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In the Light of Naples: The Art of Francesco de Mura, is the first ever retrospective of one of the greatest painters of the Golden Age of Naples. The exhibition is curated by Arthur Blumenthal, who, from 1968–1974, was the first curator of the Chazen Museum of Art—known at that time as the Elvehjem Art Center. The traveling exhibition features two paintings from the Chazen’s permanent collection.
In Naples, Francesco de Mura’s refined and elegant compositions, with their exquisite light and color, heralded the late Baroque style called Rococo, while his later classicist style led to the simplicity and sculptural quality of Neoclassicism. In the Light of Naples reveals the power of De Mura’s work through more than 40 paintings and drawings, including oil sketches of his great frescoes and many of his key paintings. The exhibition, the product of a decade of research, features religious and classical subjects, and portraits.
Nearly a third of De Mura’s works were destroyed in the American and British bombing of Naples during World War II, including, his series of frescoes at the abbey of Monte Cassino; fortunately, the exhibition includes beautiful oil sketches of these lost works.
The indisputable leader in his day of the Neapolitan School and the favorite of the Bourbon King Charles VII (r. 1735–59), Francesco de Mura (1696–1782) was the chief painter of decorative cycles to emerge from the studio of Francesco Solimena (1657–1747), the great Baroque artist. Outstanding works in the exhibit include large oil studies for the frescoes of The Adoration of the Magi (1732) in the apse of the church of the Nunziatella and oil paintings related to the fresco The Assumption of the Virgin (1751) on the ceiling of the same church.
Arthur Blumenthal is Director Emeritus of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, and the author of the exhibition’s companion catalogue, which features essays by leading De Mura scholars. “De Mura’s art demonstrates a sensitivity and spiritual restraint very different from the previous generation of Baroque artists; through this show, we’ll finally be giving this richly deserving artist his due,” said Dr. Blumenthal.
The works are on loan from thirty major American and European museums and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples. The show not only explores the art of De Mura and his contemporaries, but also traces the role of Pio Monte della Misericordia, a charitable institution to which the artist bequeathed 192 artworks, four of which will be in the exhibition.
The exhibition opened at the Cornell and will travel to the Frances Loeb Art Center at Vassar College (April 21–July 2, 2017) after its stay in Madison.
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IMAGE ABOVE: The Visitation, ca. 1752, oil on canvas, 37 × 46 in., Cornell Fine Arts Museum, gift of George H. Sullivan in memory of his parents, acc. no. 1952.34