By Adriana Baranello

Domenico Morelli, who was both a painter and politically engaged reformer, died on 13 August 1901 in Naples. Morelli is one of the most important Neapolitan painters of the 19th century. Moving between Naples and Florence, Morelli aligned himself with the Macchiaoli, a group of painters who rejected painterly realism and neoclassicism. Morelli’s paintings became progressively less academic and more expressive, especially with regards to his use of color.

Morelli and the Macchiaoli (such as Telemaco Signorini, Giovanni Fatori and Silvesto Lega) were deeply invested in the idea of Italy, and the united, Italian nation. They were interested in social and historical problems as they related to the process of state-building. (Italy became a nation in 1861, under the reign Vittorio Emanuele and the House of Savoy.) A such, Morelli, along with Filippo Palizzi, during their efforts to reform the Istituto di Belle Arti in Naples used the unification as a reference point for redefining the role of the artist who was engaged with and participated in the new civil society of the nation.

“Domenico Morelli,” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani a cura di Valeria Vagnoli, Treccani, vol. 76, 2012.

Self-portrait, 1864, oil on canvas. Corridoio Vasariano, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Cristo che veglia gli apostoli (Christ Wakes the Apostles), 1900, oil on canvas. Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna, Rome.

Le tentazioni di Sant’Antonio (The Temptation of St Anthony), 1878, oil on canvas. Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna, Rome.

Ritratto di donna in rosso (Portrait of a Lady in Red), circa 1855, oil on canvas. Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna, Rome.

Dama con ventaglio (Woman with Fan), 1873, oil on canvas. Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples.

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