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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 6 Apr. 2023 – 3 May 2023

Revelations: Francesco Pittoni

Francesco Pittoni, Christian Love and Caritas Romana (Cimon and Pero)

The painter Francesco Pittoni (c. 1654 − after 1724) is considered one of the main representatives of Venetian tenebrism. The style, which became established in Naples with the painter Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652), got its name from the dark, brownish color palette and strong contrasts between light and shadow, which complemented the uneasy atmosphere of the somber death scenes and depictions of martyrdom. This way of painting was brought to Venice in the middle of the 17th century by the Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano (1634–1705) and the Genoese painter Giambattista Langetti (1635–1676), where it was adopted by a generation of painters such as Antonio Zanchi (1631–1722), Johann Carl Loth (1632–1698) and Francesco Pittoni.

Despite the painter's evident role in the development of Venetian painting, only a few of his artworks remain preserved. Consequently, his work is studied less than the work of his contemporaries. Thus, the ovals depicting allegories of two virtues, Christian Love and Caritas Romana (Cimon and Pero), are all the more valuable examples of Venetian painting heritage in our territory.

Ovals are traditionally believed to originate from the collection once held in the Haasberg Manor (Planina pri Rakeku, Hošperk). According to past literature, there were as many as 31 Pittoni paintings in the said collection. The fate of the collection is closely related to the very fate of the Manor where quite a number of noble owners changed, from the Eggenbergs, the Cobenzls, the Corroninis to the Windisch-Graetzs. The latter retreated to Trieste during the World War II and sold several paintings from the Manor to the antiquarians there, and the paintings subsequently dispersed to several places. As a result, part of them ended up in several private collections in Italy, while seven of them remained in our territory and today are part of the collection of the Notranjska Museum Postojna. Both ovals were bought by the National Gallery in 2017 at an auction in Milan.

Ovals are part of the recent acquisitions of the National Gallery of Slovenia. Last year, both artworks were restored and exhibited, but their detailed context had not yet been presented in public. The paintings were part of a larger cycle painted by Pittoni, which once formed part of the furnishings of the Planina Manor at Rakek (Haasberg, Hošperk).

During the removal of the overpainting, the number “63” was discovered on the image of the Caritas romana. The discovery connects the work with Pittoni's paintings from the Notranjska Museum Postojna, which are also numbered, and further places the painting in the cycle that once was a part of the Haasberg collection.

Caritas romana depicts an incident from ancient history that is recorded by Valerius Maximus in his work Facta et dicta memorabilia (Memorable deeds and sayings). The anecdote tells of an Athenian statesman and general (Cimon), an opponent of democracy, whom the Athenians had sentenced to death by starvation. Each day his daughter, Pero, would visit him in his gaol cell and feed him with milk from her own breast. The story and the motif call to mind virtues such as compassion, gratitude, loyalty and filial piety.

Love (Caritas) is one of the three theological virtues, the other two being Faith (Fides) and Hope (Spes). Together with the four cardinal virtues of Prudence (Prudentia), Justice (Iustitia), Fortitude (Fortitudo) and Temperance (Temperantia), they represent the principal virtues of the human soul and are a popular subject in art.

In his Iconologia (1593), a handbook of personifications and allegories that was popular with artists, Cesare Ripa described Love as the image of a woman dressed in red with a crown of flames on her head. Her left arm holds a child to her breast. Two other children stand at her feet. The flames indicate that Love is never passive but always active. The three children represent the triple power of Love, since without Love, neither Faith nor Hope mean anything.

Katra Meke

Presented: Thursday, 6 April, 6 p.m

6 April – 3 May 2023
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana