"Terribile Disegno" and "Eroico Componimento" : Mattia Preti's Artistic Practices and their Reception in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Italy
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The following study examines the artistic strategies of the Italian Baroque painter Mattia Preti (1613-99) in conjunction with their early reception in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italy. In addition to studying the first descriptions of the painter's art and his early biographers' characterization of his style, Bernardo De Dominici's comprehensive "Vita del Cavalier Fra' Mattia Preti" is analyzed in order to establish Preti's place in the history of Neapolitan Baroque painting. In so doing, descriptions of the painter's art are compared and contrasted with those of his contemporaries. Following the investigation of the early sources and biographies, the painter's strategies are studied through selected paintings executed between circa 1650 and 1680. These include such works as the Aquila 'Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew', the London 'Wedding at Cana', the Naples 'Feast of Absalom', and the Siena 'Canonization of St. Catherine'. The case studies highlight a number of practices the artist used to distinguish himself from his peers. In sum, this study argues that the early biographical accounts, while only partially conveying the breadth of the painter's art, function as a point of departure for accessing and comprehensively examining his representational strategies. Ultimately, this dissertation demonstrates that Preti was an artist who actively and continuously experimented with a range of pictorial possibilities.