By Ioannis Tzortzakakis and Jean Marie Carey
Architect and painter Ferdinando Sanfelice died in Naples on 1 April 1748. Associated with Late Baroque or Rococo Napolitano styles, the effect of his buildings came not through the juxtaposition of decorative features, but through an imaginative use of the architectural elements at his disposal.
Born into a noble family, Sanfelice began studying law, which later he abandoned to join the workshop of the Baroque painter and architect Francesco Solimena (1657 – 1747). There he gained the nickname Vaccaro.
Bernardo de Dominici (1683 – 1759) gives us the main source for Sanfelice’s life and work in his book Vite de’ pittori, scultori, ed architetti Napoletani (1745, Vol. III, pp. 639-659). De Dominici described Sanfelice as:
Of high stature, of robust and well-proportioned complexion, with white skin, black eyes and hair pulling on the blonde.
He excelled in three areas: architecture (both secular and ecclesiastical), design and the preparation of temporary displays; while he became famous for his staircases and soon one of the principal architects in Naples in the first half of the 18th century. His artistic legacy can be seen in Naples, Capodimonte, Capua, Pozzuoli, Salerno, Nola, Ottaviano and Nardò, Apulia. Sanfelice was born in Naples, 18 February 1675.
Reference: Daniela Campanelli, “Sanfelice, Ferdinando” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.
Portrait Ferdinando Sanfelice, 1735, probably by Francesco Solimena.
Portal of Palazzo Pignatelli in Monteleone (Puglia).
Campanile (bell tower) of Santa Annunziata in Salerno.
Portal of Palazzo Filomarino in Naples.
The staircases in Palazzo dello Spagnolo in Naples.
The staircases in the Palazzo Serra di Cassano in Naples.
Further reading: Elena Papagna (2015) «Feste di piazza e cerimonie di palazzo nella Napoli borbonica : le celebrazioni per la nascita della real prole », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome – Italie et Méditerranée modernes et contemporaines [En ligne] 127-1, mis en ligne le 16 septembre 2015, consulté le 01 avril 2017. DOI : 10.4000/mefrim.2194.
Anthony Blunt (1975) Neapolitan Baroque and Rococo Architecture (Zwemmer Studies in Architecture), London: A. Zwemmer. Reprinted in 1987 by Harper Collins.