By Livia Lupi

Italian painter Salvator Rosa died on 15 March 1673 in Rome. He is famous for his landscapes and battle pictures, which led many critics to define him as a ‘proto-romantic’. He was also an accomplished poet, satirist, actor and musician.

Born in Arenella, he trained in Naples, coming under the influence of painter and engraver José de Ribera, also known as ‘lo Spagnoletto’ (the little Spaniard). After achieving fame in Naples, Rosa moved to Rome in 1639, where he became famous not only for his paintings but for his acting too. As part of a performance in the Carnival of 1639, he satirised the famous architect and sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who therefore became a powerful enemy of Rosa’s. 

After some time in Rome, Rosa moved to Florence, where he was under the patronage of Cardinal Giovanni Carlo de’ Medici. The painter and actor’s Florentine house became the hub of a literary, musical and artistic circle named Accademia dei Percossi, where Rosa cultivated his acting skills. In this period he also produced a series of unusual tondi exploring the theme of witchcraft.

In 1649 he permanently moved back to Rome, concentrating more and more on religious and historical subjects rather than landscapes. From 1660, he worked on etchings, producing numerous successful prints. His literary work was published posthumously in 1710.

Reference: Web Gallery of Art

Further reading: Wendy Wassing Roworth. “A Date for Salvator Rosa’s Satire on Painting and the Bamboccianti in Rome.” The Art Bulletin, 63, no. 4 (1981): 611-617.

Helen Langdon. Salvator Rosa. London: Dulwich Picture Gallery and Paul Holberton, 2010.

Jonathan Scott. Salvator Rosa: His Life and Times. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

Self-portrait, c. 1647, Oil on canvas, 99 x 79 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Self-Portrait as Philosopher of Silencec. 1645. Oil on canvas, 116 x 94 cm. National Gallery, London.

Grotto with Cascades1639-40. Oil on canvas, 65 x 49 cm. Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence.

River Landscape with Apollo and the Cumean Sibyl, c.1655. Oil on canvas, 174 x 259 cm. Wallace Collection, London.

The Shade of Samuel Appears to Saul, 1668. Oil on canvas, 275 x 191 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

The Prodigal Son, 1651-55. Oil on canvas, 254 x 201 cm. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

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