The Fall of the Rebel Angels

Luca Giordano1660/1665

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

An unusually large body of work, an apparently easily achieved virtuosity of composition as well as stylistic and technical diversity and improvisation: these are the trademarks of this artist, who worked mainly in Naples but later (1692–1702) also at the royal court of Spain. At the same time, his paintings display – and this applies particularly to the one in Vienna – the dominating influence of the works of José de Ribera. Their appearance is characterised by the use of chiaroscuro, a drastic narrative style and an application of colour that is in part naturalistic (e.g. inspired by the surfaces that are depicted). In addition, Giordano increasingly used Venetian coloration after his stay in the city on the lagoon in 1665. His “style” also changed within a single picture depending on the criteria of content. In the present painting Giordano has used great richness of invention to present the anguished downfall of those who have fallen from grace. The red of the fires of Hell is reflected on their bodies, which are depicted with a restless brush in pastose paint. Giordano depicts the archangel, however, in thin, flowing paint as a Classical-Roman figure. Michael is an effortless victor, fighting gracefully and elegantly. It is not known who originally commissioned the altarpiece, which came to Vienna at an early date. The barons Bartolotti von Partenfeld renovated the chapel of St. Louis in Vienna’s Minorite Church in the late 17th century, and in 1698 donated Giordano’s work for the new altar. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: The Fall of the Rebel Angels
  • Creator: Luca Giordano
  • Date Created: 1660/1665
  • Style: Italian Baroque
  • Provenance: in the Gallery since 1785
  • Physical Dimensions: w2830 x h4190 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 350
  • Artist Biography: "The [Spanish] king showed him [Luca Giordano] a picture, expressing his concern that he had only one. Lucas painted another . . . exactly in [that] manner. . . . The king in return knighted him, gave him several palaces," reported a biographer. Giordano had two nicknames: Proteus, for his ability to imitate almost any artist's style, and Luca fa presto ("Luca go quickly"), probably derived from prodding by his painter-copyist father. Until Pablo Picasso, Giordano was the most prolific artist who ever lived. Giordano may have trained with Jusepe de Ribera, whose dark, dramatic manner deeply influenced him, but he also studied earlier art. He began to develop his light, airy, delicately colored style in the late 1650s, synthesizing Pietro da Cortona's Baroque decorations in Rome with the vibrant hues of Venetian art and Peter Paul Rubens. From 1692 to 1702, he was Spain's court painter; Charles II said only the facile Giordano could tackle the huge ceilings of his Escorial palace. With his joyous spirit, Giordano anticipated the Rococo style. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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