Francesco Solimena dominated Neapolitan painting in the first half of the eighteenth century and won admiration for his art throughout the courts of Europe. Influenced early in his career by Luca Giordano and Mattia Preti, he developed a highly personal and dramatic style in the handling of light and shade.
As a result of a probable visit to Rome in 1701, Solimena's art began to move towards a more classical style in the early part of the new century. By 1725-30, the date of the present painting, Solimena reached, according to Nicola Spinosa, 'una fase di avanzato purismo classicheggiante'.
The present painting is known through other autograph versions, notably that in the LandesMuseum in Bonn (fig. 1; see F. Bologna: Francesco Solimena, Naples, 1958, pp. 115, 117 and 249, fig. 168), which differs from the present painting primarily in the background, and through another version (54¾ x 40½ in., 139 x 103 cm.) painted by the artist for Matteo Angelo Ferrara and gifted at the beginning of the 1730s to Count von Harrach, Viceroy of Naples 1669-1742 (see B. de Dominici: Vite (1742-5), ed. 1846-50, IV [Angelo and Francesco Solimena], p. 454). All three versions replicate the solid figures of Adam and Eve with their carefully balanced poses and gestures as well as the cluster of angels which replicate those in the fresco of The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple in the Gesù Nuovo, Naples.
We are grateful to Prof. Nicola Spinosa (written communication, 15 February 2007) for providing us with information pertaining to the present lot and who, from photographs confirms the attribution to the artist and notes its considerable quality.