Painter Stefano Parrocel died on 13 January 1775 in Rome. Known by his surname ‘Le Romain,’ Parrocel was actually born in Avignon, France, as Étienne Parosel. Fascinated by antique sculpture and Seicento Italian art, Parocel moved to Rome in 1717, where he developed a refined style inspired by the elegant classicism of Charles le Brun.
In Rome, he soon received several commissions from local churches, for example the Holy family with Saint Francis and Saint Philp Neri for the church of Santa Maria in Monticelli (1726), and the complete pictorial decoration of the church of San Gregorio della Divina Pietá following its renovation by architect Filippo Bariglioni. A friend, Barigioni also introduced Parrocel to his wife, Margherita Cesanelli, daughter or a rich merchant of rosaries and other religious paraphernalia.
Parrocel’s fame spread through word-of-mouth and the press: in 1730 he painted an altarpiece of Saint Dominic and Francis imploring Christ with the intercession of the Virgin for the convent of the friars minor in Mafra, Portugal; shortly after, the art journal Mercure de France mentioned him in an article as “Étienne fort bon peintre à Rome” (Étienne a very good painter in Rome). Following these successes, he was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca, Rome’s renown painting academy.
In the following years he continued working for Portuguese patrons, including the royal family, as well as for the French cathedral of Carpentras. In 1745 he was asked to repair and restore the ‘oval of the high altar painting’ of the church of the Madonna della Vallicella, namely an oil-on-slate artwork realized by the famous Pieter Paul Rubens between 1606 and 1608. Another achievement was Parrocel’s nomination as Director of the foreign members of the Academia di San Luca, an important role in a city as full of expat artists as Rome was at the time.
In 1770, Parrocel’s wife was sadly struck by lightning and died. Contemporary magazines also reveal widespread confusion on Parrocel’s own life: mistaken for his older cousin Pierre-Ignace, he was thought dead by many. The confusion led some nineteenth century scholars to doubt of the artist’s very existence. Nevertheless, the facts of Parocel’s life and his death on this day in 1775 are confirmed by a reliable biography written by an homonymous direct descendant in 1861.
Reference: Alessandra Imbellone, ‘PARROCEL, Etienne, detto le Romain,’ Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 81 (2014), http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/parrocel-etienne-detto-le-romain_(Dizionario-Biografico)/
Virgin and Child, 1733, oil on canvas, ,Musée Comtadin-Duplessis, Carpentras, France. Source: Livioandronico2013 on Wikimedia Commons.
Nativity, 1739 or 1745, oil on canvas, Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, 1762, oil on canvas, Musée Fesch, Ajaccio, France. Inv. no. 1762.
Two paintings of Putti among the clouds, date unknown, oil on canvas, Musée Fesch, Ajaccio, France. Inv. no. MFA 852.1.850 and MFA 852.1.849. Source: Wikimedia Commons and Musée Fresch.
Peter Paul Rubens with restorations by Stefano Parrocel, Madonna della Vallicella, oil on slate, Church of Santa Maria della Vallicella, Rome.