These two grand canvases, with distinguished provenance, date to Giordano's maturity. Born to an artist father, who may have worked under Ribera, Giordano’s early biographers present a picture of him as a self-taught talent, who is not mentioned as being schooled in the workshop of a master, but who instead sharpened his skills by copying paintings, frescoes and sculptures in the churches and galleries around Naples, and then later in Rome. He became an artist of the first rank, travelling to Venice and Florence, absorbing the respective influences of each of these cities. From 1692 until 1702 he served as court painter to King Charles II of Spain, where he executed decorative cycles in Toledo cathedral and at the Escorial.
There are at least two smaller versions recorded of the Deianira, including one in Palazzo Pitti (measuring 51 x 66 cm.), which is listed, together with a pendant of Galatea, in the inventory of Ferdinando de’ Medici in 1689, and another (50 x 64.4 cm.) in Burghley House (Ferrari and Scavizzi, op. cit.). The present pair, painted on a much more monumental scale, was sold at Christie’s in 1975, having been displayed at Chatsworth House, and previously at Chiswick House, Lord Burlington’s exceptional Palladian villa in west London. It is possible that these pictures may be the ones recorded by Filippo Baldinucci in Notizia per il signor Luca Giordano a 17 marzo 1681 (1682, pp. 31-32) as being executed by Giordano for Andrea del Rosso in Florence. He lists a Dianira rapita da Nesso Cent.ro a Ercole and Ratto di Proserpina, both measuring 'braccia 2 x 3', a size that would correspond with the Chatsworth pictures (ibid., p. 390).
We are grateful to Giuseppe Scavizzi for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs, and for his assistance in cataloguing the present lot.