Friday, March 10, 2017

Christian and Pagan Pictures from 17th-century Italy

Anonymous follower of Caravaggio (Rome)
Martyrdom of St Peter
ca. 1620
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Cavaliere d'Arpino (Rome)
Archangel Michael
ca. 1629
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Angelo Caroselli (Rome)
Virgin and Child with St Elizabeth and St John the Baptist
17th century
oil on canvas
private collection

Morazzone (Milan)
Pontius Pilate with Christ and Barabbas
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Simone Cantarini (Bologna)
before 1648
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

My father Apollo admired Hyacinthus above all others. 
Forsaking his shrine at Delphi, the navel of earth, he haunted
the unwalled city of Sparta, close to the river Eurotas. 
His arrows and lyre were abandoned; his normal pursuits were forgotten.
He'd willingly carry his favorite's nets, hold on to his hounds,
or follow him over the rugged ridges of dangerous mountains.
His passion was fueled by all the hours that they spent together.
One day, when the sun was about at its zenith, halfway between
the twilight of dawn and dusk, the two of them stripped off their clothes
and anointed their bodies with gleaming oil, to compete with each other
in throwing the discus. Apollo went first; he poised the plate
and launched it into the sky, where it severed the clouds in its path.
A long time later the disc descended to solid earth,
revealing the skill no less than the physical strength of the thrower. 
At once, unthinkingly, carried away by his sporting zeal,
the Laconian boy dashed forward to pick the plate up, but it landed
hard on the soil with tremendous force and then rebounded
straight to his beautiful face. The god went as deathly pale
as the lad himself and caught his arms as he fell to the ground. 
To save the life of his friend, he desperately rubbed the body, 
dabbed the wound and applied his herbs; but all his medical
arts were in vain. His lover's injury couldn't be healed. 
In a watered garden, if somebody breaks the stem of a violet,
poppy or lily with yellow stamens thick in its cup,
the flower will droop and suddenly lower its shriveling head:
it can't stand up any more; it is gazing down on the earth:
so with the dying youth. His disabled neck
too weak to bear the weight it was carrying, sank to his shoulder.

 from Orpheus' Song: Hyacinthus in Book Ten of Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by David Raeburn (2004)

Giovanni Francesco Romanelli (Rome)
Hercules and Omphale
ca. 1655-60
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Domenico Fetti (Rome)
Parable of the Sower
ca. 1622
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Bernardo Cavallino (Naples)
Meeting of St Anne and St Joachim
before 1656
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Carlo Maratti (Rome)
Portrait of Pope Clement IX
ca. 1669
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Andrea Celesti (Venice)
Madonna and Child with St Anthony of Padua
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Domenico Piola (Genoa)
Stoning of Stephen
ca. 1650
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

attributed to Jacopo Vignali (Florence)
Abraham and the three Angels
before 1664
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Rome)
Queen of Sheba before Solomon
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Luca Giordano (Naples)
Abduction of Europa
ca. 1675-77
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
                                                  The princess Europa
gazed in wonder upon this gentle and beautiful creature.
At first, despite his unthreatening looks, she was frightened to touch him;
but soon she approached with a garland of flowers for his gleaming head.
Her lover was blissful and licked her hands as a prelude to other
and sweeter pleasures, pleasures he barely, barely could wait for.
Now he would gambol beside her, prancing around on the green grass;
now he would rest his snow-white flank in the golden sand.
As little by little her fears were allayed, he would offer his front
to be stroked by her maidenly hand or his horns to be decked with fresh garlands.
The princess even ventured to sit with her legs astride
on the back of the bull, unaware whose sides she was resting her thighs on;
when Jupiter, gradually edging away from the land and away
from the dry shore, place his imposter's hooves in the shallowest waves,
then advanced out further, and soon he was bearing the spoils of his victory
out in mid-ocean.

 from Book Two of Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by David Raeburn (2004)