Massimo Stanzione (Naples 1585-1656) Saint Peter preaching, oil on canvas, 51.5 x 86.8 cm, framed
possibly collection of Don Giuseppe Carafa, Duca di Maddaloni (d. 1647), Naples (according to literature);
sale, Semenzato, Rome, 7 October 1988, lot 44 (as Massimo Stanzione);
sale, Finarte, Rome, 9 May 1995, lot 84 (as Massimo Stanzione);
Private European collection
S. Schütze, T. C. Willette, Massimo Stanzione: l’opera completa, Naples 1992, p. 225, cited under cat. no. A73.I., not illustrated
The present painting is the preparatory study for one of the frescoes originally at the centre of the vaulted ceiling of the church of San Paolo Maggiore, Naples. The ceiling was painted with scenes from the lives of the Apostles Peter and Paul, executed by Massimo Stanzione with the assistance of Agostino Beltrano between 1642 and 1644. The ceiling was severely damaged during World War II and the majority of the frescoes were lost and the original appearance of the ceiling is known from photographs.
The series of seventeen modelli related to the stories of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is recorded in the 1648 inventory of the collection of Don Giuseppe Carafa, who died in 1647 during the revolt of Masaniello (see G. Labrot, Italian Inventories 1: Collection of paintings in Naples 1600-1780, 1992, p. 76, no. 14). This group is also described in another inventory of the collection of October 1649: ‘Decesette quadri di Massimo dell’opera di S. Paolo cornice indorata’ [‘Seventeen pictures by Massimo of the works of St. Paul gilded frames’] (see G. Labrot, Ibid., p. 83 no. 42). These modelli presumably entered the Carafa collection thanks to the mediation of Gregorio Carafa, the Provost of the monastery of San Paolo at the time the commission was given to Stanzione.
Massimo Stanzione was mainly a painter of frescoes and altarpieces; his production was substantial, and his following of students and imitators was instrumental in making him the leading Neapolitan painter of the first half of the seventeenth century. He was known as the great rival of Jusepe de Ribera, and for the greater part of the 1630s and 1640s, he and Ribera dominated art production in Naples. The rich use of colour and idealism deployed by Stanzione definitively influenced many local artists and remained distinctive into the 1670s, influencing the first works of Francesco Solimena (1657–1747). The surviving documents concerning Stanzione’s large scale projects indicate that he employed artists from his studio as assistants, according to the traditional practices of painters importance. A certain number of painters were trained in Stanzione’s studio, among them, Agostino Beltrano, Pacecco De Rosa, Francesco Guarino and Bernardo Cavallino.