The Ecstasy of Saint Francis

Pietro Novelli1624/1630

Fondazione Cariplo

Fondazione Cariplo

Formerly in the Marcenaro Collection, where it was attributed to Murillo, this work is described in the catalogue of the earlier section of the Cariplo Collection as produced in or around Genoa in the last twenty years of the 17th century. It does in fact display different influences. Elements of early 17th-century painting from the region of Liguria, as exemplified by the blond angel to the right of St Francis, are combined with references both to Flemish art, in the face of the other angel and the rich handling of colour in general, and to Caravaggio, in the saint’s ecstatic expression. Taken all together, this evidence points unquestionably to the hand of Pietro Novelli, also known as Il Monrealese, the leading Sicilian painter of the 17th century. The influences to which Novelli was exposed during his years of training in Palermo included the frescoes by painters from Liguria in the Oratory of Santo Stefano Protomartire, Caravaggio’s Adoration of the Shepherds, and above all Van Dyck, who was in the city in 1624 and produced the Madonna of the Rosary altarpiece a few years later for the Oratory of San Domenico, whose confraternity Novelli joined in 1630. An echo of this can be discerned in the vigorous handling of light and in the profile of the angel, which is reminiscent of the graceful female saint in the foreground of Van Dyck’s great canvas. Support for this attribution is also provided by comparison with the depiction of David with the head of Goliath in the Getty Museum in Malibu, where extraordinary similarities can be seen both in the gesture of the left hand of the male figures, which are practically identical, and in the severed head of Goliath, which is almost a mirror image of Saint Francis. Further evidence comes from the painting of the Resurrection in the Prado, where the angel on the left reappears in different forms. Like the painting in the Getty Museum, this is an early work produced before 1630, when the artist probably made a trip to Rome and Naples, after which his painting displayed a greater degree of naturalism deriving from acquaintance with the work of Jusepe de Ribera, also known as Lo Spagnoletto.

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  • Title: The Ecstasy of Saint Francis
  • Creator: Pietro Novelli, known as Monrealese
  • Date: 1624/1630
  • Physical Dimensions: w101 x h128,5 cm (Without frame)
  • Exhibition: Museo Diocesano, Corso di Porta Ticinese, 95, Milano
  • Provenance: Cariplo Foundation, 1976, Caterina Marcenaro Bequest
  • Type: Painting, oil on canvas
  • Rights: http://www.artgate-cariplo.it/en/disclaimer.html
  • External Link: www.artgate-cariplo.it