Artemisia Gentilleschi, Caravaggio, Napoli, Napoli Centro Storico, Sant'Orsola, Southern Italy, Via Toledo
Sant’ Orsola, Caravaggio’s last painting, has a new home! If you have read my posts Pio Monte della Misericordia and L’Ultimo Caravaggio, you know about my adventure to Napoli in search of a Caravaggio painting…only to visit the wrong one. The ‘wrong’ one was absolutely amazing, but I still wanted to see the intended one. In June, on my way back from Santorini, I stayed a night in Napoli so I could finally see ‘Il Martirio di Sant’ Orsola/The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula’. It was painted in May 1610, just before Caravaggio’s death. For hundreds of years, it was believed to be painted by one of his followers or ‘Caravaggisti’, Mattia Preti. In 1980 a letter from the agent was found, proving that Sant’ Orsola was painted by Caravaggio. To read more about the letter and the history of the painting, see L’Ultimo Caravaggio.
I stayed on lively Via Toledo, near the Toledo metro station and in between the port and Quartieri Spagnoli, since it was close to the 1500’s Palazzo Zavalos Stigliano. A few weeks before my visit, the Napoletano Collection of Banca Intesa Sanpaolo moved 300 m down the street to Palazzo Piacentini at 177 Via Toledo. Newly renovated Palazzo Piacentini is the new home of Gallerie d’Italia Napoli. It is a 1930’s building and former home of the Banco di Napoli. The design is described as a modern vision of classical architecture and has 10,000 sq ft of exhibition space.
The atrium features L’Atlante Farnese/Farnese Atlas, a 2nd Century AD sculpture on loan from MANN (Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli) under an enormous starry wooden ‘sky’. At the far end of the ground floor is an actual branch of Banca Intesa Sanpaolo! The building is home to the permanent Intesa Sanpaolo Collection, which includes Napoletani artwork and paintings from the 17th to the 20th Centuries, a Magna Grecia pottery exhibit, space for temporary exhibits, a library and bookshop, and a bistro.
The star of the permanent collection is Sant’ Orsola. Right beside it is Artemisia Gentilleschi’s Sansone e Dalila/Samson and Delilah (1630-38). This painting is stunning, but I had to check twice to see that it was an Artemisia. Those teeny nail scissors are so tame compared to the usual aggression in her Judith and Holofernes paintings with a giant sword and a lot of blood! Incidentally, on the other side of Sant’ Orsola is a Judith and Holofernes painting attributed to Ludovicus Finson that is a copy of a lost Caravaggio.
A few of my other favourites from the permanent collection include this amazing loosely sketched painting Fanciulla Napoletana o La Zingara (1885) by Vincenzo Gemito.
I absolutely love the screen prints Vesuvius (rosso) and Vesuvius (nero) by Andy Warhol (1985) in the 20th Century collection.
The temporary exhibit while I was visiting was ‘Restituzioni’ featuring projects and art restoration presently funded by Intesa Sanpaolo in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture. There were 200 pieces from all over Italia including paintings, mosaics, jewellery, books and even a giant bell!
Galleria d’Italia Napoli is walking distance from the Toledo metro station. It is open Tuesday to Friday 10-19 and Saturday/Sunday 10-20. Mondays closed. The first Sunday of each month admission is free. Admission is €7. Reduced admission is €4 and those under age 18 get in free. Definitely worth a visit! Ciao, Cristina