By Alexis Culotta 

Night falls on a Neapolitan master: Baroque painter Francesco Solimena died 3 May 1747 at the age of 89 in the borough of Barra. Born in nearby Avellino in 1657, Solimena enjoyed his earliest artistic training with his father, Angelo, until he transitioned to the bustling atmosphere of Naples in 1674. It was there that Solimena established a reputation as one of the most significant painters of era. 

Blending his passion for classical themes, in part derived from masters such as Raphael and Annibale Carracci, with the exaggeration of lighting and dynamism seen in the work of precursor Luca Giordano, Solimena became renowned for his unique interpretation of Baroque style and its characteristic tenebrism.

Attracting patronage from aristocrats and royalty across Europe, including King Louis XIV of France, Solimena amassed an impressive fortune. Accordingly, he enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, living in an extravagant palace and even becoming a baron. At the same time, though, he devoted his attentions to his flourishing workshop-cum-academy, where he trained some of the most promising figures of later 18th-century painting.  

Self Portrait, c. 1715. Oil on canvas. 128 by 112 cm. Galleria deli Uffizi, Florence. 

Rebecca at the Well, late 1690s. Oil. 72 by 63 cm. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia. 

The Royal Hunt of Dido and Aeneas, c. 1712-1714. Oil on canvas. 303 by 321 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

An Allegory of Louis XIV, c. 1700. Oil on canvas. 47 by 58.5 cm. National Gallery, London. 

Saint Catherine, c. 1700. Brown ink and wash over black chalk on cream paper. 16 by 10.1 cm. Harvard Art Museums, Massachusetts. 

Saint Thomas Aquinas and Other Saints, c. 1700.  Brown ink and wash over black chalk on cream paper. 39.5 by 39.5 cm. Harvard Art Museums, Massachusetts.

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