ART 4 2-DAY 02 July v.8.60
DEATH: 1660 MAFFEI
BIRTH: 1597 ROMBOUTS
Died on 02 July 1660: Francesco Maffei,
painter, active mainly in the Veneto, born in 1610, give or take ten years.
— He probably was trained by his father, Giacomo Maffei, before joining the workshop of the Maganza family in Vicenza. His early works, such as the Ecce homo, were influenced by the eclectic style, between Veronese and the Bassani, of Alessandro Maganza. The Saint Nicholas and the Angel (1626), with colors like those of Veronese, yet lighter, suggests Maffei’s rapid development of an independent style that is both rugged and moving. His interest in narrative, already evident in scenes from the Life of Saint Cajetan, was developed in the later Martyrdom of the Franciscan Minors at Nagasaki (1630). Here, the contrast between the pale, silvery tones of the background and the darker foreground figures is derived from Tintoretto, but the exaggerated Mannerist treatment of the main figures also recalls the art of such French engravers as Jacques Bellange and Pierre Brébiette. At the same time there is also an echo of the extreme stylizations of Giovanni Demio and, in the angels above, the marked influence of Veronese.
— Maffei had a refreshingly individualistic style, carrying on the great painterly tradition of Tintoretto and Bassano, reinforced by the example of Liss, Feti, and Strozzi, to which he added his own note of mysterious and sometimes bizarre fantasy. He painted mythological scenes and also allegorical portraits of local officials.
Maffei's fluid style combined the richness and splendor of the Baroque, the elegance and exaggeration of Mannerism, and his own flair for the visually dramatic. He probably trained in Vicenza with his father and with a local Mannerist painter. Active in Vicenza for most of his career, he also left intermittently to work in other Italian cities, including Venice, Rovido, and Brescia. Maffei specialized in civic allegories, elaborate machines that glorified the region's dignitaries. He painted religious works as well, like Crucifixion Supported by God the Father, where his debt to Jacopo Bassano's figure types and exaggerated lighting is evident.
Maffei painted with a nervous and rapid brush in flashes of brilliant color, often achieving a hallucinatory effect. He studied a wide variety of Baroque and Mannerist painters, including Paolo Veronese, Alessandro Magnasco, Parmigianino, and Jacques Bellange. Tintoretto's attenuated forms and sudden lunges into space were also an influence. Maffei left Vicenza in 1657 and settled in Padua, where he died of the plague. A contemporary critic judged him a painter “not of dwarfs but of giants . . . whose style stupefied everyone.”
Perseus Cuts Off the Medusa's Head (1650, 130x161cm; 720x892pix, 118kb) _ After studying in Vicenza under Maganza, a late Mannerist painter of limited importance, Francesco Maffei turned to the paintings of Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Jacopo Bassano and soon achieved a personal style based on a Baroque reworking of the lessons taught by the great artists of the sixteenth century. Maffei moved to Venice in 1638, was attracted by the painters Liss, Fetti and Strozzi and developed his own version of their free and fanciful modern painting with a gifted, exuberant dreamlike quality. Amongst the most significant examples of this period is the painting of Perseus cutting the head off the Medusa. The figures, painted with impetuous, disdainful passion, crowd on the surface of the picture and are completely lacking in perspective relationship and in precise setting in their surroundings. The bright tones seem to swell as if as the result of some internal pressure, offering themselves as incandescent magma to the light which breaks them up into iridescent chromatic ornamental units. The sensual brightness of the colors underlines the emphatic strain on the links between the figures, lending the whole an emotional theatricality which was amongst the most visionary and unbiassed of the Baroque age in Venice.
–- Rinaldo and the Mirror-Shield (1655, 30x34cm; 845x960pix, 72kb) _ In the 1581 epic poem Gerusalemme Liberata [translation] of Torquato Tasso [11 Mar 1544 – 25 Apr 1595], the legendary medieval knight Rinaldo is bewitched by the beautiful sorceress Armida and lulled into a life of easy sensuality on the Fortunate Isles. His friends, the knights Carlo and Ubaldo, enter her garden and break her spell by showing Rinaldo a magic mirror-shield. His military spirit reawakened, he later rejoins his companions in the enchanted forest.
–- Rinaldo's Conquest of the Enchanted Forest (1655, 30x34cm; 844x960pix, 61kb) _ The medieval Christian knight Rinaldo has entered the enchanted forest, where monstrous apparitions have prevented his men from gathering wood to build their war-machines. Earlier, his companions had rescued him from the sorceress Armida's garden, and now they in turn require his assistance.
Suddenly, hundreds of tree nymphs appear, surrounding Rinaldo, and the sorceress Armida appears from within a large myrtle tree, begging the knight to renew their love. His sword unsheathed, Rinaldo advances to strike the tree, thus overcoming the enchantment and enabling the Crusaders' liberation of Jerusalem to proceed.
Combining themes of chivalric love with tales of Christian heroism, Tasso's poem Gerusalemme Liberata (1581) celebrated the First Crusade of 1099 nearly five hundred years after it had taken place. Some seventy years after the famous book was written, Maffei applied his energetic brushwork and rich color to enhance the drama of Tasso's Renaissance epic.
–- S#> Madonna and Child with Saints Dominic and Catherine, and Angels (39x44cm; 900x1025pix, 273kb) _ This late work by Maffei is a typical example of his somewhat idiosyncratic style. The expressive gestures of his figures and the fluent brushwork are typical of Maffei's mature work: compare, for example, his altarpiece Saint Martin of Tours Bringing a Baby back to Life (1652).
–- Joseph Sold by His Brothers (50x81cm; 775x1200pix, 53kb) — Compare:
_ .Joseph Being Sold by his Brothers (569x700pix, 147kb) by Overbeck [03 Jul 1789 – 12 Nov 1869]
_ Joseph Sold by his Brethren (1838, 31x41cm; 222x300pix, 16kb) by Decamps [1803-1860]
_ Joseph sold to Potiphar (1518, 58x50cm; 1023x875pix, 130kb) by Pontorno [1494-1557]