The 19th Century

The Schools of Landscape Painting: Posillipo and Resina

The Sala degli Uccelli houses a considerable amount of works made by exponents of the so-called Posillipo School:

These artists presented themselves as heirs to the foreign painters who had visited Naples on their Grand Tour in the 1700s, but also as the expression – in the vein of Corot and Turner – of a romantic, emotional and sentimental approach to nature.

The experiences of the Resina School came to the forefront in the latter half of the 19th century. The school was named for the town at the foot of Mount Vesuvius where painters would gather to paint en plein air, using innovative processes reminiscent of those used by the Tuscan Macchiaioli and the French Impressionists.

The same period saw Nicola Palizzi coming to the forefront; the artist appeared to draw on the experimental vein of the Posillipo School to forestall the innovative results of the Resina School thanks to his effective use of the “macchia”, or spot. The landscapes he painted after his 1856 trip to Paris are reminiscent of Corot, like in I mietitori (“The Reapers”), but also of Courbet and the Barbizon School, like in Paesaggio con laghetto (“Landscape with Pond”).

Faces and Figures: Artists, Models and Women of the People

With its series of figure paintings, the Sala Pompeiana (“Pompeiian Hall”) offers a change in tone from a formal and iconographic point of view. Amongst the most noteworthy:

  • Ritratto del pittore Vincenzo Migliaro (“Portrait of the Painter Vincenzo Migliaro”, 1876), painted by his contemporary Gaetano Esposito as a token of friendship
  • the two Self-Portraits (c. 1868 and c. 1877) by Francesco Paolo Michetti, who would go on to play a leading role on the national stage also for his connection to writer Gabriele D’Annunzio
  • Dama col ventaglio (“Woman with a Fan”, 1874) by Domenico Morelli: this masterpiece is the transfigured image of Anna Cutolo, a popular Neapolitan model who would marry Vincenzo Gemito

These artists gave expression to a completely Mediterranean – indeed Neapolitan – femininity and sensuality. The thickness of the paint, spread with strong brushstrokes that thicken the layers of colour, convey this impetuous vitality – overflowing with physicality and sentiment, joy and suffering alike – to great effect.

Perspective Painting

The next section showcases important examples of the so-called “perspective painting” that enjoyed great success all across Europe, as it satisfied the growing interest in places that had been the scene of historic and religious events.

Emblematic of this genre are:

  • Vincenzo Abbato’s Interno di Palazzo San Giacomo a Napoli (“Interior of Palazzo San Giacomo in Naples”, c. 1830)
  • Il coro della chiesa di Santa Maria Donnaregina Nuova (“The Choir of the Church of Santa Maria Donnaregina Nuova”, second half of the 19th century) by Domenico Battaglia, which highlights the allure of rites that once took place beneath the ancient vaults of the church choir, at the time decorated by partially-lost frescoes and furnishings
  • La pioggia (“The Rain”, 1864) by Francesco Netti offers a melancholy view of the city

Mention must also be made of the brilliant scenes from modern life painted by Carlo Brancaccio, Francesco Mancini, Francesco Paolo Diodati and Vincenzo Migliaro, captured along the streets of modern Naples, such as the elegant via Toledo, or in front of the Villa Comunale park.

Vincenzo Gemito: ’o scultore pazzo

The Sala della Fedeltà (“Hall of Loyalty”) – also known as the Sala di Intrattenimento (“Hall of Entertainment”) – houses works by Vincenzo Gemito, a pivotal figure in the art collection of the Gallerie d’Italia in Naples. Terracotta figures, bronzes and drawings attesting to his extraordinary artistic path are interwoven with the personal tragedy of a life undermined by a profound mental instability that led to long breaks in his creative activity.