At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Luca Giordano – artist

Talented Neapolitan was renowned for being a fast worker


Luca Giordano was influenced by Caravaggio
Luca Giordano was influenced by Caravaggio
Luca Giordano, the most celebrated and prolific Neapolitan painter of the late 17th century, was born on this day in 1634 in Naples.

His nicknames were Luca Fa Presto - "Luca work faster" - said to derive from the way his father, the copyist Antonio Giordano, used to admonish him, Fulmine (the Thunderbolt) because of his speed, and Proteus, because he was reputed to be able to imitate the style of almost any other artist.

Giordano’s output both in oils and in frescoes was enormous and he is said to have once painted a large altarpiece in just one day.

He was influenced at the start of his career by Jose de Ribera, who he was apprenticed to, and he also assimilated Caravaggio’s style of dramatic intensity.

But after Giordano had travelled to Rome, Florence and Venice, his style underwent a profound change. The influence of Pietro da Cortona’s frescoes in the Pitti Palace in Florence can be detected in Giordano’s huge ceiling fresco in the ballroom of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, which he completed in 1683, and he became noted for his showy use of colour.

He went to Spain in 1692 as court painter to Charles II and stayed there till 1702. The frescoes in El Escorial are often claimed to be his best works, but there are nearly 50 paintings by him in the Prado in Madrid, which are evidence of his huge output.

Detail from Giordano's ceiling fresco at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardo in Florence
Detail from Giordano's ceiling fresco at
the Palazzo Medici-Riccardo in Florence
After his return to Naples he continued to paint prolifically. His last great work there was the ceiling of the Cappella del Tesoro in San Martino, begun on his return to the city in 1702 and completed in 1704.

Many of Giordano’s other works in Naples were destroyed during the Second World War.

His St Benedict cycle, painted in 1677 in the abbey of Monte Cassino in Lazio, was entirely destroyed.

But his painting of Christ expelling the Traders from the Temple, painted in the monastery church of Girolamini (or Gerolamini) next to the Duomo in Naples, miraculously survived. It is full of expressive lazzaroni, Neapolitan beggars, who Giordano would have seen every day in the surrounding streets while he was working at the church.

Giordano died in Naples in 1705 and was buried in a tomb in the Church of Santa Brigida, where he had previously painted the cupola. He was to have a profound influence on many Italian artists who came after him.

The Palazzo Medici-Riccardi
The Palazzo Medici-Riccardi
Travel tip:

Construction of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence was begun in 1444 to provide a home for the Medici family and the headquarters for their banking business. It was later sold to the wealthy Riccardi family. Part of the palace now open to the public includes the room where Giordano painted his frescoes between 1682 and 1685.

Travel tip:


The 17th century church of Santa Brigida in Naples had to have a dome that was no more than nine metres high, otherwise it would have obstructed artillery fire from Castel Nuovo. The fresco of a vivid sky executed by Giordano on the cupola cleverly creates a feeling of immense space. The artist’s tomb can be found in the left transept of the church.

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