Offered by Numero 7 Antiquariato
Ilario Mercanti called "Lo Spolverini" (Parma, 1657-1734) - Scene of a nocturnal battle
Oil painting on canvas
Expertise: Prof. Giancarlo Sestieri
Dimensions: 147x103cm FRAME
MERCANTI, Ilario Giacinto, called the Spolverini. - He was born in Parma on 13 January 1657 in the parish of S. Gervaso, according to his birth certificate. He may have chosen to call himself Lo Spolverini in this way in order to conceal his Jewish origins, adopting a connotation that should have recalled his position as a workshop apprentice in charge of "spolvero" (dusting), preparatory to fresco painting, given that he worked in this role in the decoration of the Carthusian monastery of Parma at a young age (Silingardi Salvini; Arisi Riccardi). The painter's training took place in the workshop of F. Monti, known as Brescianino delle Battaglie, after an unconfirmed but probable apprenticeship with his father (active in Parma in 1660, according to the only documentary evidence concerning him, in the pictorial decoration of two triumphal arches); however, the date of the beginning of his apprenticeship remains uncertain.
In the reconstruction of the origins of M.'s formal language, even the most recent critics consider plausible (although not supported by any documentary reference) the hypothesis of a trip to Florence in his youth, where M. would have gone to observe the works of J. Courtois il Borgognone. On this occasion he may have come into contact with P. Reschi and assimilated formal and compositional elements taken from the language of J. Callot and S. Della Bella (Ceschi Lavagetto). The Venetian trip that M. is said to have made with Monti to illustrate the exploits of Doge Francesco Morosini against the Turks is still unproven. None of the works produced on that occasion (originally in Palazzo Morosini in Campo S. Stefano, now partly in the Museo Correr in Venice) can be convincingly compared to Mercanti's style. However, according to a unanimous and consolidated critical tradition, the influences of this presumed trip to Venice, between 1690 and 1695, should be linked to the stylistic evolution of M., in the choice of chromatic values of a more marked tonal ascendancy and in the adoption of the characteristic "macchiette" as a connotative trait of his painting style. This formal paradigm would also include echoes and suggestions from S. Mazzoni, F. Maffei and S. Rosa.
However, in the same years, the sources attest to the high degree of M.'s integration in the Farnese cultural circuit in Parma: in 1692 he was granted a licence of familiarity by Duke Ranuccio II and was later appointed court painter. It was clearly in this context that M. specialised in celebratory genre painting and in historical-encomiastic narration, focusing his specific area of expertise on the painting of battles.
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