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Francesco Solimena (Naples 1657-1747)
Property from a Private Collection
Francesco Solimena (Naples 1657-1747)

Abraham and Melchizedek above a roundel of Fortitude

Francesco Solimena (Naples 1657-1747)
Abraham and Melchizedek above a roundel of Fortitude
oil on canvas
21 5/8 x 42 ½ in. (54.8 x 107.9 cm.)
with Colnaghi, London, by 1958.
Professor Michael Jaffé, and by descent to the present owners.
F. Bologna, Francesco Solimena, Naples, 1958, pp. 82 and 256, fig. 110.
M.A. Pavone, 'Gli ultimi studi su Angelico Solimena', Archeologia e arte in Campania, Salerno, 1993, p. 271.
M.A. Pavone, Pittori napoletani della prima metà del Settecenta. Dal documento all'opera, Naples, 2008, p. 53.
S. Carotenuto, Francesco Solimena. Dall'attività giovanile agli anni della maturità, Rome, 2015, pp. 208-209, fig. 5.14.
N. Spinosa, Francesco Solimena (1657-1747) e le Arti a Napoli, Rome, 2018, p. 494, no. 230.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Italian Art and Britain, 2 January - 6 March 1960, no. 372.
Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, on loan until 2019.

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Henry Pettifer
Henry Pettifer

Lot Essay

This exquisite canvas is dated by Nicola Spinosa to the late 1680s. It is closely related to the decoration for the soprarchi that Solimena completed in 1697-8 in the church of the Girolamini in Naples, at the entrance to both transepts. Above the left-hand arch is Abraham and Melchizedek, closely related to the picture under discussion, and above the right, Moses and David in armour. Although Ferdinando Bologna had dated these frescoes to 1720-30, Spinosa moves them, in his recent catalogue, to rather earlier in Solimena’s career when the influence of Giordano and Pietro da Cortona is still felt, placing them at the same moment he completed the canvases, also soprarchi, for the side chapels in the church of the Santi Apostoli (Spinosa, op. cit., no. 122).
The story of Abraham and Melchizedek is told in Genesis 14, in the aftermath of the Battle of the Vale of Siddim. Abraham waged war against Chedorlaomer, the King of Sodom, emerging victorious and freeing his nephew, Lot, who had been taken prisoner. Melchizedek, King of Salem, whose name means ‘king of righteousness’, blessed Abraham after the battle, and received a tenth of the plunder. The mysterious figure of Melchizedek has been the focus of much interpretation, his role being understood as a precursor to, or identifiable with, Christ.

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