Pietro Bardellino (Italy - Naples, 1732 - 1806), attr., Sacred Heart of the Child Jesus
Measurements: with frame, cm L 86 x H 99 x P 8; only the canvas, cm L 78 x H 64
The painting, made in oil on canvas, represents the Sacred Heart of the Child Jesus. Stylistically the work is attributable to Pietro Bardellino (Italy, Naples, 1732 - Naples, 1806), a pupil of Francesco De Mura and considered by critics one of the most gifted and sensitive exponents of the Rococo style in Naples.
The canvas represents the Child Jesus, surrounded by flowers in an outdoor setting, while showing the sacred heart. The canvas has a well-balanced color and a strong sweetness of the child’s traits, which with the complicit gesture of the right hand, involves the viewer in the intimate and delicate sharing of the garden in which he sits. The roses, in addition to being a beautiful piece of still life, contribute to enrich the Christological message, being bearers of symbolic meanings. Marian attributes par excellence, are often side by side with Christ, whose thorns foreshadow the Passion. In the canvas, on the top left, two cherubim are observed: among them, according to the Old Testament, is God: the author therefore puts into place an iconographic and iconological hyperbole that amplifies its meaning. The iconographic theme of the Child Jesus with the Sacred Heart in his hand spread between the second half of the eighteenth century and the first of the following century. With the worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Catholic Church intends to honour the Heart of Jesus Christ, one of the organs symbolizing his humanity, which by intimate union with the Divinity, has the right to worship and love of the Saviour for men, of which His Heart is the symbol. It represents one of the fundamental devotions of Christian life, as it manifests the true face of God, who is prodigal and boundless love. It was the French mystic Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (Verosvres, July 22, 1647 - Paray-le-Monial, October 17, 1690) the messenger of worship, which in 1856 Pope Pius IX extended to the whole Catholic Church. The subject depicted here therefore respects an established traditional iconography. Below are some known examples of such representations, which we see being spread throughout the Italian territory although in a number of works quite small enough to consider this image rare and sporadic.
Stylistically the work is attributable to one of the best students of Francesco de Mura: Pietro Bardellino. The painter was born in Naples in 1731; there is little information about his artistic training and his activity before 1756, the year in which he decorated the ceiling of the pharmacy of the Incurables. With his later works he fits into the pictorial tradition of the followers of Solimena, while showing that he knows the manner of Giacomo del Po, derived from Luca Giordano. In 1773 he became a member of the Academy of Fine Arts, called by Luigi Vanvitelli and in 1779 was appointed master of the Royal Academy of Drawing and Painting. A staunch follower of traditional painting, he remained indifferent to the stimuli of neoclassicism, which penetrated the Neapolitan environment in various ways, preferring to express themselves through an imaginative manner, rich in bright colors and luminosity effects. In the old apartment of the Royal Palace of Caserta, seven of his paintings, made in mature age and representing Science and the Arts, Peace and War, Innocence, Simplicity, Truth, Day, Night, are testimony to harmony, of pictorial airiness and of the vigorous chromatic palette, characterized by lively chiaroscuro, which are its own. Attentive to the trends of North European art of great fashion at the court of Maria Carolina of Saxony, wife of Ferdinand IV, the painter lightens the compositions of his master, explaining an elegant Rococo taste in a southern key. In 1803 he was entrusted, together with Desiderio De Angelis, with the nude school at the Academy, then directed by G. B. Wicar; the post was confirmed by the Napoleonic government in 1806, the year of his death.
The canvas object of this study presents a stylistic setting and a chromatic palette very close to many works by Bardellino with games of putti per subject. Similar characteristics can be observed, such as the combination of pink with intense blue, the deep looks of the subjects depicted and the softness of the trait with which the painter describes the plump bodies of Bambinelli and putti.
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