Saint James Major in Glory

Francesco Solimena
Canale 1657 - Naples 1747
Saint James Major in Glory
c. 1695
205 x 180 mm

Provenance: London, Sothebys, 25 November 1971, lot 84 (as Mattia Preti); London, Baskett & Day.

Bibliography: De Nicola in Cava de' Tirreni 2014, p. 88, in cat. n. 19, fig. 1.

The sheet previously attributed to Mattia Preti (see provenance), was correctly recognized as Solimena and linked to the sketch (cat. no. D20.1), already in the Romano collection, by Enrico De Nicola (Florence, Sotheby's, 12 -15 October 2009, lot 1527, as Malinconico's circle; see Bibliography).

The drawing, calibrated and at the same time executed with an energetic and confident line, demonstrates, as De Nicola noted, "a phase of marked interest in the work of Mattia Preti".

I consider this sheet (see also the Assumption, today of unknown location, cat. no. D11) of particular interest, precisely because it demonstrates Solimena's clear debt, not only pictorial but also graphic, to Preti's style, with a strong and dramatic accentuation of chiaroscuro, and with the use of short and parallel lines, in addition to the choice of sanguine; a technique much loved by Preti, and which allows greater variations in the tone of the black pencil. I do not believe that Solimena could have carried out similar studies just by looking at the work painted by Preti without studying the original drawings and their style, which are the clear and undeniable source of inspiration. We know from De Dominici that he possessed them, and held them in high regard.

In fact, the biographer recalls an exchange of drawings in which he gave "more drawings of the Calabrian Cavalier" to Solimena (De Dominici 1742-45, 2008, ***, p. 1175).

This assimilation of the Pretian style, in this case, appears even more evident in the drawing rather than in the sketch, mentioned above, in which many Jordanian elements can still be seen.