IL MARTIRIO DI SANT’ORSOLA (THE MARTYRDOM OF SAINT URSULA)

On the second floor of Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, the elegant Sala degli Stucchi (“Hall of Stuccoes”) hosts the jewel of the permanent collection of the Gallerie d’Italia – Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano in Naples: we are speaking of the Martirio di Sant’Orsola (“The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula”), Caravaggio’s last work, which depicts the defining moment in the slaying of Ursula, transfixed by an arrow shot by the king to whom she had refused to give herself.

In 1610, Michelangelo Merisi found himself in Naples for the second time in his life, after his 1606-1607 sojourn; he painted several public and private works here, including the Martyrdom, commissioned by Genoese collector Marco Antonio Doria. The painting was dispatched to its new owner in a rush with its paint still wet – thus giving rise to its complicated preservation history.

The painting arrived safely in Genoa – where it was received almost tepidly, amongst general indifference – in June of the year 1610. It remained in the city of the Doria family until 1832, when it finally returned to Naples in the wake of complex inheritance issues.

 

Watch the video to learn more about Ursula’s history and the adventures of the painting until it was purchased for the bank collections.