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.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Michelangelo Cerquozzi – painter

Battle scenes brought fame and riches to Baroque artist


Cerquozzi's painting Scena di battaglia is typical of the works  that earned him the nickname Michelangelo delle Battaglie
Cerquozzi's painting Scena di battaglia is typical of the works
 that earned him the nickname Michelangelo delle Battaglie
Michelangelo Cerquozzi, the Baroque painter, was born on this day in 1602 in Rome.

He was to become famous for his paintings of battles, earning himself the nickname of Michelangelo delle Battaglie - Michelangelo of the Battles. 

Cerquozzi was born into a well-off family as his father was a successful leather merchant. He started his artistic training at the age of 12 in the studio of Giuseppe Cesari, a history painter, with whom the young Caravaggio trained when he first arrived in Rome.

Not much is known about Cerquozzi’s early work, although he is thought to have been influenced by the Flemish and Dutch artists active in Rome at the time.

As well as battles, Cerquozzi painted small, religious and mythological works and some still life scenes.

Cerquozzi's Soldiers Playing Dice is now in a private collection
Cerquozzi's Soldiers Playing Dice is now in
a private collection
Cerquozzi joined the Accademia di San Luca in 1634 and, although he did not follow their strict rules, he started gradually gaining recognition for his work.

He secured commissions from prominent Roman patrons, including representatives of the Barberini and Colonna families.

His only public commission in Rome was for a lunette depicting the Miracle of Saint Francis of Paolo in the cloister of the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, which has sadly been lost.

He is also believed to have painted altarpieces for some churches in Sardinia.

The nickname Michelangelo delle Battaglie came from his paintings of battle scenes. He was considered to be one of the best of the Bamboccianti, the name given to the painters active in Rome in the 17th century.  

Many of them painted contemporary scenes featuring workers and soldiers, in action, in play and at rest.

A good example of this is Cerquozzi’s painting of Soldiers Playing Dice, painted in the 1630s and now in a private collection.  Despite featuring lower class subjects, many of his paintings went on to sell for high prices to collectors.

His battle paintings were on small canvases and often provided a close up viewpoint of cavalry scenes showing the horses and men on the move.

Cerquozzi's Rivolta di Masaniello can be seen at the Galleria Spada, near Campo dei Fiori in Rome
Cerquozzi's Rivolta di Masaniello can be seen at the
Galleria Spada, near Campo dei Fiori in Rome
One example is a work, simply titled Scena di battaglia – Battle Scene – which is housed at the Galleria Megna, in Via del Babuino in Rome.

Cerquozzi collaborated with the painter Viviano Codazzi in 1648 on a canvas depicting the Revolt of Masaniello, which is currently at the Galleria Spada in Rome. The painting shows the anti-Spanish rebellion of 1647 in the Piazza del Mercato in Naples with the leader, Masaniello, on a horse in the middle of the picture.

Cerquozzi never married and remained childless. He died, a wealthy man, in 1660 in his house near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

The Spanish Steps, and, on the corner,  Keats's house
The Spanish Steps, and, on the corner,  Keats's house
Travel tip:

Cerquozzi lived near Piazza di Spagna in Rome for most of his adult life. Piazza di Spagna gets its name from the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See which has been there since the 17th century. More than a century after Cerquozzi’s death the area at the foot of the Spanish Steps became popular with English aristocrats on the Grand Tour who stayed there while in Rome. In 1820, the English poet John Keats spent the last few months of his life in a small room overlooking the Spanish Steps and died there of consumption in February 1821, aged just 25. The house is now a museum and library dedicated to the Romantic poets.

The Church of Santa Maria del Carmine watches over Piazza del Mercato
The Church of Santa Maria del Carmine
watches over Piazza del Mercato
Travel tip:

Piazza del Mercato in Naples, where Cerquozzi depicted Masaniello leading the anti-Spanish rebellion, has long been the focal point of commercial life in the city due to its location not far from the port. Overlooked by the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, it was the setting for the execution of Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel and her fellow revolutionaries in 1799. It was also the location for the beheading in 1268 of Corradino, a 16-year-old King of Naples.





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