific artist, Solimena had organized a workshop in his house, “scuola rigorosa”, in which he passed on to his pupils an efficient working method based on drawing, in particular drawing from life.

The use of black chalk allowed him to better emphasize the effects of light and shadow that are so typical of his painting, the chiaroscuro of which forms a structural element. In observing the heroic muscle structure and specific movement that animates the pose, we see that the study of a nude model is already considered on the basis of its probable use in a painted composition. The anatomical models of Solimena were used on several occasions by his students, in particular by Francesco De Mura, whose figures are often very close to those of his master, a consequence of the common working practices of the studio.

This male figure, seen di sotto in su, cannot be found identically in any work by Francesco Solimena, but the model’s pose is very close to that of many figures in his compositions. The position of the left arm, swaying and contrasted, is especially typical of the artist, as can be seen for example in the central figure of the Rape of Cephalus,a canvas commissioned by Eugene of Savoy for the ceiling of his new palace in Vienna, the Belvedere.

The French inscription Solimene by an unidentified 18th-century hand can be found on other sheets by the artist. It therefore belonged to a well-informed collector who was interested in Neapolitan painting. Solimena regularly enjoyed the patronage and support of an enlightened and knowledgeable French milieu.

Condition report – Very good condition – False margins. Some small traces of old stains.