Marzio Masturzo, attr. (Active in Italy - in Naples and Rome- in the second half of the 17th century)
Battle between cavalry and vessels with fortified city on the left
oil on canvas, Italy 17th century
The painting depicts a bloody battle between two cavalry. The clash, described in the foreground, is characterized by a strong dynamism and is set in the plain overlooking a fortified city, located by the sea. In the background is described a city wall with an imposing fortress and in the distance houses and churches of a town. The horizon is marked by some mountains and a rock rises precipitously over the gulf. On the right, a naval battle is underway: you can see some warships with hoisted sails that, close to the shore, are engaged in the fight. Smoke, fire and cannons participate in the dramatic description of the event. The color of the painting focuses on the balanced play of grey and ocher, where red and blue stand out in the foreground bright that suggest to the observer the crucial point of the conflict. The tormented sky contributes, with the vegetation in the foreground on the left, to framing the painting.
The complex and well-balanced composition, the ample descriptive space assigned to the setting, the chromatic palette, as well as the way in which the characters of the canvas are described, allow to attribute the painting to a painter active in Naples in the mid-seventeenth century.
The genre of battle painting found great success in the collections of the Italian and European nobility of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The battles of the Italian Renaissance, in which the scene converged towards a precise protagonist, evolve towards a type of combat "without hero". The bloody realism of the details and the dynamic development of the narrative confuse the figure of the protagonist, when present, to give importance to the swirl of horses and armed fighters, among which, moreover, does not emerge a winner.
The canvas refers to the pictorial results of the artistic production of Marzio Masturzo.
Certain documents relating to Masturzo’s life and movements are scarce; it was equally difficult to reconstruct a catalogue of autographed works from critics. Through paintings in private collections, in museums and paintings passed on the antiques market it has been possible to identify a copious corpus of works that can be traced back to his hand. The work of art historians, together with that of antiquarians, in conferring proper attributions in order to best outline the figure of Masturzo, continues but studies are still in progress. In this sense, the work of Giancarlo Sestieri should certainly be noted, who investigated the artistic production of the “battaglisti” and Masturzo, thus allowing the comparison of the numerous photographic works reported, to identify the stylistic qualities that distinguish the corpus of paintings assigned to him today.
The few news that he has around his life date back to his apprenticeship with Paolo Greco, uncle of Salvator Rosa, and then in the workshop of Aniello Falcone. The close friendship that binds him to the Rose led him to follow him to Rome, where he became a faithful imitator.
Under the name of Marzio Masturzo were brought together several battles linked by analogous inventive, stylistic and pictorial correspondence. The works of certain attribution (including the battle of the National Gallery of Rome) bear witness to the painter’s closeness to the Rosa, but also, according to Giancarlo Sestieri, to Cerquozzi and the initial phase of Jacques Courtois called the Burgundian. Masturzo proves to be a valid communicator of the specific modules developed in Naples and Rome with a painting already open to a Baroque interpretation. In his works the main scene of the conflict is inserted in a landscape context with well-balanced backgrounds, in which appear fortresses, castles and fortifications with round or square towers, sometimes inspired by royal buildings. The chromatic palette is articulated by the contrast between the grey-blue notes and the bright tones of red and blue. Features are its whirling clouds that rise from the clash.
The canvas finds several possible comparisons with works belonging to his corpus, as you can see in some of the images here proposed.
Masturzo inserted in his works elements of architecture inspired by real buildings and then invented fortified citadels and architectural whims. An example of this is the Maschio Angioino, described several times with some interpretative variants. In the canvas in question stands out, within the walls, the uniqueness of the fortress of Castel del Monte, surrounded by an urban fabric of fantasy.
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